Tournai

Rejuvenation

Tournai’s historical heart is currently undersgoing a vast restoration campaign. Imposing and timeless symbol of the Episcopal city, the Notre-Dame cathedral, a World Heritage site, and its surroundings are the most spectacularly affected parts of the city. The whole area along the Escaut is being redesigned by renowned French architect Nicolas Michelin.

The 30 million euros granted by the European Union and the Wallonia Region will revive this old part of town and rejuvenate its streets, tarmac and equipment. The Cathedral, a masterpiece mixing both Romanesque and Gothic styles, is also undergoing a complete restoration financed by the Region. Visitors can attend the work in progress and discover the techniques inspired by those of the Middle-Ages. 

In the next ten years, the east side of the Escaut will be entirely rethought. The railway station area, through which the Tour de France peloton will be riding, will be renewed to favour sustainable development and integrate several modes of transportation. An important place will be left to the use of the bicycle, a means of transportation the City of Tournai intends to develop. The Governement of Wallonia chose Tournai as a test city to promote a policy to enhance the daily practice of cycling and boost the image of bicycle as a daily means of transportation.

Web sites

Banks of the Escaut - © Ville de Tournai
Two previous stages
Pop: 67,800 inhabitants
Head of district of the Province of Hainaut (Belgium)
Nickname
: the town of the five steeples.
Economy
: trade, tourism, biscuits.
Specialties
: rabbit, success of the day (wafers), Delacre biscuits.
Sport
: RFC Tournai (football)
Celebrities
: Clovis, Donat Casterman (publisher), Henri Vernes (writer), Claudy Cirquielion (cyclist).
Festivals
: Lost Monday, Tournai carnival, Four corteges ‘June), Great Procession (September).
Labels
: World Heritage town (belfry and cathedral).

Timeline

  • 1st century

    Settlement of the Roman camp of Tornacum
  • 5th century

    The Salian Franks took Tournai and made it the capital of their kingdom. Childeric, the father of Clovis is buried in Tournai.
  • 6th century

    Foundation of the parish of Tournai
  • 9th century

    Tournai becomes a seigneury depending from the French crown.
  • 12th century

    Construction of the cathedral
  • 1314

    The King of France invades the Tournai region but the commune created by the patricians resists.
  • 1513 to 1518

    The town is controlled by Henry VIII of England who maintains the rights of the commune.
  • 1522

    Emperor Charles the V seizes Tournai and suppresses the authority of the commune. Tournai and its region are split in two separate districts.
  • 1667

    Tournai bows to the French army led by Turenne and returns under the helm of the French crown.
  • 1709

    Tournai passes under the control of an Anglo-Dutch coalition until the French Revolution.
  • 1830

    Tournai is included in the independent Belgium.
  • 1914

    Severe destructions during the war.
  • 1940

    Luftwaffe bombings claim 250 lives
Visé church - © Ville de Visé
Two previous stages
Pop: 67,800 inhabitants
Head of district of the Province of Hainaut (Belgium)
Nickname
: the town of the five steeples.
Economy
: trade, tourism, biscuits.
Specialties
: rabbit, success of the day (wafers), Delacre biscuits.
Sport
: RFC Tournai (football)
Celebrities
: Clovis, Donat Casterman (publisher), Henri Vernes (writer), Claudy Cirquielion (cyclist).
Festivals
: Lost Monday, Tournai carnival, Four corteges ‘June), Great Procession (September).
Labels
: World Heritage town (belfry and cathedral).

Web sites

Tournai and cycling

Tournai borders with France and has established itself as one of the regular stages of the Circuit Franco-Belge. Tom Boonen, Sébastien Rosseler and Gert Steegmans have raised their arms there, but in addition to the Belgian riders, Argentina’s Juan José Haedo, Australia’s Heinrich Haussler and Sandy Casar have also added their names to the list of the stage‘s winners. In 1966, Tournai hosted the second stage of the Tour de France, which was won by Belgium’s Guido Reybroeck and then the team time-trial the day next day, in which the Dutch Televizier-Batavus team was the fastest.

Tournai is also host to one of the oldest races on the Belgian calendar, Binche-Tournai-Binche, renamed Franck Vandenbroucke Memorial two years ago.

The most famous cycling club in town has several renowned pros in its ranks like former Belgian champion Ludovic Capelle or Frenchman Clement Lhotellerie.

