Last modified: 2019-05-02 by ivan sache
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Flag of Tours - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 14 May 2006
The municipality of Tours (136,252 inhabitants in 2015; 3,436 ha) is located on river Loire, 225 km south-west of Paris, in the traditional province of Touraine. The historical importance of Tours is explained by its geographical location, on the junction of two main roads linking Lyon to Brittany and Paris to Bordeaux, respectively. Tours got its name from the Turones Celtic tribe. After the Roman conquest, the town of Caesarodunum (Caesar's Hill) stretched over more than 100 ha in the plain of Loire. At the end of the 3rd century, the Barbariab Invasions prompted the inhabitants of the town to withdrew to its center, which was surrounded by a thick wall. In 375, the town, renamed Turones, was the capital of the 3rd Gallia Lugdunensis Province, which included Touraine, Maine, Anjou and Brittany.
Tours became at that time a main center of the Christian religion,
under the egis of Bishop St. Martin (316/7-397). Born in Sabaria, Pannonia (today Szombathely, Hungary), where his father was a military tribune, Martine spent his youth in Pavia (Italy), serving in the mounted imperial guard. The
famous episode of the cloak he cut into two parts to dress a beggar
took place in Amiens, in the north of France. Martin later left the
army and converted to the Christian religion; he became a disciple of
St. Hilary (c. 315-c. 367), Doctor of the Church, Bishop of
Poitiers and a main opponent to Arianism. The Arian
doctrine, professed by Arius of Alexandria (c. 256-336), denied the
divinity of Christ; condemned as an heresy by the councils of
Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381), Arianism eventually disappeared only
in the 6th-7th centuries. Powerful in Gaul, the Arians obtained the exile
of Hilary in 356. Martin left Gaul for Pannonia, where he
converted his pagan mother; he stayed in Illyria and Milan, from where
he was expelled by the Arians, and settled in a desert island off the
coast of Liguria.
When Hilaire was re-established as the Bishop of Poitiers, Martin joined him back and founded in 361 in nearby Ligugé Gaul's first Christian monastery. Martin ressuscitated a catechumen, a miracle which made him very famous in the region. After Hilary's death, Martin was called to Tours in 371 on the pretext of helping a sick man. Against his will and in spite of the reluctancy of some, who found that monk fairly shabby-looking, Martin was consecrated Bishop of Tours on 4 July 371. However, he decided to preserve his monastic life and founded the monastery of Marmoutier (lit., Martin's monastery) across river Loire. Martin attracted several monks and disciples, which helped him in his struggle against paganism. Martin's method was simple and efficient, not to say brutal: wherever he went, he called together the villagers, preached and then demolished the pagan temples and cut the sacred trees, which he often deflected with the sign of the cross when they fell down to him. All along his life, Martin remained very humble and refused to mess with the mighty. At the end of his life, he was attacked by several priests and bishops, who would have prefered a more comfortable and less religious life, and nearly withdrew from society.
In 397, Martin went to Candes (later called Candes-Saint-Martin), a town located at the confluence of rivers Loire and Vienne, in order to solve a conflict which had broken out among clarks. He died there on 8 November. As it was the rule at that time, the monks of Ligugé and Marmoutier attempted the impossible to keep the very profitable body of the bishop. The monks of Marmoutier were tricky rowers: they stole the body during the night and brought it back via river Loire to Tours. The tradition says that wherever Martin's body was transported, trees grew green again, plants blossomed and birds sang. A very mild autumn period is still called in France St. Martin's summer (equivalent to Indian summer). Martin was buried on 11 November, which was designated St. Martin's Day.
Martin's disciple Sulpicius Severus wrote his vita (biography; lit.,
"life"), which became a best-seller and made of Martin the most popular
of the French saints. There are more than 500 villages called
Saint-Martin in France and Martin is still the most common surname in
France. Martin was the first saint canonized without
having been martyrized. A basilica was built in 482 by St. Perpetuus, Bishop of Tours, around Martin's grave; it was 53 x 20 m and had 120 columns and
32 windows. The church was burnt down during the big blaze in 997,
rebuilt in 1004, sacked by the Huguenots in 1562 and eventually
suppressed in 1802. The new basilica rebuilt in 1886-1924 in
neo-Byzantine style keeps saint Martin's tomb in its crypt.
Martin's tomb is still a very popular place of pilgrimage, especially
on 11 November.
