Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tours

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TOURS, a town of France, formerly the capital of Touraine, now chef-lieu of the department of Indre-et-Loire, the see of an archbishop, and the headquarters of the 9th corps d'armee, lies 145 miles (by rail) south-west of Paris, on the left bank of the Loire, a little above the junction of the Loire and Cher.

Plan of Tours.

Many foreigners, especially English, live at Tours, attracted by the town itself, its mild climate, its beautiful situation in "the garden of France," and the historic chateaus of the neighbourhood. The Loire is crossed by two suspension bridges, by a railway bridge, and by a fine stone bridge, but its waters too often either expose large stretches of sand, or come down in devastating flood. Many of the inhabitants belong to the leisured class, and the town possesses societies of science, art, and literature, of agriculture, of horticulture, of archaeology, of medicine, and a library (50,000 volumes, and 1200 MSS., including a gospel of the 8th century, on which the kings of France took oath as honorary canons of the church of St Martin). The industrial establishments include four large silk mills, the printing and publishing works of Mame (1200 workmen), manufactories of cloth, carpets, files, white lead, stained glass, boots and shoes, and pottery. A considerable trade is carried on in wine, brandy, and dried fruits, and the sausages and confectionery of the town are well known. The population, 52,209 in 1881, was 59,585 in 1886.

Tours, under the Gauls the capital of the Turones or Turons, originally stood on the right bank of the Loire, a little above the present village of St Symphorien. At first called Altionos, the town was afterwards officially known as Caesarodunum. The Romans removed the town from the hill where it originally stood to the plain on the left bank of the river. Behind the present cathedral, remains of the amphitheatre (443 feet in length by 394 in breadth) built towards the end of the 2d century might till lately be seen. Tours became Christian about 250 through the preaching of Gatien, who founded the bishopric. The first cathedral was built a hundred years later by St Litorius. The bishopric became an archbishopric when Gratian made Tours the capital of Lugdunensis Tertia, and about the same time the official name of Caesarodunum was changed for that of Civitas Turonorum. St Martin, the great apostle of the Gauls, was bishop of Tours in the 4th century, and he was buried in a suburb which soon became as important as the town itself from the number of pilgrims who flocked to his tomb. Towards the end of the 4th century, apprehensive of barbarian inva sion, the inhabitants pulled down some of their earlier buildings in order to raise a fortified wall, the course of which can still be traced in places. Their advanced fort of Larcay still overlooks the valley of the Cher. Affiliated to the Armorican confederation in 435, the town did not fall to the Visigoths till 473, and the new masters were always hated. It became part of the Prankish dominions under Clovis, who, in consideration of the help afforded by St Martin, presented the church with rich gifts out of the spoils taken from Alaric, confirmed and extended its right of sanctuary, and accepted for himself and his successors the title of canon of St Martin. The basilica, built under Bishop St Perpetuus from^472 to 477, was the largest and finest church of France, and one of the most important built in the West during the decline of the Roman empire; it is said by St Gregory of Tours to have been 160 feet long, 60 wide, and 45 high. It seems to have been one of the first which had an ambulatory round the choir. Tours grew rapidly in prosperity under the Merovingians, but abuse of the right of sanctuary led to great disorder, and the church itself became a hotbed of crime. Charlemagne re-established discipline in the disorganized monastery and set over it the learned Alcuin, who established at Tours one of the oldest public schools of Christian philosophy and theology. The abbey was made into a collegiate church in the 11th century, and was for a time affiliated to Cluny, but soon came under the direct rule of Rome, and for long had bishops of its own. The suburb in which the monastery was situated became as important as Tours itself under the name of Martinopolis. The Normans, attracted by its riches, pillaged it in 853 and 903. Strong walls were erected from 906 to 910, and in the 12th century the name was changed to that of Chateauneuf. Philip Augustus abolished the dis orderly commune in 1212, but the innumerable offerings of princes, lords, and pilgrims maintained the prosperity of the town all through the Middle Ages. A 13th-century writer speaks with enthusiasm of the wealth and luxury of the inhabitants, of the beauty and chastity of the women, and of the rich shrine of the saint. A third church, replacing one which had been built after the burning of that of St Perpetuus in 997, was begun in 1175, and finished in the 13th century. It was 374 feet long and 85 feet high, and had five towers, of which only two remain. The rest of the church, sold to speculators after the Revolution, disappeared under the first empire. Of the monastic buildings, only a beautiful inclosed gallery, built by Bastien Francois, nephew of Michel Colomb, in the time of the Renaissance, remains, but the streets which formerly belonged to Chateauneuf show many interesting relics of ecclesiastical and civil architecture. About 1130 Archbishop Hildevert built a cathedral in the old Roman town itself, on the ruins of those successively erected by Litorius and Gregory of Tours. This was burnt in 1166 during the quarrel between Louis VII. of France and Henry II. of England, the latter being lord of Tours and count of Anjou. The work was resumed in 1175, but not finished till 1547. Part of the towers belong to the 12th century; the choir to the 13th; the transept and first bays of the nave to the 14th; the remaining bays, the cloister on the north, and the fine façade to the 15th; and the two Renaissance towers (217 feet and 223 feet) to the 16th. The building is nevertheless remarkable for the harmony and regularity of its construction; specially noteworthy details are the triple western portal, the upper staircase of the north tower, a Renaissance staircase in the cloister, the old wood work in chestnut-wood, and the splendid glass of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries. A pretty little mausoleum, built in 1506 by Jean Juste, is the burial-place of three young sons of Charles VIII. The archbishop’s palace is to the right of the cathedral, with an interesting chapel of the 12th century, and an outside pulpit of the 16th. During the 10th century the Benedictine abbey of St Julien was re-established by Archbishop Théotolon, and a Romanesque church built, of which the great square tower still remains. (St Julien has a fine nave and double aisles; the straight terminal wall has two 16th-century apses attached. There are some paintings of the 12th century under the tower.

The magnificence of Tours declined in the 14th century; it was then united to Châteauneuf by a common wall, of which an elegant round tower (the Tour de Guise) remains near the quay, and other towns were put under the same government. The numerous and long-continued visits of Charles VII., Louis XI., and Charles VIII. in Touraine during the 15th century favoured the commerce and industry of the town, then peopled by 75,000 inhabitants. To the flourishing school of art which existed at the Renaissance are due several private houses, a fountain, and the church of Notre Dame La Riche, with splendid windows by Pinaigrier. An unimportant building, part of a modern chateau, is all that remains of the royal residence and magnificent gardens of Plessis-lès-Tours, where Louis XI. shut himself up and died, the states in 1506 proclaimed Louis XII. the father of his people, and Henry III. and Henry of Navarre united in 1589 against the League. From that year Tours was deserted by the kings of France. A fine bridge of fifteen arches was built across the Loire from 1765 to 1777 by Bayeux. The chief modern buildings are the theatre, the church of St Joseph, the railway station, and a museum with collections of antiquities, pictures, pottery, and mineralogy. There are also antiquities in the museum of the archæological society of Indre-et-Loire. The gardens and a remarkable portal of the archbishop’s palace, a magnificent iron gate of the 18th century in the prefecture, once the convent of the Visitation, and the general hospital (1200 beds) should also be mentioned. In 1870 Tours was the seat of the government of the national defence. Tours is the birthplace of the heretic Berengarius, the two marshals Boucicaut, the novelist Honoré de Balzac, the poet Destouches, the painters Fouquet and Clouet, and Madame de la Vallière.