Diary of a Trip To Tours #3: Gare de Tours

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The Station of Tours is – in and of itself – a historic monument, an architectural feat and a vision.

There are four statue that crown the station’s façade – each a representation of four French cities : Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nantes and Limoges. These are of course automatically now on the travel itinerary. Supported by impressive columns, and a network of cast iron frames, the “Gare de Tours” is an interesting and intricate homage to both remarkable sculptural work but also remarkable architectural skill. And to think that this dates back to the late 19th/early 20th century makes it more fascinating. (How was this achieved without software? Incredible!)

The station is also proudly French. Oh, apart from the clear influence of a broader neo-cassical tradition that has a shared European heritage. Indeed, a large part of the architectural direction was provided by a famous “Tourangeau” (i.e. the French word for a native of Tours), Victor Laloux. He is also responsible for having built a famous station, now turned museum, in Paris: the Musée d’Orsay. He also helped design the stunning neo-Byzantine Basilica of Saint Martin also in Tours.

Along with Victor Laloux, Jean-Baptiste Hugues contributed to the final, stunning product that is the Station of Tours around 1898. Jean Baptiste Hugue seems to have had a particular leaning toward neo-classical sculptures and is responsible for the two statues that are representations for Limoges and Nantes. Incidentally, he is also responsible for a sculpture in the Tuileries in Paris which he christened Le Misére.

Before rushing out of the Tours Station, it is certainly worthwhile to pause, admire and soak in the intricate neo-classical facade of the station. Equally so, there is a lot of pleasure to be had from revisiting the station under the shade of the night sky. The taxi drivers in front of the station are quite used to visitors getting lost in admiring the façade, so there is no shame in frequenting the station just to look at it!

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