TOURS, a town of central France, capital of the department of Indre-et-Loire, 145 m. S.W. of Paris by rail. Pop. (1906), town 61,507; commune, 67,601. Tours lies on the left bank of the Loire on a flat tongue of land between that river and the Cher a little above their junction. The right bank of the Loire is bordered by hills at the foot of which lie the suburbs of St Cyr and St Symphorien. The river is crossed by two suspension bridges, partly built on islands in the river, and by a stone bridge of the second half of the 18th century, the Pont de Tours. Many foreigners, especially English, live at or visit Tours, attracted by the town itself, its mild climate and situation in “the garden of France,” and the historic chateaux in the vicinity. The Boulevard Beranger, with its continuation, the Boulevard Heurteloup, traverses Tours from west to east dividing it into two parts; the old town to the north, with its narrow streets and ancient houses, contains the principal buildings, the shops and the business houses, while the new town to the south, centring round a fine public garden, is almost entirely residential. The Rue Nationale, the widest and hand- somest street in Tours, is a prolongation of the Pont de Tours and runs at right angles to the boulevards, continuing under the name of the Avenue de Grammont until it reaches the Cher.
St Gatien, the cathedral of Tours, though hardly among the greatest churches of France, is nevertheless of considerable interest. A cathedral of the first half of the 12th century was burnt in n 66 during the quarrel between Louis VII. of France and Henry II. of England. A new cathedral was begun about 1170 but not finished till 1547. The lower portions of the west towers belong to the 12th century, the choir to the 13th century; the transept and east bays of the nave to the 14th; the remaining bays, a cloister on the north, and the facade, profusely decorated in the Flamboyant style, to the 15th and 16th centuries, the upper part of the towers being in the Renaissance style of the 16th century. In the interior there is fine stained glass, that of the choir (13th century) being especially remarkable. The tomb' of the children of Charles VIII., constructed in the first years of the 16th century and attributed to the brothers Juste is also of artistic interest.
An example of Romanesque architecture survives in the great square tower of the church of St Julien, the rest of which is in the early Gothic style of the 13th century, with the exception of two apses added in the 16th century. Two towers and a Renaissance cloister are the chief remains of the celebrated basilica of St Martin built mainly during the 12th and 13th centuries and demolished in 1802. It stood on the site of an earlier and very famous church built from 466 to 472 by bishop St Perpetuus and destroyed together with many other churches in a fire in 998. Two other churches worthy of mention are Notre-Dame la Riche, originally built in the 13th century, rebuilt in the 16th, and magnificently restored in the 19th century; and St Saturnin of the 15th century. The new basilica of St Martin and the church of St Etienne are modern. Of the old houses of Tours the hotel Gouin and that wrongly known as the house of Tristan l'Hermite (both of the 15th century) are the best known. Tours has several learned societies and a valuable library, including among its MSS. a gospel of the 8th century on which the kings of France took oath as honorary canons of the church of St Martin. The museum contains a collection of pictures, and the museum of the Archaeological Society of Touraine has valuable antiquities; there is also a natural history museum.
The chief public monuments are the fountain of the Renaissance built by Jacques de Beaune (d. 1527), financial minister, the statues of Descartes, Rabelais and Balzac, the latter born at Tours, and a monument to the three doctors Bretonneau, Trousseau and Velpeau. Tours is the seat of an archbishop, a prefect, and a court of assizes, and headquarters of the IX. Army Corps and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade arbitration, a chamber of commerce and a branch of the Bank of France. Among its educational institutions are a preparatory school of medicine and pharmacy, lycees for both sexes, a training college for girls and schools of fine art and music. The industrial establishments of the town include silk factories and numerous important printing-works, steel works, iron foundries and factories for automobiles, machinery, oil, lime and cement, biscuits, portable buildings, stained glass, boots and shoes and porcelain. A considerable trade is carried on in the wine of the district and in brandy and in dried fruits, sausages and confectionery, for which the town is well known. Three-quarters of a mile to the south-west of Tours lie unimportant remains of Plessis-les-Tours, the chateau built by Louis XI., whither he retired before his death in 1483. On the right bank of the Loire 2 m. above the town are the ruins of the ancient and powerful abbey of Marmoutier. Five miles to the north-west is the large agricultural reformatory of Mettray founded in 1839.
