Tours Cathedral

Tours, France

Saint Gatien's Cathedral was built between 1170 and 1547. The first cathedral of Saint-Maurice was built by Litorius (Lidoire), bishop of Tours from 337 to 371 (preceding St Martin). Burnt in 561, it was restored by Gregory of Tours and rededicated in 590. Its location, at the south-west angle of the castrum, as well as its eastern orientation, resulted in the original access being through the late-Roman surrounding wall (such a configuration is quite rare). The cathedral was then rebuilt during the second quarter of the 12th century and again burnt in 1166 during the conflict between Louis VII of France and Henry II of England.

The first phase of present cathedral concerned the south transept and the towers, as early as 1170. The chancel was rebuilt from 1236 to 1279 by Étienne de Mortagne but the nave took much longer to build. The architect Simon du Mans rebuilt the transept and started the nave, including six spans, aisle and chapel, built during the 14th century — the first two spans correspond to those of the old Romanesque cathedral and date back to the 12th century. The nave was only finished during the 15th century by architects Jean de Dammartin, Jean Papin and Jean Durand, thanks to the generosity of Charles VII and the Duke of Brittany Jean V.

While building the present cathedral, the nave was then extended westward and the towers surrounding its entrance were erected during the first half of the 16th century, the first tower in 1507 by Pierre de Valence 87 m high, and the second tower during 1534 and 1547 by Pierre Gadier. Highlighting the special feature of the building, called supra, the towers were erected outside of the old city. The late-Roman surrounding wall is visible in cross section at the rear of the towers from the north.

In 1356, the cathedral received its new name of saint Gatien. Its construction having been particularly slow, it presents a complex pattern of French religious types of architecture from the 13th century to the 15th. For example, the tower buttresses are Romanesque, the ornamentation generally is pure Gothic, and the tops of the towers are Renaissance (beginning of the 16th century).

The organ, donated by Archbishop Martin de Beaune, was built by Barnabé Delanoue in the 16th century. One can also see, in the cathedral, the tomb of the children of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany, who died as infants. This tomb, in Carrara marble, made by Girolamo da Fiesole, in the Italian style, and whose recumbent statues are reminiscent of 15th-century French medieval tradition (school of Michel Colombe), was kept since 1506 in Saint-Martin de Tours before being moved in 1834 to Saint-Gatien.

To the north of the cathedral is a small cloister, also built during the Renaissance. To the south of the cathedral is the former archbishop's palace, built in the early 18th century, which has now become the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours.

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Address

Rue Lavoisier 22, Tours, France
See all sites in Tours

Details

Founded: 1170-1547
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Douglas Wong (5 months ago)
Fantastic Gothic so tall it's remarkable. Window panes so beautiful many are biblical stories. Lots of paintings. Must visit.
Mark Playle (6 months ago)
One of the most beautiful we have seen.
Anthony Muljadi (7 months ago)
Beautiful cathedral! Love the stained glass and front facade!
Ryan Pearce (8 months ago)
The lightshow was amasing! Would love to see it again! Especially the ending when the music starts to play! There are two performances per night throughout the summer, but the start time changes. I would recommend checking the times on the notice board in front of the church.
MissSJ (10 months ago)
1) Look at the top of the twin tower. They have a pair of eyes and an angelic face that look like guardians of peace. 2) The ceiling of the huge entrance doors were made of different figurines. What an amazing layout! 3) The stained glass inside were really pretty. It is a must-visit place of interest in Tours. One of the best cathedral around inside and outside.
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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.