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Tournai: one of the most beautiful towns of Belgium

Tournai is a Belgian city in Wallonia with about seventy thousand inhabitants. The city is located in the province of Hinault, 10 km from the French border, on the two banks of the Scheldt river.

The origins of Tournai are traced back to the Roman military camp of Tornacum founded in the mid-1st century AD. During the Middle Ages, the small center was occupied by the Franks and then destroyed by the Normans. In the thirteenth century the city was surrounded by walls, corresponding to the layout of the current boulevards.

Between the 12th and 15th centuries, Tournai was an important cultural center, in particular for Flemish sculpture and painting. The town developed thanks to the presence of limestone quarries used for the manufacture of lime and as a cut stone used to decorate cathedrals.

In the eighteenth century it became an important ceramic center, whose main manufacture, founded in 1750, produced good quality porcelain until the end of the nineteenth century.

During the Second World War Tournai was seriously damaged by bombing, which in May 1940 almost completely destroyed the historic center.

In 2000 UNESCO included the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai in the list of world heritage sites, in addition UNESCO included the Tournai Beffroi, among the Beffrois of Belgium and France, another site on the world heritage list.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO SEE IN TOURNAI

The Grand Place is the central square of Tournai. Triangular in shape, it is surrounded by noble palaces from the 17th century and is dominated by Beffroi (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the 12th century civic tower. The tower rises 72 meters above the square and contains a carillon of 43 bells inside.

Among the buildings overlooking the square we find the Halle aux Draps (the textile market) a beautiful Renaissance building built in 1610. Then there are the Conciergerie des Halles from 1612, the Hôtel du Bailliage (royal court) from 1640 , and the Granary Decime of the St. Martin Abbey (Grange aux Dimes de l’Abbaye Saint-Martin) from 1633. At one end of the square is the 12th-century Church of Saint-Quentin.

THE CATHEDRAL

A short distance from the Grand-Place is the majestic Romanesque-style Notre-Dame Cathedral (UNESCO World Heritage). This is one of the most important architectural monuments in Belgium. Built in the first half of the 12th century, it is dominated by five bell towers located above the transept. The building has a grand interior with a four-storey nave, all architectural precursors of the Gothic style. Remarkable is the wealth of sculptures in its capitals, and in its portals, especially in the north portal (1141-71). Only the choir is in pure Gothic style (1242-55).

Inside there are numerous works of art including a famous Crucifixion called “Christ of Tournai” as well as paintings by Metsys, Jordaens, Rubens. The cathedral also houses a small museum of medieval treasures, including a Byzantine cross with enamels, pearls and precious stones from the fifth century, and the chest of Notre-Dame, by Nicolas de Verdun, from 1205, and ancient tapestries.

The current Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville) is located on the premises of the ancient Abbey of St. Martin (Abbaye Saint-Martin). The building built in 1763 is surrounded by a beautiful park. Among the other churches in the city: the Church of Saint-Jacques, a Gothic-style church with 15th century murals, and the Church of Saint-Brice.

FORTIFICATION WORKS

Among the fortification works that have remained remarkable is the so-called Fort Rouge, a defensive tower from the 13th century. The Pont des Trous represents one of the most important vestiges of medieval military architecture in Belgium. This bridge was part of the second city wall (XIII-XIV century), and is a fortified bridge that defended the course of the Scheldt in the stretch where it crossed the city. From the bridge the grids that blocked the passage to the boats could drop, the bridge is defended by two massive towers: the Tour de la Thieulerie (1302-1304) and the Tour du Bourdiel, on the side of the Cathedral (1281).

Of the city walls remain some remains of the first 12th-century city wall in rue Saint-Georges, place Reine Astrid and in the garden of the Episcopal Seminary. While they were part of the second city wall of the thirteenth century, whose layout corresponds to the layout of the current boulevards, the Pont des Trous, and the Marvis and Saint-Jean towers.

WHAT TO VISIT: TOURNAI MUSEUMS

Among the museums to visit in Tournai we can mention: The Museum of Archeology (Musée d’Archéologie), located in the building of the ancient pawnshop. This museum is divided into three sections, Quaternary, Gallo-Roman and Merovingian.

The Royal Museum of Arms and Military History (Musée Royal d’Armes et d’Histoire Militaire). This museum is made up of a dozen themed rooms, with weapons from the Napoleonic period, African weapons from the former Belgian Congo, weapons from the Belgian navy, weapons from the Second World War, foreign legion etc.

The Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts), shows a collection of paintings by Flemish primitives (R. Campin, R. de le Pasture, J. Gossart, Bruegel). There are also 17th and 18th century works by Rubens, Watteau, etc., and by the Impressionists (Manet, Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh) as well as works by local painters.

The Folklore Museum (Maison Tournaisienne – Musée de Folklore) is a museum dedicated to the history of the house and folklore of Tournais. The Museum of History of Decorative Arts (Musée d’Histoire et des Arts décoratifs). A museum dedicated to the history of the artistic productions of Tournais: ceramics, coins, silverware, objects.

If you travel with children you can visit the Natural History Museum and the Vivarium (Musée d’Histoire naturelle et Vivarium). A museum dedicated to the history of the animal world, it also includes a Vivarium containing over 70 species of reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates.

Other museums to visit are the Museum of Tapestry and the Art of Fabric (Musée de la Tapisserie et des arts du tissu) and the Puppet Center of the French Community of Belgium (Center de la Marionnette de la Communauté Française de Belgique).

CLIMATE: WHEN TO GO TO TOURNAI

The climate of Tournai is an Atlantic-type continental-temperate climate. As in most of Belgium, here too the climate has extreme variability and widespread rainfall in all months of the year. Winters are quite cold, while summers are cool.

The average annual rainfall is 640 mm. The rains are well distributed, but the slightly rainiest months are between May and December.

The average of the maximum temperatures varies between 23 ° C in July and 6 ° C in January. While the average minimum temperatures vary between 13 ° C in July and 1 ° C in January.


THE CLIMATE OF TOURNAI: CLIMATE TABLES

TOURNAI (22 meters)
Month Average low (°C) Average high (°C) Precip. (mm) Precip. days
January 1 6 48
February 1 6 41
March 3 9 43
April 4 12 43
May 8 17 51
June 11 19 56
July 13 22 61
August 13 23 58
September 11 19 56
October 7 14 64
November 4 9 61
December 2 7 58
YEAR 640

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