Located in central France, Tours is the capital of the Indreet-Loire department and the largest city in the region. Sitting on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast, it is known for its wines, the “alleged perfection” of its local spoken French and for the famous Battle of Tours in 732. Tours has a long-standing history in the region beginning in the 1st century. In Gallic times the city was important as a crossing point of the Loire River. As part of the Roman Empire during the first century the city was named Caesarodunum (Hill of Caesar). However, the current name evolved in the 4th century when the city's Gallic name, Turones, was reintroduced and then eventually shortened to "Tours".
The city became the metropolis of the Roman province of Lugdunum around 380-388AD. In the midst of the 8th century, Abdel Rahaman al-Ghafiqi and a large horde of Muslim horsemen from Africa advanced into France, and were stopped at Tours by Charles Martel and his infantry. This conflict is known as the Battle of Tours. In the end, Martel defeated the al Ghafiqi horde. During the Middle Ages, Tours consisted of two juxtaposed and competing centers: the “City” in the East, successor of the late Roman “castrum”, was composed of the archiepiscopal establishment and the castle of Tours, seat of the authority of the Counts of Tours (later Counts of Anjou) and the King of France, and the “New City”, in the west, which was structured around the Abbey of Saint Martin.
In the 9th century, Tours was at the heart of the Carolingian Rebirth. In 1170, reconstruction began on the city cathedral burned down during a earlier conflict between King Louis the VII and Henry the II of England. The famous twin towers of the present cathedral, were completed in the 12th century and the cathedral was dedicated to St. Gatien. This honor was given Saint Gatien, who tended the poor outside the walls of the city, because he was later named its founding bishop of the church in Tours. In addition to its designation as a seat of Catholic power in the region, Tours remained the permanent residence of the Kings and court until the 16th century. By the 20th century Tours had taken an entirely new direction politically, hosting the Congress of Tours, in 1920, which saw the creation of the French Communist Party. In the 1970s, Mayor Jean Royer extended the city’s boundaries in what was known as one of the largest urban developments in Europe.
During the First World War, a force of 25,000 American soldiers arrived in 1917. With the Americans, Tours set 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. Today a major university, the François Rabelais, serves the city and Tours airport connects passengers from the Loire Valley with London and Dublin.
Did you know?
* The inhabitants of Tours are renowned for speaking the “purest” form of French in the entire country.
*Near the St. Gatien Cathedral, in the garden of the ancient Palais des Archevêques grows an enormous cedar tree that is supposed to have been planted by Napoleon.
* A nickname of Tours is “Le Jardin de la France,” or “The Garden of France.”
* Tours commemorated the American presence during WWI in constructing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Loire, which was officially opened in July 1918.
* Tours is the birthplace of French novelist and playwright, Honoré de Balzac, author of a series of over 100 novels and plays known collectively as "La Comédie humaine."
* The Tours Football Club were division 2 champions of France in 1984. The club was established in 1919.
* Catholic visitors to the city pay devotion to Sister Marie of St Peter, a Carmelite nun who in 1843 reported experiencing a vision of the Holy Face of Jesus in Tours.
* A weekly market and fair opens for business near the original "medieval district" of Tours at the crossing of Boulevard Beranger and Rue Nationale.