France, Gironde department (33), around 25 km east of Bordeaux.
According to studies made by Baron de Marquessac and Jean-André Garde, the origins of the preceptory of Arveyres would date from 1170, when the archbishop of Bordeaux(1) gave to the Templars the church St Peter of Arveyres. Afterwards, the lord of Vayres(2) give them in 1231 the estate of Arveyres located in his chatellery.
As a consequence of these gifts, Templars decide to establish their house on a mound on the left bank of the Dordogne river, between the small harbors of Arveyres and Laroque.
Lords of Vayres made an agreement by which the Templars kept the jurisdiction of Arveyres, received transfer of the wood of Tillhède as well as the power to load their goods without paying taxes to the two neighbouring harbours.
As a result of this agreement reached in 1264, four crosses are planted Arveyres to delimit the jurisdiction of the Commander.
No doubt, the strategic importance of the location led Templars to build a preceptory on this estate. Indeed, this one is located on the opening of the road from Périgueux to Bordeaux and to Spain, close to a crossing point on the Dordogne River.
The preceptory of Arveyres has had as vocation to establish a property demesne able to gather income to finance expeditions in The Holy Lands. The real and property estates of the preceptory were many and shared among several parishes, but were also complemented by income linked to justice privileges located in a "Sauveté"(3) delimited by the four crosses driven in around the preceptory. All this property confered the preceptory of Arveyres a predominant place among all the preceptories in the Bordeaux area.
These four crosses, made of stone or of wood, were many times restored or replaced. The cross of Fonsegrède, completely in stone, is the last cross which delimited the Templar estate. It is located near the church of Notre-Dame-d'Arveyres.
The Cross of Siston is located on a crossroads, at the place named Siston, in front of the presbytery, probably rebuilt during the 17th century, which still shows a turret and a stone window decorated with stained glass. The pedestal of this cross consists of a step suporting a first block, then a second one more massive itself supporting the wrought iron cross.
The cross of Barre, also of wrought iron, is located on a small mound along the road from Vayres to Arveyres. Its base is made of a big squared stone without decorations upon witch rests a second stone decorated with moldings and a guarland of roses.
The cross of Royne was located on the shelf at the place named Royne. The cross and its base were completely in stone. At this moment, this cross has completely disapeared.
The preceptory originally owned several buildings including one two-storey flanked by a tower and outbuildings. Today, the main buiding , which dates probably from the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century, shelters the remains of a fireplace which shows the escutcheon of the Order of Malta. At this moment, only ruins remains of the tower and some outbuildings including a kitchen with its fireplace and an oven opening.
The archaeologist Jean-Luc Piat mentionned in 2002: "Several clues and structures from the Gallo-Roman period have been found in a great majority of surveys, and these findings unpublished to date, mark all the arcaeological value of the site of the preceptory. Moreover, the presence of a grave under a lid with edged tiles is reminescent of a gallo-roman or early-christian necropolis in nearby these ancient buildings."
Today, the town hall of Arveyres has bought the property off in order to revive this wonderful site, neglected by the inhabitants of Arveyres.
Due to the damage to the buidings and the use of the site as illegal dumping ground, an association was created by some inhabitants of Arveyres in order to stop these damages and to reassert the true value the site. The differents aims of this association "Pour la Commanderie d'Arveyres", are to restore, or even renovate the buildings, to use them in an educational context and if possible to organise activities.
The contact details of this association are avalaible following this link (in french) : www.patrimoine33.com
(2)Vayres is located just beside Arveyres.
(3)In France in the Middle Ages, a "Sauveté" was a refuge zone delimited around a church or a chapel by several boundary markers. Inside this area, it was forbidden to pursue fugitives. More often, these "Sauvetés" were located in south and south-west of France.