French commune|nomcommune=Tours|

canton=Chief town of 7 cantons
cp=37000, 37100, 37200
maire=Jean Germain
Tours Plus

alt moy=
alt mini=44 m
alt maxi=109 m
sans=142 000
date-sans=est. 2006
dens=4,132 |date-dens=2006

Tours is a city in 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. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection (as perceived by some speakers) of its local spoken French, and for the famous Battle of Tours in 732. It is also the site of the cycling race Paris-Tours. Tours is the largest city in the Centre region of France, although it is not the regional capital, which resides in its second-largest city of Orléans. In 2006, the city itself had 142,000 inhabitants and the metropolitan area had 297,631.

Tours' sister cities are Luoyang, China (1981), Springfield, Missouri, USA (1984) and Minneapolis, USA (1991).


In Gallic times the city was important as a crossing point of the Loire. Becoming part of the Roman Empire during the first century AD, the city was named "Caesarodunum" ("hill of Cesar"). The name evolved in the 4th century when the original Gallic name, Turones, became first "Civitas Turonorum" then "Tours". It was at this time that the amphitheatre of Turns, one of the five largest in the Empire, was built. Tours became the metropolis of the Roman province of Lyon towards 380-388, dominating the Loire Valley, Maine and Brittany. One of the outstanding figures of the history of the city was Saint Martin, second bishop who shared his coat with a naked beggar in Amiens. This incident and the importance of Martin in the medieval Christian Occident made Tours, and in particular Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, a major centre of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages.

Middle Ages

In the 6th century Gregoire de Tours, author of the Ten Books of History, made his mark on the town by restoring the cathedral destroyed by a fire in 561. Saint Martin's monastery benefited from its inception, at the very start of the 6th century from patronage and support from the Franc king, Clovis the first, which increased considerably the influence of the saint, the abbey and the city in Gaule. In the 9th century, Tours was at the heart of the Carolingian Rebirth, in particular because of abbatial of Alcuin with Saint Martin. In 845, Tours repulsed the first attack of the Viking chief Hasting. In 850, the Vikings settled at the mouths of the Seine and the Loire. Still led by Hasting, they went up the Loire again in 852 and sacked Angers, Tours and the abbey of Marmoutier.

During the Middle Ages, Tours consisted of two juxtaposed and competing centres. The "City" in the east, heiress of the castrum tardo-antique, was composed of the archepiscopal unit (cathedral and residence of the archbishops) and of the castle of Tours, sites of the authority comtale (tourangelle then angevine) and royal. In the west, the "new city" structured around the Abbey of Saint Martin was emancipated from the City during the 10th century (an enclosure was built towards 918) and became "Châteauneuf". This space, organized between Saint Martin and the Loire, became the economic centre of Tours. Between these two centres remained Varenne, vineyards and fields, little occupied except for the Abbaye Saint-Julien established on the banks of the Loire. The two centres were linked during the 14th century. Tours is a model of the medieval double city.

Tours became the capital of the county of Tours or Touraine, territory bitterly disputed between Blaisois and Anjou - the latter victorious in the 9th century. Capital of France at the time of Louis XI, who had settled in the castle of Montils (current castle of Plessis in La Riche, western suburbs of Tours), Tours and Touraine remained until 16th century a permanent residence of the kings and court. The rebirth gave Tours and Touraine many private mansions and castles, joined together to some extent under the generic name of the Chateaux of the Loire. It is also at the time of Louis XI that the silk industry was introduced - despite difficulties, the industry still survives to this day,

16th-18th century

Charles IX passed through the city at the time of his royal tour of France between 1564 and 1566, accompanied by the Court and various noblemen: his brother the Duke of Anjou, Henri de Navarre, the cardinals of Bourbon and Lorraine. At this time, the Catholics returned to power in Angers: the intendant assumed the right to nominate the aldermen. The Massacre of Saint-Barthelemy was not repeated at Tours. The Protestants were imprisoned by the aldermen - a measure which prevented their extermination. The permanent return of the Court to Paris and then Versailles marked the beginning of a slow but permanent decline. Guillaume the Metayer (1763-1798), known as Rochambeau, the well known counter-revolutionary chief of Mayenne, was shot there on Thermidor 8, year VI.

