Saint-Jacques Tower


Saint-Jacques Tower

Saint-Jacques Tower is a Parisian monument located in the IVe arrondissement. This 52-m Flamboyant Gothic tower is all that remains of the former church of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie ("Saint James of the butchery").

The tower's rich decoration reflects the wealth of its patrons, the wholesale butchers of the nearby Les Halles market. It was built in 1509 to 1523 and dedicated to Saint James the Great during the reign of François I, and welcomed pilgrims setting out on the road to Tours headed for the way of St James. A statue of the saint was installed on the top of the tower during the 19th century. The church, with the exception of the tower, was demolished in 1797. It was purchased by the City of Paris in 1836 and declared a Monument Historique in 1862.

During the Second Empire, the architect Théodore Ballu restored the tower, placing it on a pedestal and designing a small city park around it. This coincided with the construction of the rue de Rivoli and the Avenue Victoria nearby, requiring huge quantities of earth to be removed to ensure the rue de Rivoli a smooth flat path. The pedestal allowed the tower to retain its original elevation: nowadays, the change in ground level can best be appreciated in rue St-Bon, just northeast of the tower, where a staircase leads up to the original street level at rue de la Verrerie.

A statue of Blaise Pascal is located at the base of the tower, commemorating the experiments on atmospheric pressure performed here. A meteorological laboratory is also installed at the top of the tower.

The tower inspired Alexandre Dumas to write the play "La tour Saint-Jacques-la-boucherie" in 1856.

Nicolas Flamel, a patron of the church, was buried under its floor.

The tower has been surrounded by scaffolding and obscured by sheeting for some years as surveyors investigate the condition of the stone. Recent findings show that most of the stone and its ornamentation genuinely originates from the late-medieval era of the tower's construction, and was not added by the 19th-century restorers. Unfortunately, the survey also indicates serious cracking. The top three quarters of sheeting was taken down in March 2008, revealing a renovated upper section of the tower. As of October 2008, the scaffolds and sheeting have been completely removed and restoration of the surrounding park's landscaping is in progress.


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