In 496/498, King of the Franks Clovis (c. 465-511), still a pagan, visited the basilica and promised to convert to the Christian religion if he defeated the Alamans, which he did; Clovis was christened by St. Remigius in Reims around 498. In 507, during the war against the Visigoths, Clovis ordered his soldiers to preserve Tours. After his victory against Alaric II in Vouillé, he came back to Tours, where he was granted the emblems of Consul offered by the Byzantine Emperor. All the royal lineages that succeeded Clovis paid a particular attention to Tours and St. Martin's tomb.
In 573, Georges Florent (538?-594), better known as Gregory, was
appointed Bishop of Tours by King of Austrasia Sigebert I (561-575) and
Queen Brunhilda. As the bishop of a main town, Gregory was constantly
involved in the quarrels of the Merovingian princes. His main opponent
was King of Neustria Chilpéric I (561-584): in his books, Gregory
ridiculed the king's lame attempts to reform theology and poetry and to
add new letters to the alphabet. Gregory traveled a lot for attending
councils and various meetings. A very curious man, he wrote
several books, which, in spite of being marred by trite remarks,
unverified statements and exaggerations, are a very vivid source on the
early Christian times in Gaul. His masterwork is the "History of the
Franks", in ten volumes, which yielded him the nickname of "Father of
the French history". Most of our knowledge on the Franks comes from
St. Gregory founded an abbey near St. Martin's basilica, which increased the fame of Tours and attracted even more pilgrims, including the mighty, who often had to be absolved from their numerous crimes.
In 796, Alcuin of York ((Albinus Flaccus; 730?-804) was appointed Abbot of St. Martin by Charlemagne. In 782, Charlemagne invited him to Aachen, where he ruled the palace's school and initiated the so-called Carolingian Renaissance. Alcuin was Charlemagne's prefered private councillor and prepared the restoration of the Empire in 800; his letters are a main source for the Carolingian history. In Tours, Alcuin completely reformed the abbey and put the 200 idle monks on work. Two courses were created, one elementary and one for the teaching of liberal arts (grammar, rhetorics, logics, arithmetics, geometry, music, and astronomy). Calligraphy was renewed in the St. Martin's scriptorium. After Alcuin's death, Tours remained an important center of culture; a council was held there in 813, where it was prescribed to the priests to comment the Bible in Romanic language instead of Latin; in the 840s, the scriptorium released Alcuin's Bible, a revision of the Vulgate, which was spread all over Europe, the Moütier-Grandval Bible and Charles the Bold's Bible.
Tours was sacked by the Norsemen in 853. The churches and the abbey were burnt down, but St. Martin's relics were hopefully transfered to Auvergne, a safer place. After new attacks in 903, the town walls were increased and a new borough, called Châteauneuf (Newcastle) or Martinopolis (Martin's Town), was built west of the ancient town. The abbey fell into cultural and religious decline but became a source of wealth and political power for its new abbots, who were no longer clarks but princes from the Robertian lineage. The abbey had power on more than 200 canons, among which most archbishops, bishops and abbots of Gaul were selected. The abbey kept St. Martin's famous cloak (at least one half of it), called cape or chape (in Latin, cappa). Hugh, Duke of France, a member of the Robertian dynasty, was elected King of France in Senlis in 987; in the 12th century, he was given the nickname of Capet and has been known since then as Hugh Capet, which is a direct reference to St. Martin's cloak. Martin's cappa is the root of the word chapel (in French, chapelle), a chapel (in Latin, cappella, 679) being originally the reliquary used to keep the cloak and later a sacred room in the royal palace where the relics were kept. Smith [smi76], repeating an old tradition, says that the cloak, placed in a portable oratory, was used on battlefields by the French kings from Clovis onwards as a kind of war flag. It is often said that this is the origin of the blue field on the French royal banners and of the blue stripe of the French Tricolore. Pastoureau [pst98] is more cautious in his interpretations of the ancient texts: the only evidence is that blue was the heraldic colour of the Capetian lineage, but the origin of this choice is obscure.
The town of Tours was destroyed by a huge blaze in 997 and promptly rebuilt. In the 11th century, Tours was among the stakes of the struggle between the houses of Blois and Anjou. The latter eventually won, and Tours was later part of the Plantagenet Empire. A council was hold by Pope Alexander III in the town in 1163. In 1205, King Philip II August seized Tours and incorporated the town to the Kingdom of France. Tours was very wealthy in the 13th century. King Louis IX (St. Louis) adopted the currency minted in Tours, called livre tournois rather than the livre parisis, minted in Paris, as the royal currency. The black plague scoured the town in 1351. During the Hundred Years' War, Tours was never directly threatened by the English but its walls were increased. Tours became the capital of the Duchy of Touraine, granted to king-to-be Charles VII in 1417 as his apanage. Joan of Arc stayed in Tours in 1429, where she purchased her armour. King Charles VII settled in the town in 1444 and signed there a truth with King of England Henry VI on 28 May 1444.
