Tours: other things

Tours - Place Plumereau

This is the Place Plumereau, where the cool people eat dinner. (I, meanwhile, ate mostly in the Rue Colbert, which is also pretty trendy, but has more Indian, Asian and Lebanese restaurants.) That row of houses is, I believe, mostly late 16th century.

When it’s not summer, the Old Town of Tours is also where students hang out.

Garbage bin with graffiti reading 'veni, vidi, vomi'Students, or people with terrible taste in puns.

Sunset over the LoireI almost dropped my handbag in the Loire, taking this photo.

Severely eroded gargoyle, clutching at his mostly-worn-away faceBack up at the Cathedral, this gargoyle is anguished at the loss of his facial features.

TL;DR – I really liked Tours. It was pretty, and easy to navigate, and the up-side of the fact that the citizens of the Loire region supposedly have ‘pure, accentless’ French is that by and large, everyone talking to you sounds like a second-year listening test. On the basis of a couple of days in Tours, it seems that I would only pass second-year listening tests if they were about feisty 15th-century nuns who went to Quebec. ‘How to get into the hotel at night’ and ‘how to buy museum tickets’ are both beyond me, but hagiography? I HAVE MASTERED THAT SHIT.

Actually, speaking of French, I’m enrolled in Alliance Française conversation classes this semester – if only so that I don’t look like such a fool in front of the fourth-year honours class, whose seminars I’m auditing by way of listening practice. The nice lady who did my admissions interview told me I have ‘very good spoken French’. I think she’s delusional, but she sorted me into level B1 classes, and provided they actually get enough enrollments, I shall attempt to regain my old habit of gabbling away in scruffy but enthusiastic French.

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Tours, part three: towers!

St Julien at dusk

This here is the Eglise St-Julien, at dusk. I knew nothing about it at the time, but I was walking past and was completely fascinated by the swallows. We don’t get swallows in Australia!

According to Wikipedia, though, the building dates to the 13th century, but it belonged to a Benedictine abbey, which itself dated to the 6th century. I wonder if the tower might be a reconstruction or restoration of part of the 11th century building, rather than a complete fresh start after the nave collapsed in 1224, because that does not look like a typical 13th century tower to me. It’s got buttresses going on, yes, but it’s much, much more square than the shiny gothic facade on the other side.

At any rate, the whole thing’s a wine museum, now.

Speaking of very square things:

Tour d'Horlogue, ToursThe Tour de Horloge (clock tower), surviving from the original Romanesque basilica of St Martin de Tours. Some of the foundations might go back to the original 11th-century building, but I think most of it is from the 13th-century Romanesque basilica. (So perhaps I shouldn’t doubt St-Julien’s 13th-century credentials; I wouldn’t, if the rest of that church weren’t so screamingly Gothic.) I’m getting the impression that Tours wasn’t exactly at the forefront of architectural innovation in the Middle Ages.

Tour de CharlemagneYou can see here where the basilica adjoined the tower, and something of its style of decoration. That building lasted a good while, only to be destroyed by the Hugenots in the 18th century. So determined were they that St Martins should not be rebuilt, they put two whacking great roads through the area.

But never fear! A new St Martins was erected in the 19th century! It is, quite frankly, hideous. Although quite interesting – Neo-Byzantine architecture isn’t something I’ve had much cause to encounter.

There’s also the Tour de Charlemagne, but I liked the clock tower better.

Tour de Charlemagne, ToursThe Tour de Charlemagne has obviously undergone serious restoration on the front there.

Tours: full of towers. Who would’ve guessed?

Gratuitous Cathedral Post

One thing I hadn’t quite been expecting, when setting out to poke my nose in as many churches as possible, was that so few of them would be exhibiting a single cohesive architectural style. It makes sense, if you think about it – a cathedral takes a century or more to build, and then you tack new frilly bits later on as well, if you can afford it. A lived-in church is going to be a bit of a hotch-potch, and if done well the combination of styles can be attractive in its own right.

Nevertheless, in my head, hotchpotch ecclesiastical architecture is something I associate with antipodean church-builders who ran out of money and/or standstone for their neo-gothic edifices. I don’t have any good photos of the new part, but St Pauls Dunedin is a good example of what I’m talking about – they’ve managed to integrate a concrete chancel into a neo-gothic nave.

I think this is a product of the way architectural history is taught (at least the way it was taught to me – and bear in mind that I’m not a visual learner and shied away from art-history heavy subjects). Hey hey kids, Romanesque churches! *photo of a Romanesque ediface* Norman Cathedrals! *photo of the most Norman bits of a church with surviving norman bits* High Gothic! *photo of the flying buttresses of Notre Dame* I do remember one lecture which involved a lot of photographs of 14th-century additions to once-small parish churches in the wool-farming areas of England (they ended up looking like particularly horrendous wedding cakes), but I guess it hadn’t sunk in properly.

I’m not very good at differentiating between architectural or artistic styles, but seeing them all jammed up together in the one place is remarkably educational.

Consider Saint-Gatien de Tours:

Facade of St Gatien, ToursThis is, for my money, a rather obnoxious façade (and also not a brilliant photo). The church was started in the late 12th century, but I think (from wikipedia and the guide sheet, which I don’t have to hand right now) that it was the 14th century before they got so far as the main doors. Note the heavy high gothic decoration on the arches. The towers, on the other hand, are 16th century additions

Flying buttresses at rear of St-GatienThe chancel, which I think is mid-13th century, has the whole Gothic Spiderweb effect going on (although it’s quite hard to get a good shot of it, since there’s construction work all down one side).  Flying buttresses about to take off and fly away, methinks.

13-th century mural in St Gatien de ToursThe insufferably lucky sods still have some of the original 13th century murals – here you’ll see St GregoryMartin tearing his cloak in half and sharing it with a beggar.

Mural in process of restorationI couldn’t figure out what this mural actually depicts – it wasn’t signposted, and although I could follow the conversation of the people near me when they were discussing the restoration process, I didn’t pick up what the picture’s actually *of*. I think it might be a little older than St Greg, though – if you look above, St Greg’s halo is breaking out of the picture boundary into the text, whereas what I could see of thi sone seemed to be keeping within the frames. I learned something in the class I taught this year, and that’s that 12th-century figures stay within their frames, whereas mid/late 13th century sees figures creeping out of frames. Congrats to my supervisor, she managed to teach me *something * about art. Ten points to her.

Coming later – the cloister of St Gatien, a nifty progression from 12th century to renaissance.