Historical Churches, Tours

Historical Churches (Self Guided), Tours

The French city of Tours is forever linked to the Battle of Tours, a pivotal event in European history. Taking place in 732 AD, this momentous encounter saw the Frankish leader Charles Martel, a devout Christian, successfully repel a substantial army of Spanish Moors, thus effectively halting the Muslim advance and ensuring the preservation of Christianity throughout Western Europe.

Had it been the other way around, today's Tours, a city of many churches, would have been, much like the rest of the continent, one of many mosques. But then again, history knows no “ifs”...

The oldest among Tours's churches, the Basilica of Saint Martin, traces its origin back to the 4th century. It is a tribute to the revered Saint Martin, renowned for his acts of charity and piety.

Similarly, Saint Saturnin's and Saint Julien's churches offer glimpses into the past with their intricate designs and tranquil atmospheres. These churches serve as havens for spiritual contemplation amidst the bustling cityscape.

The Church of Saint Grégoire des Minimes, in turn, emanates a sense of simplicity and humility, embodying the ideals of the religious order it represents. Its modest facade belies the profound serenity found within its walls.

At the same time, Saint Gatien's Cathedral stands as a majestic testament to Gothic architecture, drawing admirers with its soaring towers and awe-inspiring interiors.

Lastly, the Church of Saint Peter City (Eglise Saint-Pierre-Ville) has been a gathering place for worshipers and pilgrims since the earliest days of Christianity in the region, circa the 850s. Its historic significance is palpable, echoing through the centuries with each step taken within its hallowed halls.

Visiting the historical churches of Tours provides a glimpse into the enduring legacy of faith in the city. The sheer beauty of these centuries-old sacred sites makes it worthy of your exploration. So, take this self-guided walk and experience the profound reverence that permeates these holy grounds.
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Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches
Guide Location: France » Tours (See other walking tours in Tours)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: Linda
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Basilica of St. Martin
  • Eglise Saint Saturnin (Saint-Saturnin Church)
  • Eglise Saint Julien (Saint-Julien Church)
  • Eglise Saint Grégoire des Minimes (Saint-Grégoire des Minimes Church)
  • Saint Gatien's Cathedral
  • Eglise Saint-Pierre-Ville (St. Peter's Church City)
Basilica of St. Martin

1) Basilica of St. Martin (must see)

The beginning of the story of the Basilica of St. Martin goes all the way back to the 4th Century, when a small chapel was established here. The chapel was dedicated to St. Martin, who was the bishop of Tours at that time. Destroyed and rebuilt many times since, it was architect Victor Laloux that designed the Roman-Byzantine basilica on the site today.

The first basilica was built in the fifth century over the ruins of an earlier chapel. The basilica was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours and it was erected over his tomb. Alcuin, an adviser of Charlemagne, was appointed Abbot of the monastic establishment of Saint-Martin's, developed as a collegiate church and governed by a community of canons.

The medieval chapel was destroyed in the French Revolution. Only two old towers connected to the medieval chapel are still standing today. Between the years of 1896 and 1924 the present church was built by Victor Laloux in a neo-Byzantine style on the site of the original basilica. The church was dedicated in 1925.

It has been said the exterior design is reminiscent of an old European synagogue. The interior has white stone walls and stained glass windows showing scenes in the life of the Saint. The new, modern crypt of the church holds the remains of Saint Martin.

The Basilica is located in the Tours Old Town. Saint Martin was third bishop of Tours. He is one of the most familiar and recognizable Christian saints in France. Because of his military experience and his leadership of French Christians, Saint Martin is seen as a protector of France.
Eglise Saint Saturnin (Saint-Saturnin Church)

2) Eglise Saint Saturnin (Saint-Saturnin Church)

Situated on the Loire riverbank, the Eglise Saint Saturnin, formerly known as the Eglise des Carmes, was built in 1473 with the help of King Louis XI. Its wonderful façade overlooks Rue Littré. Inside the church you can see choir's stalls which originated at the old Abbey Cormery and are an important historical treasure today.
Eglise Saint Julien (Saint-Julien Church)

3) Eglise Saint Julien (Saint-Julien Church)

The Eglise Saint Julien is one of the prime religious monuments of Tours. Situated at the beginning of the Rue Nationale, it’s near the Pont Wilson bridge across the Loire River. Dating from 1240 to 1840, this church is a listed historical monument that features beautiful stained glass windows and magnificent architecture.

Resulting from several successive campaigns of construction and recovery, the current abbey church mixes several architectural styles. In the second half of the xi th century, Abbot Gerbert makes a total reconstruction of the abbey church in style novel . The bell tower-porch Note 1 which gives access to the current church certainly dates from this phase of reconstruction. The reliefs of the capitals of the porch, designed by Gustave Guerin 9 , date from the xix th century; they were put in place during the 1960 restoration.

