Tour Charlemagne, at Tours!

So lets take you to pure and wonderful Loire valley, ok there are two loire regions in France not to be confused, the one generally see as the valley of the kings is in the region of Centre-Val de Loire. The department of which the city of Tours is located is call Indre et Loire dept 37. I have written several posts on Tours in my blog but again feel that this monument needs more attention by all.

Let me tell you a bit more on the Charlemagne tower in Tours! or Tour Charlemagne.  The  tour Charlemagne  or Charlemagne tower is a remnant of an old basilica dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours (see post apart) and located in Tours at  rue des Halles, in the historic center of the city. Its name comes from the tomb of Luitgarde d’Alémanie, fourth wife of Charlemagne, who died in 800 during the emperor’s stay in Tours. Tradition reports that the emperor had it buried under or near the tower, but opinions are very divided as to the exact location of the tomb, never formally identified.


A bit of history I like

No source can be affirmative on the chronology and the exact dating of the construction of the tower. However, it took place shortly after the construction of the transept of the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours, because paintings on the walls of the latter were hidden by the masonry of the Charlemagne tower, but a certain unity of style prohibits too long delay between the two events. In the second half of the 11C and shortly after the completion of the basilica in its original state, a tower-porch was built, capping the end of the north arm of the transept with reinforcement of the vaults of the latter, having to bear the weight of the tower. The tower was set astride the gable wall of the transept, which became an intermediate vault; it rested, in the south, on the tribunes of the first span of the transept, reinforced for the occasion, and, in the north, on a new vault outside the original transept. The tower then consisted of two semicircular vaulted floors, typical of Romanesque art, the second floor acting as a belfry. The external absidiole of the north arm of the transept was integrated into the tower in the form of a sacristy and surmounted on the first floor of a chapel of the same plan. The nature and shape of the original roof are unknown, even if we assume the presence of an arrow. At the beginning of the 14C, a new floor was added to the tower, but this time it was the Gothic style that was used with broken arch windows. The southern Romanesque windows of the lower floors were walled, to reinforce the solidity. An arrow, present in the 17C, crowned the tower which, in this configuration, reached a height of 56 meters. In the 15C, the hall of the belfry on the third floor (4th US) was shared in its height by a Gothic vault; it was sheltering two bells.


In 1790, the Basilica of Saint Martin des Tours was declared a national property during the French revolution.  In 1794, all the arrows of the churches (including that of the Charlemagne tower) had to be demolished. The Charlemagne tower was not demolished because a restoration project of the tower was set up in 1805 to recall that a new Charlemagne (Napoleon) had just been crowned emperor on December 2, 1804 ,the  project will not be realized, but the Charlemagne tower was preserved due to this initiative.  After the French Revolution, it hosted a factory of lead (1813); a carpentry settled in its ground floor and was the victim of a fire (1826); an artesian well of 107 meters deep was dug at its foot (1831); a water tower was installed on its first floor (1860 to 1885), an overload of 218 tons; finally, she survived an earthquake (1927) ; while the tramways of Tours shook it at each of their passages. Fragilized, the Charlemagne tower partially collapsed in 1928. In its southern half, from top to bottom, fell down in the neighboring streets without causing casualties . The part that remained standing was abutted with scaffolding to avoid further damage.

A company, created in 1931, ” les Amis de le tour Charlemagne “, or the Friends of the Charlemagne tower, bought the monument at a symbolic price ,and as a precautionary measure, consolidated the remaining part with a concrete inner frame. During , WWII, the tower was fortunately spared by the bombings and fires that ravaged the northern part of Tours in 1940. In 1972, the Charlemagne tower  was offered to the town of Tours. More recent developments have been made to allow the public access to the “Luitgarde Arch” located on the ground floor of the tower on the occasion of the European Heritage Days 2012 and the first floor of the tower since September 2013 ; a project provides for full access to the monument, which was done on the occasion of the European Heritage Days 2016. And we were there!


A bit on the Architecture

The floor dimensions of the Charlemagne tower are approximately 25 × 15 meters. In its current configuration, after restoration, its summit platform culminates at 48 meters. The tower is Romanesque style for its lower floors, Gothic for its top floor. The lower two floors of the tower are accessible from a spiral staircase in a turret outside the transept, on a corner of the tower. The top floor is accessed via an internal spiral staircase. The walls are provided externally, up to the floor level of the second floor, with powerful plated buttresses. Its southern facade, completely rebuilt from 1962 , is blind from the second floor. The building had Romanesque frescoes dated 12C. Discovered during the restoration work on some pillars but especially in the apsidiole transformed into sacristy, they were deposited and restored; they are now kept at the Saint-Martin museum in Tours. Because of the successive embankments around the basilica, the original floor of the Charlemagne tower is now down about 2 meters from the surrounding streets.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

City of Tours on the Charlemagne tower in French

Tourist office of Tours on things to see in English

There you go another gem in my belle France; wonderful city indeed that of Tours plenty to see, and we love it. Hope you enjoy it too

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



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