The present-day church is established on the spot where the first known bishop of Poitiers, saint Hilary, is said to have been buried, after his death in the year 367 or 368. A modest oratory or chapel at first, the church was rebuilt several times, and during the Romanesque period (11th century) the monument took on its maximum size. The west end is especially remarkable, with six radiant chapels articulated around the apse and the transept arms.
Against the north wall, the steeple also served as a main entrance, welcoming the faithful from the city, or pilgrims wishing to honour the relics of saint Hilary. The church was a major stop on the Via Turonensis, (the route from Tours, the northernmost pilgrimage route on the French Way of St. James), and is thus protected, along with 77 other cultural and natural sites associated to Compostella, on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998.
Largely dismantled during the Revolution, the nave was rebuilt in the 1870s, as well as the façade.
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