Basilica Saint Martin of Tours!!

This is an update of an older post on a wonderful monument that must be seen more and an a beautiful city of the Loire, Tours! Initially, we came by here practically passing by city center and as time went by we started to stop in the city with nice memorable moment for my family. However, on this post , I like to tell you more about the Basilica Saint Martin of Tours! Hope you enjoy it as I, even if the pictures were dark fault of a phone camera!

And while at wonderful historical Tours in the Indre et Loire dept 37 of the Centre Val de la Loire region, we come to another beauty of my belle France. This is the Basilica Saint Martin of Tours.  A major work of art and a very intense religious building indeed. I have written several posts on Tours and what to see inside but really need to do justice to this basilica and write a post just on it.

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The Basilica Saint Martin of Tours is a former collegiate Church of St. Martin de Tours, which was essentially from the 11C, was decommissioned, vandalized and transformed into a stable in 1793, during the French revolution, then demolished following the collapse of the vaults in 1797, only two towers being kept. The present Basilica, much more modest, was built between 1886 and 1902 in the Neo-Byzantine style it is a basilica in limestone, granite and marble, covered with slates. It was consecrated as a Basilica in 1925. The statue of Saint Martin, which crowns the dome, weakened by the storms of early 2014, was deposited to be restored; Its base was consolidated and the statue was re-established on top in 2016, in anticipation of the Saint Martin day, celebrated every year on November 11th.

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A bit of history I like

The body of Saint Martin, who died in Candes, was transported to Tours and modestly buried on 11 November 397, three days after his death, in a Christian cemetery outside the city, on the verge of the Roman road to the west. According to Gregory of Tours, Bishop Brice built a wooden building in 437 to house the tomb and the Mantle of Saint Martin, called for this reason a Chapel. Instead the first Basilica of Saint Martin’s Tomb, whose dedication took place in 470, Martin’s body was buried in a sarcophagus behind the altar of the new Basilica. A large block of marble overlooking the tomb, marking its place. In 508, it was in the Church of Bishop Saint Perpet that Clovis, in the aftermath of his victory over the Visigoths at the Battle of Vouillé, he received the insignia of consul from the ambassadors of Emperor Anastase, following which he rode the distance between the Basilica and the Cathedral of Tours by throwing money at the people.

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From the reforms of Pepin the Writ, which wanted to impose the rule of Saint Benedict to all the monasteries of the Franks’ Kingdom at 741. Finally a council held in Aix-la-Chapelle in 817. Imperatively imposed the Benedictine rule on all the communities entitled Monasteries; The clerics of Saint-Martin had to choose between the status of monks and that of canons and adopted the second. From that date, the sanctuary of St. Martin is no longer considered a monastery, but as a Collegiate Church served by canons. The head of the community is still called “Abbot of St. Martin”, but from 844 it is a layman (in 860, it is Prince Louis, heir of Charles the bald; in 866, it is Robert the Fort, count of Tours and ancestor of the Capetian).. This was the main place of Christian pilgrimage in the 5C (Saint Martin was in any case the Holy protector of Gaul). The Council of Chalon-sur-Saône in 813 gives this pilgrimage the same importance as that of Rome.  It was then an important step on the Via Turonensis of the Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela. The sanctuary was one of the five major pilgrimage Churches. In the 15C, the Basilica benefited from the munificence of King Louis XI, who lived in the Royal castle of Plessis-du-Parc-lèz-Tours, and his funeral were held there in 1483.

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During the war of religion of 1562, the shrine of Saint Martin was burned by the Protestants and only a piece of the skull and an arm bone were kept. The old church survived until the French revolution, but in conditions of great decay due to lack of maintenance since well before 1789. In 1793, the Basilica was transformed into a stable to house a hundred horses and for 4 years it was the Martin’s stable. In 1797, a report found that the chaining that maintained the Basilica were partly stolen; The vaults of the ambulatory collapse in November and, as a safeguard for the inhabitants, the town ordered the complete demolition of the Basilica. The monumental organ of Lefevre (5 keyboards, double 32 games), also disappeared at that time. Of all this, only the Charlemagne tower (see post), restored in 1963, the clock tower and the canonical houses in the neighborhood of Saint-Martin cloister, a gallery of the Renaissance cloister, remains. Announcing the rediscovery of the tomb of Saint Martin de Tours in 1860 which allowed to restore the Martinien cult and revive a project of restitution of the grandiose site the new Basilica, smaller than the old one, would be perpendicular (oriented north-south ) and would share with it only the location of the former bedside, above the tomb of Saint Martin. The work began in 1886, the crypt with the tomb was inaugurated in 1889, the church in 1890, and the whole of the masonry was completed in 1902, allowing the Basilica to be opened to worship the following year. Cardinal Maurin consecrated the building as a basilica on July 4, 1925, and the layout of the forecourt was completed in 1928.

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Built in 1843 for the Hospital of the Good Savior in Caen, in an 18C buffet, the current organ is bought by the city of Tours in 1956, and has undergone several restoration campaigns. It has two keyboards and a crankset for 17 games: In all, these are more than 1,800 pipes. It was restored and modified in 1977. Stéphane Béchy, was co-holder of 1984 to 1991 had made a recording in 1984 with works by Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Jehan Alain

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The tradition ended as to the last abbot Robert, Count of Paris, elected King of the Franks in 922, and a lay abbot after him, the title of lay abbot of Saint-Martin was transmitted from father to son in the Robertiens, then Capetian, and was carried by the kings of France from Hugues Capet until 1789. Good to say: a religious institution, the petit Clercs of Saint-Martin de Tours, was founded in the years 1920 by Canon Rutard, diocesan priest. Seminarians from other French regions rich in vocation for the diocese of Tours, they also ensured daily religious service at St. Martin’s Basilica. Boarders, the little clerics of Saint-Martin followed their education on the spot, then followed their courses in various colleges of Tours (Collège Saint Grégoire, college Notre-Dame La Riche). The institution, living in particular of the generosity of the Touraine people, settled in the shadow of the Basilica at 3 Rue Baleschoux until 1970, the date of their disappearance. The little clerics of Saint Martin gave about 300 priests to the Diocese of Tours.

Some of the webpages to help you plan your trip to this wonderful city of Tours and its basilica are:

The Official Basilica Saint Martin: https://www.basiliquesaintmartin.fr/

The Tours tourist office on Saint Martin: https://www.tours-tourism.co.uk/see-and-do/chateaux-loire-gardens-heritage/legendary-saint-martin

The Central Loire Valley tourist office on Tours: https://www.loirevalley-france.co.uk/outings/city-visits/tours-ville-dart-et-dhistoire-heart-loire-valley

The Touraine Loire Valley regional tourist office on the Basilica: https://www.touraineloirevalley.co.uk/cultural-heritage/saint-martin-basilica-tours/

There you go hope it helps you enjoy this magnificent Basilica Saint Martin of Tours. The city is linked very easily to Paris by train with good parking and even connection to the TGV station outside in St Pierre des Corps. Wonderful road takes you there easy too like we take the D952 along the Loire river. We like to park by Nationale underground parking. You can take from Paris the A10 or the A11 to Le Mans and then the A28 down to Tours.

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

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