19th-20th century

However, it was the arrival of the railway in the 19th century which saved the city by making it an important nodal point. The main railway station is known as Tours-Saint-Pierre-des-Corps. At that time, Tours was expanding towards the south into a district known as the Prébendes. The importance of the city as a centre of communications contributed to its revival and, as the the 20th century progressed, Tours became a dynamic agglomeration, economically oriented towards the service sector.

First World War

The city was greatly affected by the First World War. A force of 25,000 American soldiers arrived in 1917, setting up textile factories for the manufacture of uniforms, repair shops for military equipment, munitions dumps, an army post office and an American military hospital at Augustins. Thus Tours became a garrison town with a resident general staff. The American presence is remembered today by the Woodrow Wilson bridge over the Loire, which was officially opened in July 1918 and bears the name of the man who was President of the USA from 1912 to 1920. Three American air force squadrons, including the 492nd, were based at the Parçay-Meslay airfield, their personnel playing an active part in the life of the city. Americans paraded at funerals and award ceremonies for the Croix de Guerre; they also took part in festivals and their YMCA organised shows for the troops. Some men married girls from Tours. One in particular was Master Sergeant Joseph Harrison Nezat, who was born in Port Barre, Louisiana and a descendant of Pierre Nezat. The latter originated from Layrac and emigrated to America in 1755. One of his grandchildren, Jack Claude Nezat, is a writer and has published books on history and sociology.

Inter-war years

In 1920, the city was host to the Congress of Tours, which saw the creation of the French Communist Party.

econd World War

Tours was also marked by the Second World War. In 1940, the city suffered massive destruction and for four years it was a city of military camps and fortifications. From 10-13 June 1940, Tours was the temporary seat of the French government before its move to Bordeaux. German incendiary bombs caused a huge fire which blazed out of control from 20-22 June and destroyed part of the city centre. Some architectural masterpieces of the 16th and 17th centuries were lost, as was the monumental entry of the city. The Wilson Bridge (known locally as the 'stone bridge'), carried a water main which supplied the city; the bridge was dynamited to slow the progress of the German advance. With the water main severed and unable to extinguish the inferno, the inhabitants had no option but to flee to safety. More heavy air raids devastated the area around the railway station in 1944 causing several hundred deaths.

Post-war developments

A plan for the rebuilding of the downtown area drawn up by the local architect Camille Lefèvre was adopted even before the end of the war. The plan was for twenty small quadrangular blocks of housing to be arranged around the main road (la rue Nationale), which was widened. This regular layout attempted to echo, yet simplify, the 18th century architecture. Pierre Patout succeeded Lefèvre as the architect in charge of rebuilding in 1945. At one time there was talk of demolishing the southern side of the rue Nationale in order to make it in keeping with the new development.

The recent history of Tours is marked by the personality of Jean Royer, who was Mayor for 36 years and helped to save the old town from demolition by establishing one of the first Conservation Areas. This example of conservation policy would later inspire the Malraux Law for the safeguarding of historic city centers. In the 1970s, Jean Royer also extended the city to the south by diverting the course of the River Cher to create the districts of Rives du Cher and des Fontaines; at the time, this was one of the largest urban developments in Europe. In 1970, the François-Rabelais university was founded; this is centered on the bank of the Loire in the downtown area, and not - as it was then the current practice - in a campus in the suburbs. The latter solution was also chosen by the twin university of Orleans. Royer's long term as Mayor was, however, not without controversy, as exemplified by the construction of the practical - but aesthetically unattractive - motorway which runs along the bed of a former canal just 1500 metres from the cathedral. Another bone of contention was the original Vinci Congress Center by Jean Nouvel. This project incurred debts although it did, at least, make Tours one of France's principal conference centres.

Jean Germain became Mayor in 1995 and made debt reduction his priority. Ten years later, his economic management is regarded as much wiser than that of his predecessor, the financial standing of the city having returned to a stability. However, the achievements of Jean Germain are criticised by the municipal opposition for a lack of ambition: no large building projects comparable with those of Jean Royer have been instituted under his double mandate. This position is disputed by those in power, who affirm their policy of concentrating on the quality of life, as evidenced by urban restoration, the development of public transport and cultural activities.

Main sights

Tours Cathedral

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 illuminating 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.


