Tours, Indre-et-Loire département, France    

August 20, 573: Gregory of Tours was selected as the Bishop of the ancient town of Tours. Gregory's history of the Church in France (more specifically about Clovis and his successors, the Merovingian Franks) is one of the most well known primary sources of history of that time. One could call Gregory's work a no-holds-barred compendium of the personalities, gossip and miracles of the time. Still today, it remains one of the first places to go when researching a relevant subject.

Before Gregory, there was Rome. The name of Cæsarodonum (the hill of Cæsar) is first mentioned in the first century AD. This is a new settlement that became the chief town of the Romanized Gauls called the Turones. During the Roman era, the amphitheatre of Tours, one of the five largest in the Empire, was built. In the fourth century, Saint Martin of Tours established the city as a center of learning. The importance of Martin in the medieval Christian West, and of his shrine as a stopping point on the trail of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, made Tours a major center for pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. As an aside, the building that preserved St. Martin's cloak as a precious relic came to be known as the capella, from the Latin word for cloak, cappa. From capella is derived the English word chapel. On the 11th of November each year, the feast of Saint Martin is solemnly celebrated in his church in the presence of a large number of the faithful of Tours and the other cities and villages of the diocese. On Nov. 17th, the life of Saint Gregory of Tours is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church at Tours.

But it was the connection of Tours to learning that produced France's famous historian, Gregory of Tours, only one hundred years after the time of Saint Martin. Indeed, even the great Alcuin, the learned man of Charlemagne's Court at Aachan, died in this place, because it was the home of the monestary of which he was abbot. Under the influence of Charlemagne during the eighth and ninth centuries, Tours had remained one of the great intellectual places in Western Europe.

Times change. Tours pushed back a first attack of the Vikings in 850, but the invaders returned to the region and in 852 and estrangers sacked Angers, Tours and the abbey of Marmoutier. The area recovered. An area organized between the Abbey of Saint Martin and the River Loire, became the economic center of Tours. Between these two town centres remained Varenne, vineyards and fields, little occupied except for the Abbaye Saint-Julien established on the banks of the Loire. Tours remained a double city into the 14th Century.

Berengar of Tours, or Berengarius, a medieval theologian, was born at Tours early in the 11th century. Berengar (Archdeacon of Angers) is well-known for his views on the mystery of the Eucharist and the intellectual approach to transubstantiation (1079). Hildebert of Tours in 1134 defined the concept in the terms adopted by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Berengar's confession as imposed by the Pope was:

I believe in my heart and openly profess that the bread and wine placed upon the altar are, by the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of the Redeemer, substantially changed into the true and life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, and that after the consecration, there is present the true Body and Blood of Christ which was born of the Virgin and, offered up for the salvation of the world, hung on the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and that there is present the true Blood of Christ which flowed from His side. They are present not only by means of a sign and of the efficacy of the sacrament, but also in the very reality and truth of their nature and substance.

In the Middle Ages, Tours was recognized as an important center for the teaching of medicine (its school of surgery was founded by the guild of barbers in 1408 -- Yes, Medicine indeed is an art not science at this time). Tours and the Touraine region, from the time of Louis XI (at La Riche) until the 16th Century, remained a continuous second home to the kings of France and their Court. The basilique was sacked by the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion (1562). It was utterly demolished during the French Revolution, when two streets were opened on the site, to ensure it would not be rebuilt. The Americans were stationed here in the First World War (1917), and one thinks that in retaliation, the Nazi's fire-bombed the place in 1940, thereby destroying many of its architectual treasures. Never-the-less, Tours remains a place of sacred destinations.

The Cathédrale Saint-Gatien de Tours, dedicated to its first bishop during the consulship of the Emperor Decius and Vettus Gratus (250 AD), was begun about 1170AD to replace the third structure on the site, which burned in 1166 from the quarrel between Louis VII of France and Henry II of England (who died in the vicinity). The lowermost parts of the west towers belong to the 12th century. The remainder of the western end is in the flamboyant Gothic style of the 15th century, completed just as the Renaissance began. Near the cathedral, in the garden of the ancient Palais des Archevêques (now housing the Musée des Beaux-Arts), is a now huge cedar tree, once planted by Napoléon.

Puis capitale du royaume de France, Tours bénéficie d'une situation exceptionnelle au centre de la célèbre Vallée de la Loire, au cœur du Jardin de la France. On the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast, Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its fine wines, as are the other regions in the Loire (see map below).

Appellation Vouvray Controlée: Winemaking has been recorded in the region since the fifth century AD. According to legend, Saint Martin of Tours was responsible for the development of viticulture in the Touraine region. In particular he reputedly introduced the Chenin Blanc grape (the Vouvray variety), known locally as Pineau de Loire. The basic type is dry (sec), with crisp fruit flavours, but some of the best Vouvray wines are made in a sec-tendre / demi-sec style that can be aged for decades. In the rare years suitable for the development of noble rot (botrytis cynera), sweet moelleux wines, like an even luxuriously sweet liquoreux, can be made. Vouvray mousseux is fully sparkling, whereas Vouvray pétillant is semi-sparkling. The appellation regulations dictate that the wines called Vouvray must consist almost entirely of Chenin Blanc, but in theory they can also contain a small amount of the Arbois grape. The appellation applies to wines of the commune of Vouvray (6 miles east of Tours) and the neighbouring villages of Chançay, Noizay, Reugny, Rochecorbon, Sainte-Radegonde-en-Touraine (part of Tours since 1964), Vernou-sur-Brenne and a portion of Parçay-Meslay.

La Roche-sur-Yon -- Poitiers -- Nantes -- Angers -- Blois -- Le Mans -- Orléans -- Bourges & Sancerre -- Châtellerault & Châteauroux -- Amboise, Loches, Chinon et Louden

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