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Links to all French Cathedral and Abbey Photo Pages in Paradoxplace

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Tours (and another white van tale)


Link to Maps of the Pilgrimage Roads of France


Link to some early medieval French Saints, Kings and Queens


Link to more photos of the Stained Glass Windows of St-Gatien

Images of St-Martin of Tours Cutting his Cloak


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The Basilique St-Martin, on the via Turonensis from Paris,  was one of the great pilgrimage churches of France.  It was originally built in the late 400s to house the saint's tomb and then greatly upsized after several fires and rebuilds, until the Huguenots (Protestants) came along in 1562 and did a pillage job.  The huge old Romanesque lady never recovered, getting more and more dilapidated until, like many of her sisters in France, she was made into stables and stores in the early post-revolution 1790s, before generally collapsing shortly afterwards. 


So at the beginning of the 1800s most of the huge monastic site was cleared and used for roads and housing (see map on right).  A new basilica was built in the corner to house St Martin's tomb, an unexpected survivor in the surrounding mess.




Link to Maps of the Pilgrimage Roads of France






SAINT MARTIN (c316 - 397 (81))


Saint Martin de Tours is also a Patron Saint of France.  He was a Hungarian who, unusually, survived life in the Roman army as a declared Christian, and went on to an apprenticeship in Poitiers under its bishop St-Hilaire, before reluctantly accepting the role of Bishop of Tours in 371.  At heart, like many of his medieval ilk, he was an aesthetic hermit monk with a lot in common with the late 1100s St-Francis, and amongst other foundations he was responsible for building up Marmoutier (Wikipedia page on Marmoutier - there's only a few ruins left today) into one of the greatest early medieval abbeys.  On the way he got a reputation for having visions and doing miracles, and after his death soon became widely venerated as a saint and generated a lot of pilgrim business for Tours.  Along with St-Hilaire, he was one of the earliest non-martyr saints.  You will see him in frescos and reliefs all over Europe - he's the guy cutting his cloak in half with his sword for the benefit of a poor man in Amiens.


Images of St-Martin       Link to some early medieval French Saints, Kings and Queens




Surviving capital - Basilique St-Martin





St-Gatien (Gatianus) was one of the Bishops sent to Gaul (Tours) by Pope Fabian.  Others in the group included Denis (Paris), Trophimus (Arles), Paul (Narbonne), Saturnin (Toulouse), Austromoine (Clermont) and Martial (Limoges).  They joined Irenaeus who was already in Lyon.


Link to some early medieval French Saints, Kings and Queens



Cathédrale St-Gatien, Tours


We went to the Cathédrale St-Gatien without any great expectations, and were gob smacked by its soaring gothic lines, height and light, and by its beautiful stained glass.  The cathedral was started in the late 1100s and completed just under 400 years later in the mid 1500s.






A "Tree of Jesse" window occupies pride of place at the far (east) end.  On the right (we think) - the Annunciation (bottom), the Nativity and waving Magi.









The apse of the Cathedral St-Gatien - some of the most flying of flying buttresses around






Another Saint Martin cloak splitting image near what remains of the tomb of the sons of King Charles VIII (king from 1483 - 1498) and Anne de Bretagne.  They predeceased their old man even though he died at the age of 28, and the crown and Anne passed across to Orleans Valois Louis XII.  Anne and Louis' daughter Claude became queen consort to Flashy Francis I (1494 - 1515 - 1547 (53)).  Or something like that - one of these days we'll do the French Monarch list that has been in the queue for a couple of years!




St-Gatien's Cathedral, North Transept Rose Window (1300 - the buttress was added 70 years later as the delicate tracery was showing signs of collapse).







After a quick look at the unmemorable bit of cloister (with neo or real V le-Duc monsters), the final step was to capture the facade for posterity, and that led to an interesting series of events ......



Firstly, a white van was parked in front of the cathedral, with driver eating lunch of baguette, vino, etc and reading the newspaper and not about to move .....



.... just to the left of the van at 16 rue Lavoisier is the interestingly named L'Hedoniste Restaurant .....


.... so we popped in for a plate of oysters and an outstanding bottle of red ..... and it did the trick because after these and a spot of liver (a blokey experience) .....


... the white van had gone, but it been replaced by a tourist train.  Never been on one of those before, and it seemed an effortless way to do a tour around the medieval quarter which was a bit of a walk away on a warm day .....





....  so it was all aboard and off we went - and would you believe, ten minutes in to the 40 minute tour, we had a slow motion collision with a white van (that's our train driver in yellow, it was her first train accident and she was not best pleased) .....





... moving on after several interestingly abusive French verbal exchanges and many phone photos .... this is one of the squares in the medieval quarter - the renovation and repopulation of which has obviously been a great success.  In fact Tours generally is a grand old town with a good feel about it.





and .... we did eventually get a vehicle-free photo of the facade of St-Gatien, which looked much better in the later afternoon sun .... there's usually a reason ....



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