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Tournus: one of the most important abbeys in France

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Tournus is a small town of about seven thousand inhabitants of central-eastern France. Located in the French region of Burgundy, in the Saône-et-Loire department. The city is located on the bank of the Saone river, in the center of rolling hills largely covered by vineyards, 50 km south of Beaune, and 100 km north of Lyon. The main activity of the town, as of the whole surrounding area, is the production of wine.

In the past, it was originally the site of an ancient Roman garrison located along the banks of the Saône river. Subsequently after the foundation of the Abbey of Saint-Philibert, Tournus became an important religious center thanks to the influence exerted by the Abbey. The current Abbey was built in the late 11th century. At the height of its power, Tournus Abbey extended its jurisdiction over 10 religious communities, some of which were even located in Provence.


The pretty town of Tournus is famous for the remarkable abbey complex dedicated to Saint-Philibert dated to the 11th century. Other notable buildings in the town include a beautiful eighteenth-century town hall and a seventeenth-century hospital.


The Saint-Philibert Abbey of Tournus is one of the most important Romanesque monuments in France. Built at the end of the 11th century, when the basilica type with three naves covered by a barrel was widespread in Burgundy. The large church of Saint-Philibert de Tournus is one of the first examples of this style. The church has a facade dominated by two massive towers and decorated with pilasters and arches in the Lombard style. While the interior is severe and majestic with cylindrical pillars.

The Abbey is notable for the typical structure of the two-storey basilicas with a cross vault that connects the nave with the exterior of the church (called “narthex”). This has the function of atrium, narrow and long, which contributed to the development of the two-level facade. The Abbey is composed of a set of sanctuaries spread over three levels. The crypt, the large church and an upper church.

Next to the church on the southern side there are the main conventual rooms arranged around the cloister. The relics of the saint are in a gilded chest, in a chapel with Romanesque capitals. While the choir mosaics date back to the XII century.

The Church of Saint-Valerien, considered a chapel of the Abbey destined to honor Saint-Valerien first patron of Tournus, is one of the oldest churches in the town. This church is now deconsecrated and houses an antique gallery.

The Church of Sainte-Madaleine is also of Romanesque origin, but redone in Gothic forms. The church retains the square bell tower and an elegant portal decorated with finely decorated columns and capitals from the ancient Romanesque structure.


The Hôtel-Dieu, built between the 17th and 18th centuries, is a perfect example of 18th century hospital architecture. The building is now a museum that houses the hospital collections, with an ancient pharmacy, medical instruments, art, cult and musical objects.

Inside the Hôtel-Dieu there is also the Musée Greuze which houses collections of archeology, sculptures, paintings, graphic arts, contemporary art and in particular the works of the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), a native of Tournus.

The climate of Tournus.



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