29 November 2018

La Rochelle : La Tour de la Chaîne

At the entrance to La Rochelle's old harbor (le Vieux Port) stand two towers. The taller one is the Tour Saint-Nicolas. The other one is La Tour de la Chaîne. It's called that because at its base there was a heavy iron chain that could be stretched across the harbor entrance and attached to the other tower to keep boats from passing in or out. The Michelin guide implies that the chain was used to close the harbor every night. Nowadays, the harbor is more a yacht basin than a fishing or military port.

Here's a view of the two towers (you couldn't call them "twin towers") from a different angle. I'm standing outside the harbor, with a view of the channel that leads from the harbor out to the open waters of the Atlantic behind me. The Tour de la Chaîne was built in the 14th century (late 1300s) and used to be taller because it was crowned by a high roof. It was 34 meters tall then but only 20 meters tall today. An explosion in the 17th century, during the reign of Louis XIV, destroyed that roof and the tower stood roofless for a few centuries.

At the time, the Tour de la Chaîne was used as a munitions warehouse. The king of France had again taken possession of La Rochelle , ending the Protestant control of the 16th century. There were plans to tear down both the towers at the entrance to the harbor, but the people of the city opposed them. The towers still stand, and major — controversial — restoration work was undertaken in the late 19th century, lasting into the mid-20th century. There's one more tall tower in La Rochelle that I haven't mentioned yet...


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?