The new church was consecrated in 1084 , under the Archbishopric of Raoul I st of Langeais; it is dedicated to "our Lady, Saint Julian and all the saints".

The new nave of the abbey church was rebuilt between 1243 and 1259 10 ; at that time, gothic architecture prevailed. The church therefore takes on the general form that we know today. Part of the stained glass windows that adorn the nave and the choir were made by Max Ingrand. These windows replace those created in the xix th century in the workshop Lobin , destroyed during World War II.
Eglise Saint Grégoire des Minimes (Saint-Grégoire des Minimes Church)

4) Eglise Saint Grégoire des Minimes (Saint-Grégoire des Minimes Church)

The Eglise Saint Grégoire des Minimes is part of the Minimes convent, built in the early 17th Century. The church's facade is very minimalistic-looking, in line with the classical style of the time. Inside you can see a rich collection of impressive sculptures and woodworks.

In addition to the interesting baroque decoration of the western facade, this building has a set of woodwork executed from 1677 to 1679 by a group of 3 carpenters and 2 cabinetmakers (two of whom will become minimal brothers in 1679, Antoine Audric and Cot Taboué), including one canopied oak carved xvii th century .

The church has three side chapels accompanied by their altarpieces and statues representing respectively: the Blessed Virgin Mary , Saint Anne and Saint Joachim in the first chapel.
Saint Gatien's Cathedral

5) Saint Gatien's Cathedral (must see)

"...not until the cathedral is finished." is an old saying around the city of Tours. It refers to the cathedral of Saint Gatien. The cathedral was dedicated to Saint Gatianus in 1356 but it was the reincarnation of several other churches on the site. The first was dedicated to St. Maurice and built by Bishop Lidorius in 371.

Lidorius' church burned in 558 and was rebuilt by Gregory of Tours in 590. In 1160 a new structure was erected in the Angevin style. This one burned before it was finished. Work resumed in 1220. Many renovations in different styles were made. The choir and transept used the lower Romanesque structure. Parts were Gothic or Rayonnant.

Further work was interrupted by the Hundred Years War, a long time to wait for the cathedral to be finished. But not to worry, The nave was finished in the 15th century. The two Renaissance towers were erected outside the ancient city walls. The first tower was finished in 1534. The second was put up in 1547.

During the French Revolution the church was magically changed into a Temple of Reason. Napoleon made up with the Pope however, and reason was restored and the church became a church again. Major restoration commenced in 1993. The organ and the upper windows were restored. The rose window was completed and a new altar dedicated in 2018.

The sides of the cathedral are supported with enormous flying buttresses and spires. The north transept has two extra buttresses and a rose window. The window has a bar across its face to provide extra strength.

The nave holds a monumental tomb for the children of King Charles VII and Ann of Brittany. Made in 1506, the Italian style tomb is of carrara marble.

Three enormous rose windows of stained glass adorn the west, the north and south ends of the cathedral. The windows were made in the style of the glass artisans of Tours. They admit more natural light and sharpen the images. This permitted more expressiveness in the subjects depicted, creating a three-dimensional effect.

At last, the cathedral is finished. The "wait" is over.

Why You Should Visit:
To be overwhelmed by the craftsmanship of the middle ages, especially with the great rose windows. The building arts in this church have been lost, but some things remain.
Eglise Saint-Pierre-Ville (St. Peter's Church City)

6) Eglise Saint-Pierre-Ville (St. Peter's Church City)

This site dates back to the earliest days of Christianity in the region. A simple chapel was erected here named Saint-Pierre des Corps in 858. While the church has been rebuilt several times, part of the ancient chapel remains visible today.

Walking Tours in Tours, France

Create Your Own Walk in Tours

Create Your Own Walk in Tours

Creating your own self-guided walk in Tours is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Tours Introduction Walking Tour

Tours Introduction Walking Tour

The Roman Emperor Augustus named the city Caesarodunum (Hill of Caesar). But it was always Tours. Caesar left the Tours Ampitheatre, the largest amphitheater of the Empire. It's good to be Caesar.

Tours is located on the River Loire. It stands between Orleans and the Atlantic shore. It is famous for the Battle of Tours in 732 CE when Spanish Moors led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi was...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Tours Old Town Walk

Tours Old Town Walk

Having successfully preserved much of its historic heritage, Tours is particularly famous for its original medieval district – Vieux Tours. The bulk of it is concentrated around three squares: Place du Grand Marché, Place Plumereau and Place de Chateauneuf.

A stroll through the Old Town, day or night, offers many delights, and is best started at Place Plumereau. Lined with wood-framed,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.6 Km or 1 Miles