The Basilica and the Saint-Michel Spire

The Saint-Michel basilica is the centre of the Saint-Michel district, today the liveliest and most cosmopolitan district of the city, where a cosmopolitan population blends in harmony. Many markets are held in this place which does not lack liveliness, of which the most famous market is that of the Capuchins. Classified as a historical monument, the Saint-Michel Basilica, whose building dates from the end of the 15th century, is also part of the group of three great churches of Bordeaux inscribed in 1998 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The history of the monuments

The Bordeaux monument was built between the 14th and 16th centuries, in place of an older church outside the city walls. It represents a major stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

It should be noted that the spire was not always complete. On 10 August 1759, it was damaged by an earthquake. Then, following storms and other natural disasters, the top of the spire was blown away. Several restoration projects were carried out, but it was not until 1860 that Paul Abadie began the renovation work. It would take almost ten years for it to reach its highest point.

A place of worship

The basilica, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an imposing place, 75 metres long from the choir to the entrance and 38 metres wide. It is one of the largest places of worship in the Bordeaux area. It holds numerous works of art, notably a pietà dating from the end of the 15th century. There are also stained glass windows dating mainly from the 16th, 19th and 20th centuries. Among the oldest is the “Tree of Jesse”, where red, yellow and blue tones are dominant.

Our panoramic bus tours will take you through this picturesque area with rich and exciting commentary.

A spire that makes you feel taller

This 114-metre high bell tower is the third highest in France, after Strasbourg and Rouen. The reason it is separate from the church itself is to prevent the heavy weight of the bell tower from destabilising the church building. Indeed, the presence of unstable marshy ground in the Bordeaux subsoil risked causing the collapse of the bell tower, which was heavily subjected to vibrations.

Apart from the Saint-Michel spire, which stands out from the visual landscape, nothing alters the linear character of the city: no modern buildings, no towers or skyscrapers have disturbed the horizon, and the city today is very close to what it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The spire is a must-see place to visit in Bordeaux. An unusual and panoramic dimension not to be missed. On board our panoramic bus, you will have the opportunity to see it from a height of 4 meters.

The mummies of Saint-Michel

In 1791, when Bordeaux decided to remove the burials around the parish churches, 74 bodies were discovered during the excavation work. Among them, some had been naturally preserved by the nature of the soil. Renamed “the mummies of Saint-Michel”, these bodies were for a long time displayed under the church tower, in a crypt with a macabre and unforgettable mise en scène.

Some famous travellers have visited the mummies, such as Théophile Gaultier and Victor Hugo. In 1979, because the mummies were deteriorating by the air, they were placed in wooden coffins and put in an anonymous tomb in the Chartreuse cemetery.

 The Basilica of Saint-Michel in Bordeaux shares with the Cathedral of Saint-André the particularity of having an independent bell tower. Its spire was built in the 15th century on a former mass grave where, at the end of the 18th century, mummies exhumed from the surrounding cemetery were placed.

 

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Practical information

How to get there:

Place Meynard / