The towers of La Rochelle, St Nicolas!

So let me break from restaurants and show something wonderful just a few hours south of my house and a place we came to love as my oldest son study hotellerie/restaurant courses there. He went and we follow, to our amazed eyes several years back, and have since return several times. I will be telling you about the tours or towers of the harbor of La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime dept  17 in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine! Bear with me on repetitions…as introduction is the same.

Once in town, we walk, and walk is a walker’s paradise of quaint old streets and historical buildings, we took the tour de la Chaine, tour de St Nicolas, and the  tour de la Lantern. The development of this new city of the 11C is assured from the 14C by the protection offered by the towers, including the towers of St. Nicholas and the Chaine that regulate the entry of many merchant ships in its port.

All three designed to serve as a residence, two towers out of three (ie the tower of Saint Nicolas and the tower of the Chaine) were also places of detention between the 16C and 18C for the Huguenots and foreign sailors. They then become military prisons in the 19C. The Lantern Tower was used to disarm the boats upstream of the port and was a lighthouse. The boutiques of the Chaîne and Saint-Nicolas towers offer throughout the year a wide range of books, products for young and old. The shops are free access and are open 7 days a week during the opening hours of the towers.

Tour St Nicolas is the most impressive one in my opinion.

Because of the marshy terrain, the tower rests on a raft. The latter consists of six-meter-long oak piles with metal shoes embedded in the mud and wedged with stones, the whole being covered with a grid of horizontal beams and acting as foundations. However, the weight of the tower and the loose nature of the ground led to a destabilization of the foundations during its construction, and an important rise of the building, more than twenty centimeters, towards the East. This inclination will be maintained during the restoration of the tower, so that the soil today still has an inclination of about 2%, although it has been raised 50 cm from the original soil.

La Rochelle

The circular tower is 37 meters high and 18 to 23 meters in diameter. Originally, the tower was isolated from the rest of the city by marshy areas, but following the construction of the Gabut Bastion, it was joined to the urban fabric of La Rochelle, which extended to its base.The access ramp, which today provides direct access to the reception room on the first floor (2nd US) , did not originally exist, and was only built in 1695. Traffic at the interior of the building is done by two independent staircases but connecting all the levels.

La Rochelle

Salle du veilleur  (warden’s room), This small room on the ceiling adorned with arches of ogives with carved pedestals was used to monitor the entrance to the port. The ship owner’s room, The Salle de l’Armateur  (ship-owner’s room) is a large octagonal room with a cross vault of ogives with carved pedestals. It was used as a point of attachment to the chain which was used to close the port entrance, and which was operated from the Tour de la Chaine, on the other side.

The salle d’accueil (reception room), located on the first floor (2nd US), is accessible from the access ramp and overlooks the room of the low lookout. It is also connected to the chapel, on the second floor by a staircase. This room served as a reception room. Located on the first floor of the tower, the salle de la vigie basse (room of the low vigil)  is accessible from the reception room and gives access to a staircase to the salle du troubadour, (troubadour room), on the second floor. It used to have an outdoor wooden platform to monitor vessel traffic. The openings allowing the guards to access the rooms were later turned into firing holes. The hall houses an important 17C vault owned by one of the captains of the tower. The troubadour room, on the second floor, is connected by a staircase to the room of the low lookout, the lower one. It provides access to the latrines and to the salle du capitaine (captain’s room) through a defense corridor. The Captain’s Room is located on the second floor and is connected by a defense corridor to the troubadour room. It provides access to the  salle des coussièges (cushion room). It is also connected by a staircase to the walkway on the third floor. It used to be the residence of the captain and his family. The salle des coussièges (hall of cushions)  is an open recess on the captain’s room that also gives access to the captain’s study. The captain’s study is accessible from the cushion room. The tower has a chapel, located on the second floor, vertical to the entrance of the tower, probably playing a role of symbolic protection. It is directly connected to the reception room, on the first floor by a staircase, and to the walkway, by another staircase. The walkway is located on the third floor, and gives access to the guard corridor and the petite salle des gardes. (small guard room). It is connected to the second floor by a staircase to the captain’s room at one end, and at the other end by a staircase to the chapel. The small guard room served as a shelter and resting place between two rounds. The fourth floor Salle de veille du capitaine (Captain’s watch room), and the fifth floor, the  Terrace.

A bit of history I like

The tower of Saint-Nicolas  14C  is, with the tower of the Chaine and the tower of the Lantern, one of the three towers of the seafront of La Rochelle, and one of the two towers emblematic of the Old Port , of which it constitutes the majestic door of entry. For five centuries it provided for the defense of the pass and served as a point of attachment to the chain, stretched from the other side, which was used to prohibit access to the port. The construction of the Saint-Nicolas tower  begins, according to the sources, around 1345 or between 1374 and 1394.  From 1652 to 1659, the tower houses the Hamburg’s naval carpenters companions, who came to La Rochelle to set up a shipyard. From 1569, and more widely during the 16C and 17C, the tower was used episodically weapons depot, powder keg and prison during the wars of religion: Huguenots were locked there between 1682 and 1686, at the the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. During the French revolution, the tower was used until 1793 to imprison Chouans (local rebels against the French revolution).

La Rochelle

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Official National Monument Tours of La Rochelle

Tourist office of La Rochelle on the towers

There you go this is an amazing tower and well worth the visit to La Rochelle, a beautiful city indeed.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments to “The towers of La Rochelle, St Nicolas!”

  1. We visited a few years ago: very interesting place with all the writing from prisoners on the wall: a bit of history you seldom hear about. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another of my favourite places in France. I have visited many times!

    Liked by 1 person

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