The wine village, near the city of Bordeaux, and nearby vineyards were classified by the UN’s cultural organisation, Unesco, as a world heritage site in 1999 and the sale of the 14th century Cordeliers cloister has angered residents of the city.
One prominent landowner accused the mayor of selling off the family jewels, but the town council defended the controversial move saying it was a way of raising much-needed cash for the upkeep of historic sites.
According to the regional accounting office, Saint Emilion has a debt load four times greater than the average French town of the same size despite tax revenues which are 73 per cent higher.
Bad financial management of the town’s finance are said to be part of the reason for the huge debt.
Cordelier’s cloisters, which includes a reception hall, cellars, offices, cloister and garden were sold for 750,000 euros after the historical society claims 570,000 euros were spent on its restoration.
The new owner, Jean-Paul Cales, vice-president of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and owner of the sparkling wine company which is housed in the Cloisters says he has no intention of closing the site to the public.