Under King Louis XI (1461-1483), Tours was the unofficial capital of
the Kingdom of France. The king stayed in the castle of Plessis and set
up there a brilliant court, whose main artist was the miniaturist from
Tours Jean Fouquet (1415/1420-1478-1481), famous for his Grandes
Chroniques de France and Antiquités Judaïques. Louis XI restored the fame of the St. Martin's abbey. The last times of Louis XI's reign were
difficult. Paranoid, the king believed he suffers from leprosis
and was scared by imaginary plots and attempts. Obsessed by death, Louis XI placed the court was under the influence of astrologers, seers and charlatans of that ilk supposed to predict when he would die. His personal doctor was asked the same question,
and wisely answered "His Majesty will die one day after my own death",
which saved his life. After the death of the king, the court moved
Louis XI attempted to modernize and develop industry in his kingdom. He sponsored silk and brocade production in Lyon, to no avail. Therefore, the workers and the looms were transported to Touraine. In the middle of the 17th century, there were 11,000 looms active in the province and two yearly tax-free fairs in Tours. The decline started in 1680 when silk industry eventually throve in Lyon; there were only 1,000 looms still active in Touraine in 1789. Tours progressively lost its political and economical importance, and was locally superseded by Angers and Orléans; the town counted less than 20,000 inhabitants in 1801.
In September 1870, the Government of National Defense set up by
Gambetta after the fall of the Second Empire settled for a while in
Tours, but quickly withdrew to Bordeaux under the Prussian threat. The same situation occurred in June 1940, and the town was bombed and
burned from 19 to 21 June. In 1944, Tours was bombed again; 136 inhabitants were
killed on 20 May. At the end of the war, 1,543 buildings were
completely dstroyed and another 7,960 severely damaged, mostly in the
historical downtown and near the Loire.
The historical center of Tours (Old Tours), was completely revamped in the 1970s under the egis of Mayor Jean Royer (1929-2011; Mayor from 1959 to 1995). Ultra-conservative, Royer forbid the opening of supermarkets in the municipality of Tours, in order to protect small shop owners and for the great benefit of the neighbouring towns. He was also famous for his moral intransigence and became a great target for the feminists. When candidate at the presidential election in 1974, his meetings were often interrupted by young women showing him her breasts and throwing her bra to his face, which was something extremely unconventional and shocking at that time.
Tours is also a main place in the history of the workers' movements in France. In 1920, the Congress of Tours was the birth place of the Parti Communiste Français. In the 16th congress of the United Socialist Party, inaugurate in Tours on 25 December 1920, the main issue to be discussed was the adherence to the 3rd Socialist International, founded by the Russian revolutionaries in 1920. Three trends emerged in the congress: the promoters of adherence, including the Committee for the 3rd International; the right wing of the party, led by Thomas, Sembat and Blum; and the center, led by Faure, Longuet, Frossard and Cachin, and divided among promoters and opponents to the adherence. The adherence promoters gained 70% of the votes, the right wing, 10% and the center 20%. Following an ultimatum sent by the executive of the 3rd International, the opponents to the adherence were excluded from the party, soon renamed to French Communist Party. The excluded Socialists met in an other room and founded the SFIO (Section française de l'Internationale ouvrière), in order to "guard the old house" (garder la vieille maison), said Léon Blum. SFIO became the Socialist Party in 1971, absorbing a few other lesser parties and political clubs. The Congress of Tours was a tragic scission in the French workers' movement, which is still marked by that event.
Ivan Sache, 14 May 2006
Different versions of the municipal flag of Tours have been reported,
all of them being based on the municipal coat of arms, "Sable three towers argent a chief azure three fleurs-de-lis or".
These arms were adopted in the 14th century by the Municipal Council; the chief of France was added in the 16th century, showing that Tours was one of the 36 "good towns" (bonnes villes) of France, whose Mayor was invited to the coronation of the King of France. The fleurs-de-lis were replaced by stars during the Empire.
The Latin motto of the town, Sustentant lilia turres (The towers support the lilies), can be "read" on the coat of arms. Less literally, the motto alludes of course to the allegiance of Tours to the King of France.
The towers (in French, tours) make the arms canting, although the town was named after the Turones Celtic tribe and not after towers.
The arms have been depicted with several variations. The shield's field, as shown for instance on the street plaques, is either red or black; the towers are shown either witho roof and weather vanes or without them.
