Tournus was created by the Romans and was known fur the sanctuary dedicated to Saint Valérien during the 6th Century. It was not until the 9th Century, when monks from Noirmoutier (fleeing the Vikings) came to Tournus with relics of Saint Philibert, Tournus became an important religious town. Between the 11th and 13th Century, these monks built the superb Abbey which can still be visited today.
The splendid abbey church is an absolute must when you visit Tournus. The Saint Philibert abbey church is considered to be one of the highlights of romanesque architecture in France.
Its two impressive bell-towers can be seen from a far distance and make you think of a fortress. It is however on the inside of the abbey church you will discover its real treasures. The nave is roofed with barrel vaulting, supported on the tall cylindrical columns. The choir (with an 11th Century crypt dedicated to Saint Valérien ) has a deambulatory and square chapels.
The abbey cloister, situated next to the church, offers a nice view over the south side of the church and of the two bell-towers. In the guest-house, which connects the cloister to the church, you will discover the capitals and some statues brought down from the bell-towers.
The Saint Valérien Church is situated not far from the Abbey. Today, the church is a galery of an antique dealer. One can still admire its magnificent porch.
Greuze, paintings and gastronomy
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, French painter of the 18th Century, was without a doubt one of Tournus’s most famous inhabitants. Today, the museum with his name has a part of the museum dedicated to him and the french painting of the 18th Century. This remarkable museum is housed in the former Hôtel-Dieu (=hospital).
If the name Greuze is a very famous name in the area today, it is often because of the Greuze restaurant (rated with 2 Michelin stars) which is known by all the gourmets of the region. Tournus has indeed a very long “haute cuisine” tradition. Already during the 16th century, Tournus had the reputation of being one of the places to stop for eating between Paris and Lyon.
Besides Greuze, Tournus houses many other high quality restaurants for all foodies and gourmets and for all wallets.