Saint-Jacques Tower history
Even though Saint Jacques Tower itself is impressive, it used to be much more than just a tower. Saint Jacques Tower is the only remains of what used to be the former church of “Saint Jacques la Boucherie” – “Saint James of the Butchery”. The name of the church originates to the fact that the church lied close to and served many butchers of Les Halles, a nearby large market which no longer exists, and due to its close proximity to a major slaughterhouse.
Saint Jacques la Boucherie
This church was built during the reign of François I between 1508 and 1523 in dedication to Saint James the Great. The main architect was Jean de Félin, but other than that, little is known about the construction of the church.
Despite its name, the main purpose of the church was not to serve as a church for butchers. The church became quickly the assembly point for northern pilgrims who set out on the
pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
The Santiago de Compostela is the legendary burial place of the Aposetle James, which in Spanish translates just that; “Santiago”. The Spanish site was one of the three great places of pilgrimage of medieval Christendom, the other two being Jerusalem and Rome. Not surprisingly, the stream of people made the church a quite important place.
Maybe was this strong Catholic connection one of the reasons why the church was destroyed during the later stages of the French Revolution. The only thing left standing was the tower which still stands today.
The city of Paris bought Saint Jacques Tower in 1836 and later in the mid 19th century, they had Saint Jacques Tower restored and placed a small city park around it under the supervision of the architect Théodore Ballu. During this restoration, a statue of Saint James was also added to the top of Saint Jacques Tower. The statue still stands today, though it can be hard to spot when standing on the ground.
Even though Saint Jacques Tower was restored during mid 19th ore recent studies done on the condition of Saint Jacques Tower gave both positive and negative results. The positive one being that most of the stones – and its ornamentation – genuinely dates back to the late-medieval era of the tower’s construction.
Thus, the tower wasn’t changed radically by the 19th-century restorers. The negative news was that Saint Jacques Tower showed some serious cracking, which needed to be repaired. This led to further restorations during the early 21st century.
Why visit Saint-Jacques Tower ?
The 52m high Saint Jacques Tower is one of the many examples in Paris of excellent late Gothic architecture. Together with the surrounding park, it’s a perfect place for a walk.
On the top of Saint Jacques Tower stands four statues, depicting the four symbols of the Evangelists. In one corner stands an angel for St. John and in another corner the lion for St. Mark. In another corner one can see the bull for St. Luke and finally the eagle for St. Matthew.
While Saint Jacques Tower is not open to the public, one can still get a good look on the statue which stands in the center of the tower’s base. This statue has no religious motive, but is a statue of the scientist Blaise Pascal. One can ask why he has a statue raised over him at this place.
The fact is that Pascal conducted some of his experiments on atmospheric pressure on this place. There are also some meteorological instruments installed at the top of Saint Jacques Tower.
Saint-Jacques Tower location
Saint Jacques Tower is located in the central parts of the city, in its 4 arrondissement. It lies along the famous Rue de Rivoli, nearby Place du Chatelet and Notre Dame de Paris. For the exact location of Saint Jacque’s Tower, check out thelocation map to the right.