Tournai, 2000 Year of History
In olden times, the crossroads of the Roman road leading to Bavay and the one leading to Arras, the Scheldt, the quarrying of blue stone and its transformation in lime kilns made Tournai a market town that was to enjoy rapid development. Under the name of Tornacum, it was already indicated on Peutinger’s map.
More developed on the Menapian left bank than on the Nervian right bank, it was fortified and became the capital to pass at the end Roman Empire under the control of the Salian Franks. It was now Merovingian.
Thanks to the discovery of his tomb, we know that Childeric in 482 was buried with his horses on therefore that it was probably here that his son Clovis ascended the bulwark before leaving for the conquest of what was to become France.
In the 5th century, the city developed at the political level because it became the seat of a bishopric, the first known bishop of which was St. Eleutherius. The cathedral district was developed. belonging to the King of France. This bishopric grew on the left bank of the Scheldt, over the entire extent of the old civitas tornacensium as far as the sea, the Yser and the Scarpe. The bishops extended their domination on the (Germanic) right bank.
At the beginning of the 12th century, the townsfolk set themselves up as a sworn municipality and had the first municipal enclosure constructed. By the 1188 Charter granting it municipal powers, including the Bancloque (Tournai has the oldest belfry in Belgium) then, by that of 1211, by which Philippe-Auguste, King of France, made Tournai a veritable “Municipal Republic”, directly dependent upon him. This extremely precarious situation in the middle of territories depending upon Flanders was to be the cause of numerous conflicts. (In the 16th century, Tournai was furthermore to be the only city of what is now the territory of Belgium to pass under the English crown). The 11th and the 14th centuries were to see it struck by the curse of the plague. However the Tournaisians’ spirit of enterprise was such that that one finds traces of them as far away as England, Italy, and even Novgorod. In the 15th century, its fame was assured by its tapestries.
Its municipal autonomy disappeared with Charles V. French under Louis XIV, Anglo-Dutch during the Spanish War of Succession, in the 18th century, it was incorporated into the Austrian Netherlands until the French Revolution, where it was part of the Administrative District of Jemappes. In addition to the textile industry and the lime kilns, china assured the economic fame of the city, which was however bypassed by the 19th-century’s industrialisation.
The railway initially arrived along the quays, before being transferred to the current site following the dismantling of the ramparts. Printing, and especially Casterman thanks to the cartoon, was to increase its reputation.
The two world wars were to cause irreversible damage.
When the municipalities were amalgamated, Tournai became the kingdom’s most sprawling municipality. It is banking today on culture and tourism and is transforming itself so that it can offer you a better welcome.
Tournai Guides Association - Chantal Danniau