There are at least two flag variants with a red field:
- the most common flag (photo, Town Hall) is a banner of the municipal arms, represented with a red field and the towers without roof and weather vane;
- a flag similar but with the two stripes of equal width and the three towers, without roof and weather vane, horizontally lined up, was seen in November 2005.
Pascal Vagnat, Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 2 February 2019
Logo flag of Tours - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 2 February 2019
The logo, designed in partnership with the Brassart school - a private school of visual communication, founded in 1949 by Paul Brassart - and the Adfields communication agency, was unveiled on 3 November 2015.
The three colored elements, green, sand and blue, symbolize the gardens, stone and water, respectively, and also the three historical towers (tours) of the town arranged to form a crown.
[La Nouvelle République, 3 November 2015]
CMYK RGB Pantone Green: 59 0 100 7 22 166 162 369c Sand (beige) 18 38 56 6 193 56 11 728c Blue 68 34 0 0 102 153 204 279c Black 50 0 0 100 Black
Cédric Neige, a local designer and representative of the Alliance
française des designers, the French designers' professional syndicate,
pointed out that the Brassart School worked freely for the municipality,
which he considers as "a breach of ethics and a bad signal sent to the
school's students". He also criticized the municipality of Tours for
having trumpeted that the new communication campaign would have a zero
cost, which does not sound professional at all, moistly to boost its own
image. Neige further found the logo "horrible and meaningless, without
any message", claiming that the design should have been based on a
comprehensive study of the global identity of Tours, rather than using
"three shameful color touches".
[La Nouvelle République, 13 November 2015]
The adoption of the new logo was the final step in a chaotic process,
initiated in early 2015 by the new majority in the Municipal Council,
and which soon went out of control and stirred a big controversy.
In January 2015, the municipality announced the change of the logo of the town, which had been used for the last 27 years. Featuring a rainbow-colored, square tower, the logo had to evolve "to follow the wind of change". The municipality expected to adopt "a new graphic identify, more modern, lively and dynamic, in the aftermath of the revamping of the municipal review and the development of a digital strategy (aimed at strengthening connections and exchange with the citizens)".
Four proposals, designed by the municipality's communication department, were submitted to a public vote, scheduled from 30 January to 15 February 2015.
- No.1. VILLE DE / TOURS, in black letters; three blue square dots
placed horizontally above the "T" and two thin blue waves underlining
"Work mostly performed on color and typography. 'T' as the symbol of the town, with the three dots recalling the crenels of the Tower [tour] (as a symbol of the historical coat of arms). A modern logo oriented to future highlighted by the two wave-shaped stripes representing rivers Cher and Loire.
- No. 2. VILLE DE / TOURS, in black letters; a black line looping back from the "S" and underlining "TOURS".
"A choice that emphasizes our town's nobleness and historical heritage. Single-colored, easy to memorize, elegant."
- No. 3. Ville de / TOURS in white and black letters, respectively, on a blue rectangle; eight thin white waves in the rectangle's lower left corner.
"Tours is characterized by proximity with water (rivers Loire and Cher). This logo evokes its print. It is easy to identify, to use and to memorize. The choice of the typography evokes the town's historical past."
- No. 4. VILLE DE / TOURS, in black letters; three blue square dots placed horizontally above the "T" and a thin blue horizontal line underlining "TOURS".
"This logo reuses the base of proposal No.1, with a simple and universal typography [sanserif vs. serif for No. 1), often used for the sake of clarity and legibility. The blue line emphasizes the proximity of Tours with its river, the Loire.
[37°, 30 January 2015]
The process of adoption of the new logo immediately stirred a big
controversy, initiated by the collective "Un logo pour Tours", composed
of "professionals, students and amateur in graphic design living or
working in the municipality of Tours". In an open letter to the Mayor,
the collective expressed its opposition to the process, which they first
considered as a joke. They pointed out, referring to explanations given
by the Mayor to justify the process, that the "historic and emblematic
colors" of Tours are not black and blue: the colors of the arms are
black, silver, gold and blue. They criticized the comparison made by the
Mayor with the logo of the town of Porto, which is a straightforward and
simple reference to the town's emblematic azulejos.
[37°, 6 February 2015; Arrêt sur Images, 12 February 2015]
On 26 February 2015, the municipality announced that the public vote was
stopped after 45% of the 4,250 voters had selected none of the four
proposed logos; it seems also that voting more than one time had been possible.
[37°, 26 February 2015]
Pascal Vagnat, Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 2 February 2019