Stage 12: Fougères to Tours



The town of Fougeres, renowned for its castle, launched a publicity campaign in 2013 to underline its many assets - That’s Chateau Life, an expression meaning living in luxury. The aim was to show the true values of the third largest city in the department of Ille-et-Vilaine and to incite families and companies to settle in Fougeres. Posted on the walls of Rennes and the region, the slightly provocative campaign used striking catch lines like: “Better and cheaper housing” to stress that life in Fougeres is both more accessible and more relaxed. The idea was also to change the perception of a town mainly known for its castle. A special campaign for businessmen was also launched reminding that with the motorway and several business centres, the town was ideal for entrepreneurs. The campaign used posters, the local press and television to deliver a simple message: ideally placed between Rennes and the seas, cheaper than other cities, Fougeres is a bustling little town and the passage of the Tour de France is another proof of this


In 1974, Fougeres hosted Etoile des Espoirs, an en end of the season race in which a 20-year-old amateur named Bernard Hinault showed extraordinary talent by finishing second of an individual time trial behind pursuit world champion Roy Schuiten. Eleven years later, early in the Tour de France, a team time trial started in Vitre and ended in Fougeres. At this stage of the race, Bernard Hinault had not yet eclipsed his rivals. But his La Vie Claire team, in which he was teaming with Greg Le Monde, made a show of strength by winning the stage to place eight riders in the top ten of the GC. The young hopeful was now at the twilight of his career. Fougeres-born independent rider Paul Thondoux rode the Tour in 1920 and only lasted two stages.


Medieval castle

Sheltered by high hills at a top of rock and surrounded by marshes, a first fortified timber tower was built in the 11th century. Destroyed in the 12th century, the wooden structure was immediately rebuilt in stone on the spot, using the same ditches. The fortifications were improved in the next four centuries, making the castle a real history book of military architecture. The Fougeres castle is one of the most imposing fortified castles in France, spreading over two hectares, and some even called it the largest fortress in Europe. It consists in three enclosures whose ramparts are perfectly preserved and while the dwellings are ruined, the towers are still standing high and proud.


Built in 1397 and inspired by the Flemish models observed during commercial exchanges, it was a way for the local merchants to master time. The oldest belfry in Brittany has been pacing the life of Fougeres people for 600 years.

Saint-Sulpice church:

The St Sulpice church was directly linked to the castle and its construction spread over four centuries between 1380 and 1760. In the course of time, it was enlarged to the west and its flamboyant Gothic style became more classical with the years. The church shelters a statue of Notre-Dame-des-Marais (Our lady of the marshes), for long venerated by Fougeres people.

St Leonard church:

The second parish in Fougeres was built for the local merchants and possesses the oldest stained glass windows of Brittany, dating from the 12th century.
Old Rocher Coupé quarry
Next to the castle, an old quarry also called California quarry is a pleasant site for a walk, made even more spectacular by the Turquoise colour of the pond. But the site is also a must for scuba divers as the pond is 50 metres deep.


Tours Icons

"Icônes de Tours" is an original way for Tours inhabitants to approach their city and make it their own. On the website, the most famous sites and symbols of the city have been chosen and represented by icons. Some 100 sites, events, characters, ideas and projects, specialities, traits have so far been chosen to summarise Tours and its way of life. The aim is to ideally draw an overall view of Tours and to let the inhabitants complete the vision with their own input. Everyone can suggest an icon symbolising the town. Unavoidable, obvious, anecdotic, sometimes moving or funny, at times controversial, is a summary of what makes Tours special. By clicking for instance on the “bicycle” icon, one can discover the bike rental system in use in Tours, called Velociti, as well as a 650-kms trail called “La Loire en vélo” making it possible to ride along the most beautiful landscapes of the region.


Sadly forgotten today, Jean Brankart was the first stage winner in Tours in 1955, the year when he finished second in the Tour de France behind Louison Bobet. He was also 10th in 1959 and best climber of the Giro d’Italia in 1958. While the Paris-Tours classic does not necessarily finish on a bunch sprint, Tour de France stages in Tours almost as often ended on mass sprints as on successful moves. In the last two stage finishes in town, Tom Boonen outsprinted the pack on avenue de Grammont in 2005 while Leon Van Bon staged a victorious breakaway in 2000.Two active riders come from Tours, Cyril Lemoine and Jeremy Leroy, the most aggressive rider in the 2011 edition.


St Gatien cathedral:

The St Gatien cathedral was built between 1170 and 1547 just outside the bridge over the Loire on the main road linking Paris to the South of France. A first St Maurice cathedral was edified by Litorius, bishop of Tours between 337 and 371 and the predecessor of Martin. Destroyed by fire in 561, it was restored by Gregory of Tours. The cathedral was then burnt again in 1166 during a battle between Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. The current cathedral replaced the Romanesque building destroyed at the time. The construction of the nave was long and arduous. Started in the 14th century by architect Simon du Mans, who used elements of the old nave, it was completed in the 15th century by architects Jean de Dammartin, Jean Papin and Jean Durand thanks to funds allocated by King Charles VII and by Duke John V of Brittany. In 1356, the cathedral was dedicated to Gatien. The façade lost most of its statues, destroyed by Protestants during the Wars of Religion. But it remains one of the most extraordinary examples of the Flamboyant Gothic in its baroque aspects and remains one of the most remarkable decorative masterpieces in religious art. The towers were erected in the first half of the 16th century.

Castle of Tours

It dates from the 11th century. Until the years 2000, the royal castle was used as an aquarium with some 1,500 fish from 200 species. A Histori Monument since 1913, the castle now houses exhibitions of modern art (Joan Miró, Daniel Buren, Nadar...) while the Historical Workshop of Touraine displays archaeological and historical documents, models and films about the history of Tours.

Saint-Julien church:

The St Julien church is an old 6th century Benedictine abbey, whose abbatial church dates for the most part from the 13th century. While it was destroyed and rebuilt several times, it found its current aspect in 1224. WWII bombings miraculously spared the church but destroyed the abbey and the adjacent hall in which was held the 1920 Socialist Congress which gave birth to the French Communist Party.

Town hall:

The town hall of Tours was built between 1896 and 1904 by architect Victor Laloux along Rue Nationale. The immense building, much larger than the prefecture or the courthouse was meant to reflect the Republican values and the municipal authority. (External link) (External link) (External link) (External link)