Tours (see Touraine), under the Gauls the capital of the Turones or Turons, originally stood on the right bank of the Loire, a little above the present village of St Symphorien. At first called Altionos, the town was afterwards known as Caesar odunum. The Romans removed the town from the hill where it originally stood to the plain on the left bank of the river. Behind the present cathedral, remains of the amphitheatre (443 ft. in length by 394 in breadth) built towards the end of the 2nd century might formerly be seen. Tours became Christian about 250 through the preaching of Gatien, who founded the bishopric. The first cathedral was built a hundred years later by StLitorius. The bishopric became an archbishopric when Gratian made Tours the capital of Lugdunensis Tertia though the bishops did not adopt the title of archbishop till the 9th century. About the beginning of the 5th century the official name of Caesarodunum was changed for that of Civitas Turo- norum. St Martin, the great apostle of the Gauls, was bishop of Tours in the 4th century, and he was buried in a suburb which soon became as important as the town itself from the number of pilgrims who flocked to his tomb. Towards the end of the 4th century, apprehensive of barbarian invasion, the inhabitants pulled down some of their earlier buildings in order' to raise a fortified wall, the course of which can still be traced in places. Their advanced fort of Larcay still overlooks the valley of the Cher. Affiliated to the Armorican confederation in 43 s, the town did not fall to the Visigoths till 473, and the new masters were always hated. It became part of the Frankish dominions under Clovis, who, in consideration of the help afforded by St Martin, presented the church with rich gifts out of the spoils taken from Alaric, confirmed and extended its right of sanctuary, and accepted for himself and his successors the title of canon of St Martin. At the end of the 6th century the bishopric was held by St Gregory of Tours. Tours grew rapidly in prosperity under the Merovingians, but abuse of the right of sanctuary led to great disorder, and the church itself became a hotbed of crime. Charlemagne re-established discipline in the disorganized monastery and set over it the learned Alcuin, who established at Tours one of the oldest public schools of Christian philosophy and theology. The arts flourished at Tours in the middle ages and the town was the centre of the Poitevin Romanesque school of architecture. The abbey was made into a collegiate church in the nth century, and was for a time affiliated to Cluny, but soon came under the direct rule of Rome, and for long had bishops of its own. The suburb in which the monastery was situated became as important as Tours itself under the name of Martinopolis. The Normans, attracted by its riches, pillaged it in 853 and 903. Strong walls were erected from 906 to 910, and the name was changed to that of Chateauneuf. Philip Augustus sanctioned the communal privileges which the inhabitants forced from the canons of St Martin and the innumerable offerings of princes, lords and pilgrims maintained the prosperity of the town all through the middle ages. A 13th-century writer speaks with enthusiasm of the wealth and luxury of the inhabitants of Chateauneuf, of the beauty and chastity of the women and of the rich shrine of the saint. In the 14th century Tours was united to Chateauneuf within a common wall, of which a round tower, the Tour de Guise, remains, and both towns were put under the same administration. The numerous and long-continued visits of Charles VII., Louis XI., who established the silk-industry, and Charles VIII. during the 15th century favoured the commerce and industry of the town, then peopled by 75,000 inhabitants. In the 15th and 16th centuries the presence of Jean Fouquet the painter of Michel Colomb and the brothers Juste the sculp- tors, enhanced the fame of the town in the sphere of art. In 1562 Tours suffered from the violence of both Protestants and Catholics, and enjoyed no real security till after the pact entered into at Plessis-les-'Tours between Henry III. and Henry of Navarre in 1589. In the 17th and 18th centuries Tours was the capital of the government of Touraine. Its manufactures, of which silk weaving was the chief, suffered from the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). In 1772 its mint, whence were issued the " livres " of Tours (librae Turonenses) was suppressed. During the Revolution the town formed a base of operations of the Republicans against the Vendeans. In 1870 it was for a time the seat of the delegation of the government of national defence. In 187 1 it was occupied by the Germans from the 10th of January to the 8th of March.
See P. Vitry, Tours et les chāteaux de Touraine (Paris, 1905); E. Giraudet, Histoire de la ville de Tours (Tours, 1873); Les Artistes tourangeaux (Tours, 1885).