The inhabitants of Tours ("Tourangeau") are renowned for speaking the "purest" form of French in the entire country. The pronunciation of Touraine is widely regarded as the most standard pronunciation of the French language, devoid of any perceived accent (unlike that of most other regions of France, including Paris). Gregory of Tours wrote in the 6th century that some people in his area could still speak Gaulish.


The city of Tours has a population of 140,000 and is called "Le Jardin de la France" ("The Garden of France"). There are several parks located within the city. Tours is located between two rivers, the Loire to the north and the Cher to the south. The buildings of Tours are white with blue slate (called "Ardoise") roofs; this style is common in the north of France, as most buildings in the south of France have terra cotta roofs.

Tours is famous for its original medieval district, called "le Vieux Tours". Unique to the Old City are its preserved half-timbered buildings and "la Place Plumereau", a square with busy pubs and restaurants, whose open-air tables fill the center of the square. The Boulevard Beranger crosses the Rue Nationale at the Place Jean-Jaures and is the location of weekly markets and fairs.

Near the cathedral, in the garden of the ancient Palais des Archevêques (now "Musée des Beaux-Arts"), is a huge cedar tree planted by Napoleon.

Tours is home to François Rabelais University, the site of one of the most important choral competitions, called "Florilège Vocal de Tours" International Choir Competition, and is a member city of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing.


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 royal chateaux.

Tours is on one of the main lines of the TGV. It is possible to travel to the west coast at Bordeaux in two and a half hours, or to the Mediterranean coast via Avignon and from there to Spain and Barcelona. It takes one hour by train from Tours to Paris by TGV and one hour and a half to Charles de Gaulle airport. Tours has two main stations, a central station and "St Pierre Des Corps," which is just outside the center, and is the station which is used by trains that do not terminate in Tours.

Tours Loire Valley Airport connects the Loire Valley to London Stansted Airport. This link is provided by the Irish airline Ryanair. National connection to Figari on Corsica is also available during the summer.

Tours does not have a metro rail system, instead there is a very efficient bus service, the main central stop being "Jean Jaures," which is next to the Hôtel de Ville, and "rue Nationale", the high street of Tours. There are plans to construct a tram network within the next few years.

Catholics from Tours

Tours is a special place for Catholics who follow the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was in Tours in 1843 that a Carmelite nun, Sister Marie of St Peter reported a vision which started the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus, in reparation for the many insults Christ suffered in His Passion.

The Venerable Leo Dupont also known as The Holy Man of Tours lived in Tours at about the same time. In 1849 he started the nightly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in Tours, from where it spread within France. Upon hearing of Sister Marie of St Peter’s reported visions, he started to burn a vigil lamp continuously before a picture of the Holy Face of Jesus and helped spread the devotion within France. The devotion was eventually approved by Pope Pius XII in 1958 and he formally declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday) for all Roman Catholics.

Tours has further Christian connotations in that the pivotal Battle of Tours in 732 is often considered the very first decisive victory over the invading Islamic forces, turning the tide against them. The battle also helped lay the foundations of the Carolingian Empire [Davis, Paul K. (1999) "100 Decisive Battles From Ancient Times to the Present" ISBN 0-19-514366-3]


Tours was the birthplace of:
*Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), novelist
*Berengarius of Tours (999-1088), theologian
*Bernard of Tours (fl. 1147, d. before 1178), philosopher and poet
*Yves Bonnefoy (born 1923), poet
*Abraham Bosse (1604-1676), artist
*Georges Courteline (1858-1929), dramatist and novelist
*Emile Delahaye (1843-1905), automobile pioneer
*Philippe Néricault Destouches (1680-1754), dramatist
*Jean Fouquet (1420-1481), painter
*Gabriel Lamé (1795-1870), mathematician
*Nâdiya (1973), a famous singer
*Philippe de Trobriand (1816-1897), author, American military officer
*Louise de la Vallière (1644-1710), courtesan


ee also

* Bishop of Tours
*University of Tours
* Tours FC - a soccer club based in the town.
* [] National Choreographic Center of Tours - Centre for contemporary dance creation.

External links

* [ Official website] fr icon
* [ Tours on French version of Wikipedia]
* [ Tours and its agglomeration on video] (from
* [ Architecture of Tours]
* [ François Rabelais University, Tours]
* [ Official Website of the Tours Volley Ball, French champion 2004 and European Champion 2005]
* [,0.693512&spn=0.112383,0.234180&t=k&hl=en Satellite picture by Google Maps]

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