Tour Saint-Jacques

Tour Saint Jacques or Saint-Jacques Tower is a gothic bell tower that was built between 1509 and 1523. It was part of the church of Saint Jacques de la Boucherie (Saint James of the butchery). The naming was derived from the nearby Les Halles market where butchers heavily traded. Before its destruction the church and its iconic tower was popular, welcoming Pilgrims from all around who were readying for their long pilgrimage journeys. It was dedicated to Saint James the Great.

The church of Saint Jacques de la Boucherie was built at around the same time as the tower, was a preferred initial destination of religious pilgrims who used to take pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. It was also the religious place for the butchers who were the patrons that inspired its creation. However, like most other churches, it met its downfall during the French Revolution. It was taken down, but the tower was spared. While it may have seemed that Tour Saint Jacques would be an incomplete establishment with its church missing, it was the exact opposite. As a stand alone monument, it was deemed complete, and worthy enough to be preserved. It was declared a national monument in 1862, exactly 26 years later after it was obtained by the City of Paris. In honor of the saint that the former church was consecrated for, a statue of Saint James was installed at the top of the tower.

Tour Saint Jacques is a monument even in terms of size. At 52m tall, the tower is a colossal figure that is easily appreciated even from a distance. Its architecture is heavily gothic with a lot of ornamental detail. Stained glass is also used, like most creations of that age, though the windows are narrower, and therefore the beauty of the glass is not fully observable (In any case, for a real display of stained glass in all its glamour, there is the Sainte-Chapelle among others). At the base of the tower is a sculpture of the physicist Blaise Pascal who had a laboratory inside the tower.

Tour Saint Jacques has been renovated more than once, with the first instance being in the 19th century. At this time, the tour was placed on a pedestal. This was because of the leveling that was going around at the time. With the pedestal installed, the tower’s height did not change, but the ground level was. A park was built around the tower, and it still exists even today. A second renovation was deemed necessary after it was investigated and found that the stone used to build it was not going to be permanent. The scaffolding was getting weak, and the stone was cracking. A modern renovation was commenced in 2006 and both the tower, and the park which was also renovated, were opened in 2009 to the public.

The Tour Saint Jacques is one of the monuments that display gothic architecture at its best. It is richly decorated and located right in the center of Paris.