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Tours is a commune of France, the préfecture (capital city) of the Indre-et-Loire département, on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. The Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines and for the perfection of its local spoken French.



The name of the city comes from the ancient Gallic tribe called the Turones . In Roman times it was known as Turonensis. In the mid-3rd century Gatianus (Saint Gatien) was sent from Rome to reorganize a small Christian community. Saint Martin of Tours was bishop of Tours at the end of the 4th century, and his tomb became a major pilgrimage site; the church of Saint-Martin was one of the great Romanesque pilgrimage churches, like Saint-Sernin in Toulouse and Santiago de Compostela, and the powerful bishops of Tours, such as Gregory of Tours, were personages to be reckoned with for the Merovingian kings.

The Battle of Tours was fought on October 10, 732 between forces under the Frankish leader Charles Martel and an Islamic force led by Emir Abdul Rahman al-Ghafiq. The Franks defeated the Islamic army and stopped the northward advance of Islam from Spain.

The Touraine was a county at the time of the Carolingian rulers (751 to 987 AD). The Vikings pillaged the town in 853 and 903. By 1044 it was held by the counts of Anjou. During the reign of Philip II, the Livre Tournois (Tours Pound) was adopted as the international currency of France.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Tours had a significant Huguenot population, many of which had been responsible for the building of a huge silk industry. With the Edict of Nantes rescinded in 1685 and the resulting slaughter of thousands of Protestants, the Huguenots fled the country and the once flourishing silk industry of Tours, vanished forever. Some of the Huguenots settled in Ireland where their weaving skills saw them establish some of the great Irish linen factories.

Tours Cathedral: 15th century Flamboyante Gothic west front with Renaissance pinnacles, 1547
Tours Cathedral: 15th century Flamboyante Gothic west front with Renaissance pinnacles, 1547

Personalities born in Tours:

Cathedral of Tours

Main article: Cathedral of Tours

The cathedral of Tours, dedicated to Saint Gatien, its canonized first bishop, was begun about 1170 to replace the just-started cathedral that was burnt out in 1166, during the quarrel between Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. The lowermost stages of the west towers (illustration, right) belong to the 12th century, but the rest of the west end is in the profusely detailed Flamboyant Gothic of the 15th century, completed just as the Renaissance was affecting less traditional patrons than bishops, in the pleasure châteaux of Touraine. These towers were being constructed at the same time as, for example, Château de Chenonceau.

When the 15th century illuminator Jean Fouquet was set the task of illumninating Josephus's Jewish Antiquities, his depiction of Solomon's Temple was modeled after the nearly-complete Cathedral of Tours. The atmosphere of the Gothic cathedral close permeates Honoré de Balzac's dark short novel of jealousy and provincial intrigues, Le Curé de Tours (The Curate of Tours) and his medieval story Maitre Cornelius opens within the cathedral itself.


Today, with its extensive rail (including TGV) and autoroute links to the rest of the country, Tours is a jumping off point for tourist visits to the Loire Valley and the chateaux of the kings.

External links

  • Architecture of Tours
  • Official Website of the Tours Volley Ball, French champion 2004

Last updated: 02-06-2005 04:56:00
Last updated: 02-22-2005 02:08:06