Eglise and La Tour de St. Jacques de la Boucherie

25 Aug

La Tour de St. Jacques, or the Tower of St. James, is the former bell tower for the Eglise de St. Jaques de la Boucherie which was built during the 16th century.

The tower, which is located in Paris’ 4th arrondissement near Châtelet, recently opened in the summer of 2013 after being closed for 10 years during complete renovations. It is called “La Boucherie” because at the time there were a lot of églises St. Jacques. This one was located on the street where the butchers lived (la boucherie). Around it were the streets for soap (using animal fat) and parchment (using animal skins). The butchers were quite formidable because they were “armed” with knives (as the tour guide put it). The butchers were also very rich and had money to blow. So they funded the construction the church and bell tower… Because that would assure the salvation of their souls in heaven. The tower is the only thing that remains after the church was destroyed and the bells melted during the French Revolution. It has since served as a lookout post, a bullet foundry, the place of scientific experiments and a Faucault’s pendulum, and most recently in the 19th and 20th centuries, as a meteorology lab.

Since St. Jacques de Compostelle (St. James or Santiago) is the patron saint of the Camino, I was determined to visit.

We had stopped by the gardens randomly and seen that the “Full” sign was already posted in the afternoon. I decided to investigate a little more. Reservations are required.The tower gives guided tours on each hour and only gives reservations away in person on a first-come-first-served basis. Each person present can only purchase a maximum of two tickets. Tickets cost 6€ or 3€ for students, seniors, or out of work people. The tower opens at 9am and gives it’s first tour at 10am. Tours are given Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Yet, it is not that easy. It requires stamina– in multiple ways. I was told to arrive early, about 8am, in order to get a reservation because there is HUGE line. On Friday we arrived at about 8:30 and the reservations were already sold out… (Mind you, the tower opens at 9am). We were told that the first people arrived at 6:30 and the last reservations were taken by people arriving at 8:15.

On Saturday morning, we arrived at 6:50am and were already about 20 people deep in line. There were people with coffee thermoses and picnic blankets. And a lot of people brought books. We finally got in and made reservations for 11am (Group 2).

Why is it so hard to get in? Because they only serve about 15-20 people at a time for each hourly tour. About 140 people daily.

It was SO worth the wait!

The tower is 64 meters high and has about 350 steps (no elevator). It has a spectacular view! Montparnasse, the Sacré Coeur, and the Eiffel Tower have great vistas, but are too far away or too high to see Paris’ notable landmarks clearly. The Tower of St. James gets it just right.

There is one thing that the tour guide mentioned that added one more stop on my list– La Tour de St. Jacques is NOT the pilgrimage departure point. The departure point is from the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral just across the Seine.

Join me tomorrow to read about the St. Jacques medallion and departure from Notre Dame.

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