Located in the very center of Paris the Tour Saint Jacques is worth seeing for its remarkable architecture in the Flamboyant Gothic style. And since 2013 it is open to visitors every summer from early June till the end of September. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, one can visit it by booking in advance a guided tour of the Tour Saint Jacques with the Association Des Mots et des Arts. Do not miss it: After climbing 300 steps one is rewarded by breath-taking 360-degree views over Paris!
why a tower alone? A bit of historY…
In 11th century the Butchers’ brotherhood had financed the construction of a Church nearby the Seine river’s edge where they were located and had named it after them: Church Saint Jacques de la Boucherie. A few decades later a church tower was added. The Church reached its peak in the 16th century and at that time its tower was rebuilt in the Flamboyant Gothic style characterized by its rib vaults and gargoyles: it is this tower which remains today as the only trace of the former Church and is known as the Tour Saint Jacques.
One century later the church tower was used by Blaise Pascal to work on experiments on gravity. This is probably the reason why a statue of the French scientist stands at the base of the tower.
During the French Revolution the Church has been used as the City hall of the district. In 1797 it was sold as a stone quarry and destroyed except for its tower. The municipality of Paris bought it in 1830 and had the garden around it built twenty years later: This was the first public garden in Paris! At that time the church tower has become what it is today: the Tour Saint Jacques with a public garden around it.
The Tour Saint Jacques has then been used as a weather station for a century since its closing for restoration in 2001. The whole restoration (studies and works) lasted eight years and since April 2009 the garden has been reopened to the public and the Tour Saint Jacques has recovered its original beauty in the Flamboyant Gothic style.
And for the third consecutive year it is open to visitors from early June till the end of September. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 10am till 5pm, one can visit this historic monument by booking in advance a one-hour guided tour with the Association Des Mots et des Arts. I did it last week and highly recommend it: the 360° panorama from the top is really amazing!
Inside the Tour Saint Jacques
The climb to the top of the tower is not too difficult and is made in three stages. After climbing the first 50 steps you will reach a small room where your guide will tell you the fascinating history of the Tour Saint Jacques. After climbing 50 more steps you will reach another landing from which one can see the inside architecture of the monument and distinguish the top of it. Then starts the real ascent to the top: 200 steps in a narrow spiral staircase.
Views from the top of the Tour Saint Jacques
Go upstairs at your pace and you will be rewarded: Once at the top a fifteen-minute break will permit you to admire breath-taking views over Paris towards all directions without any wire netting or glass wall… only a rather low stone guardrail. This is the reason why only guided tours with a limited number of visitors are allowed… Last Friday the visibility was excellent and one could see very far towards any direction: I let you enjoy the views!
Firstly towards each cardinal point…
Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris B&B – www.goodmorningparis.fr
Practical information: Visite de la Tour Saint Jacques – 39 rue de Rivoli – 75004 Paris