Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours

Basilica of St. Martin, Rue Baleschoux, Tours, Francija

Website of the Sanctuary

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Tours, the City of Saint Martin of Tours

Medieval town Tours, the former capital of Touraine, was entirely destroyed by bombing during WWII and rebuilt around the Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours. The medieval districts were rebuilt stone by stone and the traces of its rich historical past resurrected.

The city is considered the cradle of French Christianity and remained for centuries under the patronage of the kings of France. Tours also remained the focus of territorial disputes which opposed the French to the English during the Middle Ages. An important University Town, it is also a major center of trade for the administrative region Centre-Ouest. See other Catholic sites in France.

The history of Tours started 2000 years ago

From a Gallic village it grew into the Gallo-Roman Caesarodunum – Caesar’s Hill, a prosperous city which spread over more than 40 hectares. The inhabitants lived in peace until the barbarian invasions of the 3rd century AD when they demolished their amphitheater to build a rampart. 15 Catholic shrines around the world.

Some remains of this wall are still visible near the cathedral. Caesarodunum was the centre of the Roman province which included the current Touraine, Maine, Anjou and Brittany regions. The city was renamed Turones in 372AD.

Legend of Saint Martin

Saint Martin was a Roman legionnaire who converted to Christianity. He became famous after cutting his cloak in half and sharing it with a poor beggar. St-Martin founded his first monastery in Ligugé in Poitou then became bishop of Tours in 372AD.

Tours became known as the City of Saint Martin. A preacher of talent, he devoted his life to converting people, destroying pagan idols and temples and replacing them with chapels and churches. He built the monastery of Marmoutier near Tours.

Saint Martin died in Candé near Saumur in November 397AD. The two monasteries quarreled about where he should be buried. The monks of Marmoutier stole his coffin during the night when the monks of Ligurgé slept and took him back by boat to Tours.

However, a special event occurred during this trip. The trees on the river banks began to bloom miraculously in the middle of autumn. Since that time, this phenomenon that is due to the particularly mild temperatures which stimulate very early flowering has been known as Eté de la St-Martin – St-Martin’s Summer.

A city in the heart of the French-English conflict

The County of Tours became English when Henry II Plantagenêt, the powerful Count of Anjou became King of England in 1154. Philippe-Auguste re-seized Tours in 1205 leading the city into a long period of prosperity and peace. The currency of Tours, the Denier Tournois, even became the official currency of the kingdom.

Touraine was formally annexed to the crown of France in 1259. The 14th and 15th centuries were marked by the terrible Black Death (plague) and the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).

In 1429 Joan of Arc stayed in Tours until her armor was ready.

In 1444, the victorious Charles VII signed the treaty of Tours with Henry VI. During the 16th century, Protestant ideology attracted intellectuals, artists and craftsmen to the city.

Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours

The chapel erected over Saint Martin’s tomb was ransacked by the Normans during the 9th century. The Saint Martin of Tours Basilica was built on the same site during the 11th century.

It was enlarged during the 13th century but was sacked by the Protestants during the Wars of Religion. The ruins were demolished to allow the opening of the Rue des Halles during the 19th century. The only remnants are the Tour Charlemagne and the Tour de l’Horloge (Clock Tower).

The Byzantine style Nouvelle Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours was built between 1886 and 1924 on the transept of the old basilica. The shrine of St-Martin was placed in the crypt. The nearby Chapelle St-Jean houses the Musée St-Martin that relates the story of the Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours.

Saint Martin of Tours Basilica

The chapel erected over Saint Martin’s tomb was ransacked by the Normans during the 9th century. The Saint Martin of Tours Basilica was built on the same site during the 11th century.

It was enlarged during the 13th century but was sacked by the Protestants during the Wars of Religion. The ruins were demolished to allow the opening of the Rue des Halles during the 19th century. The only remnants are the Tour Charlemagne and the Tour de l’Horloge (Clock Tower).

The Byzantine style Nouvelle Saint Martin of Tours Basilica was built between 1886 and 1924 on the transept of the old basilica. The shrine of St-Martin was placed in the crypt. The nearby Chapelle St-Jean houses the Musée St-Martin that relates the story of the Saint Martin of Tours Basilica.

A city in the heart of the French-English conflict

The County of Tours became English when Henry II Plantagenêt, the powerful Count of Anjou became King of England in 1154. Philippe-Auguste re-seized Tours in 1205 leading the city into a long period of prosperity and peace. The currency of Tours, the Denier Tournois, even became the official currency of the kingdom.

Touraine was formally annexed to the crown of France in 1259. The 14th and 15th centuries were marked by the terrible Black Death (plague) and the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).

In 1429 Joan of Arc stayed in Tours until her armor was ready.
In 1444, the victorious Charles VII signed the treaty of Tours with Henry VI.
During the 16th century, Protestant ideology attracted intellectuals, artists and craftsmen to the city.

Tour Charlemagne
The conflict between Protestants and Catholics ended in a bloodbath when the Protestants sacked the abbey and the Catholics retaliated. Once the Wars of Religion over, Henry IV withdrew to Tours with the Parliament and made the city the capital of the kingdom once again. The demographic and economic expansion consistently increased until the king decided to return to his Court to Paris. New districts had grown out of the city and a new perimeter had been built.

The current Boulevards Heurteloup and Béranger replace this rampart. The absence of the royal Court had an undeniable impact on the political and administrative activity of the city. By the end of the French Revolution Tours was no more than a sleepy provincial town.

The local economy was re-launched in the 1850s with the construction of the railway line Tours-Orléans and the station at St-Pierre-des-Corps in the eastern outskirts of the city.

Tour de l’Horloge
The writer Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) who was born in Tours made the Loire Valley the main setting for his work, La Comédie Humaine. The series of books depicts the manners and social habits during the 19th century.

Tours returned momentarily on the front of the political scene when it was chosen as seat of the Government of National Defence from 12th September to 9th December 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. The 20th century brought its share of devastation when the old city was mostly destroyed during the WWII bombardments.

Today the former capital of the County of Touraine is a large city which has grown well beyond the limits of the ancient Turones. Number of industries including the manufacture of tires Michelin or the weaver Jacquard brings prosperity to the city. An important university town Tours is also a major center of trade for the Region Centre-Ouest.

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