Since Roman times Souillac has been a crossroads for trade by rivers, roads and now by train or plane as well as a major pilgrimage route. The small city of today is a shadow of its prestigious past. Its economy has faded but it is guardian of its major treasure, the Medieval Abbey of Sainte Marie of Souillac. Founded by St Eloi, Dagobert’s minister in the 10th century is a Benedictine abbey, daughter of Aurillac Abbey. It gained its independence in the 16th. Its romano-byzantine style was inspired by the architecture of Sainte Sophia in Constantinople. The convent buildings were completed in the mid 11th century. It has withstood the ravages of the Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution and remains a 1000 year-old architectural jewel.
After the Revolution it served as a tobacco factory until the mid 20th century. The abbatial became a parish after destruction of the previous parish in the mid 19th century. Registered as an historic monument since 1840 thanks to Mérimée’s initiative.