Guido Reybroeck won a Tour de France stage in Tournai in 1966. Here winning Paris-Tours - © Presse Sports
Two previous stages
Pop: 67,800 inhabitants
Head of district of the Province of Hainaut (Belgium)
Nickname
: the town of the five steeples.
Economy
: trade, tourism, biscuits.
Specialties
: rabbit, success of the day (wafers), Delacre biscuits.
Sport
: RFC Tournai (football)
Celebrities
: Clovis, Donat Casterman (publisher), Henri Vernes (writer), Claudy Cirquielion (cyclist).
Festivals
: Lost Monday, Tournai carnival, Four corteges ‘June), Great Procession (September).
Labels
: World Heritage town (belfry and cathedral).

Web sites

What to see

The cathedral

Tournai’s cathedral is simply one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Western Europe. It followed several ancient churches built on the site in the first years of Christianity. It comprises a 12th century Romanesque nave and a transept as well as a Gothic chancel built in the 13th. The transept is surrounded by five steeples which give the cathedral an exceptional majesty. The façade is preceded by a 14th century porch adorned with sculptures from different periods. The prophets’ faces on the lower part of the porch are the works of local sculptors of the 14th century. Between the gates the statue of the Virgin Mary is venerated as Our Lady of the Sick.

Inside the nave, the 16th century stained glass windows are especially noteworthy, along with the 12th century capitals.

The cathedral’s treasure includes the huge 13th century Notre-Dame and St Eleutherius reliquaries, a 9th century cross from the Middle-East, a collection of ivories, manuscripts and jewels as well as a 14th century tapestry weaved in Arras to ornate the chancel.  

The belfry

The story of Belgium’s oldest belfry starts in 1188. That year, King of France Philip Augustus, eager to gain allies against the Count of Flanders, granted the Tournai people the right to erect a bell. They decided to build a belfry as a symbol of the communal liberties. In 1284, the belfry, which topped at 30 metres, was raised to allow the watchmen to see above the cathedral that had just been completed. In 1535, the town’s magistrates allowed for chimes to be installed inside the watchtower. New ornaments appeared: tritons, dragons, sirens and banners. The belfry’s aspect did not change much ever since. It was restored in 1844 and architect Bruno Renard modified its aspect to suit his vision of Gothic Art. In 1948, the four statues placed above the angle towers and representing a gunner, a swordsman, an archer and a crossbow archer were replaced by a single statue sculpted by Stella Laurent. The building was again refurbished in 1992 and reopened to the public in 2003. Along with 29 other belfries in Belgium, the Tournai belfry is on the list of the World Heritage Sites. 

The Red Fort - © Ville de TournaiTown hall - © Ville de TournaiThe cathedral - © Ville de TournaiMuseum of Fine Arts - © Ville de Tournai
Two previous stages
Pop: 67,800 inhabitants
Head of district of the Province of Hainaut (Belgium)
Nickname
: the town of the five steeples.
Economy
: trade, tourism, biscuits.
Specialties
: rabbit, success of the day (wafers), Delacre biscuits.
Sport
: RFC Tournai (football)
Celebrities
: Clovis, Donat Casterman (publisher), Henri Vernes (writer), Claudy Cirquielion (cyclist).
Festivals
: Lost Monday, Tournai carnival, Four corteges ‘June), Great Procession (September).
Labels
: World Heritage town (belfry and cathedral).

Web sites

Lost Monday

Close to the Robinson Island and on the hauling path, one can watch the emblematic animals of Visé, geese. The birds became renowned in Visé for their legendary role in the resistance against a siege by Liege prince bishop Jean d’Arckel in the mid-16th century. Among the besieged was a young woman who worked as a goose-keeper. She was bold enough to take away the enemies standard.

Since then, goose has been honoured in Visé for its reputation as well as for its flesh. The town is home to a famous goose recipe, preciously kept by a few local chefs and old Visé families. The goose is boiled in a vegetable soup, which is later mixed with garlic and used as a sauce for the dish. The poultry is then cut in bits and coated with breading.

1987 saw the creation of the Confrérie de la Délicieuse Oie du Gay Savoir en Bien Mangier de Visé (Brotherhood of the Delicious Goose and How to eat it well). The aim of the fraternity is to preserve and develop the famous recipe of the Vise goose, which belongs to the cultural heritage of the town. The association also promotes goose products.

Visé geese - © Ville de Visé
Two previous stages
Pop: 67,800 inhabitants
Head of district of the Province of Hainaut (Belgium)
Nickname
: the town of the five steeples.
Economy
: trade, tourism, biscuits.
Specialties
: rabbit, success of the day (wafers), Delacre biscuits.
Sport
: RFC Tournai (football)
Celebrities
: Clovis, Donat Casterman (publisher), Henri Vernes (writer), Claudy Cirquielion (cyclist).
Festivals
: Lost Monday, Tournai carnival, Four corteges ‘June), Great Procession (September).
Labels
: World Heritage town (belfry and cathedral).

Web sites

Jersey wearers after the prologue

Classifications after the prologue

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