Archive for August 11th, 2019

August 11, 2019

The towers of La Rochelle, Lantern!

So let me 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.

The Tour de la Lantern or tower (was on renovations when stopped by) is from the 15C is one of the 3 towers in the seafront of La Rochelle.  An order of the city dating from 1209 already mentions the existence of a Tower of the Chain, having nothing to do with the current Tower of the Chain, but having the same function. In effect, this one then barred the entry of the primitive harbor of La Rochelle located on the brook of Lafond, and was subsequently called “Tour du Garrot” after the name of the lifting device which was used to disarm the vessels before that they can enter the port. The tower captain was referred to as the “disarmer of the vessels”. the new building, begun in 1445, incorporated by lining this old tower. It was completed only 23 years later in 1468.

la rochelle

The various names of the tower ; the oldest was Garrot Tower. In 1568, in order to reinforce the walls, the churches are destroyed. Catholics flee from the walls, but 13 priests are arrested and locked in the tower. They will be slaughtered and thrown into the sea from the top of the tower the following weeks. The tower then took the nickname of Tower of the Priests. Nickname which was reinforced after the slaughter of four other priests by the crowd, during the French revolution in 1798.  Finally, in 1822, two of the protagonists of the Conspiracy of La Rochelle are locked in the tower before being executed in Paris with two others, same year. The tower then took the nickname of tour of the Four Sergeants. The tower of the Lantern  has a height of 55 meters, it consists of two parts. Its base is a cylinder 25 meters high and more than 15 meters in diameter, overhung by an octagonal arrow, four of the eight sides are pierced with three-lobed windows  in Flamboyant style.

Several rooms superimposed make up the interior of the tower of the Lantern: The salle basse (lower room). The salle des gardes  (guard room) located on the first floor (2nd US), this room is access to the tower from the ramparts wall. The level, divided into two rooms, retains two gunboats, a fireplace and a 19C oven. The Niveau or Level 3 ;the level is cut in half by a split wall . The wall divides the level into two rooms: the salle du désarmeur des nefs  (disarmer room of the vessels) and the salle de la pistole (Pistol’s room). The disarmer room of the vessels has a study, latrines. The room, called pistole, has inscriptions, including Spanish, religious, companions, corsairs, etc. The dormitory is the 4th level (5th US), it could accommodate more than 100 inmates. It includes as in the rest of the tower graffiti French, English, Dutch, poems, representations of ships .etc.  chemin de ronde ( walkway) . salle Jehan Mérichon ( Jehan Mérichon Room) ,this room is named after the former mayor of La Rochelle who financed the completion of the tower. Jehan Mérichon was mayor of La Rochelle five times and was advisor to King Louis XI. The prison cells are spread over two levels that were created in the 19C. They initially had openings that were closed during the restoration of the early 20C. The salle de l’amer (Bitter’s  room ), this room contains the most beautiful graffiti of ships of the tower. On the ground floor , a labyrinth can evoke the prison, the confinement … Suspended with the arrow of the tower, a vertical stele can symbolize the escape, the freedom.

The Tour de la Lantern is 38 meters high, the gallery offers an exceptional view of the city center and the bay of La Rochelle which explains the involvement of the tower in the lookout of the sea. The current lantern is a reconstruction. Unlike the La Chaîne and Saint-Nicolas towers, the Lantern tower has only two spiral staircases. The lower room is connected to none of them. The first serves all the rooms up to the walkway. It is capped by a stone pyramid of four sides. In addition to the flamboyant Gothic style hooks, one of the sides includes a stone inset under which was inscribed the completion of the tower dated 1468 and its attribution to Mayor Jean Mérichon. The second narrower connects the walkway to the gallery and the bitter hall. It is crown by the Lantern.

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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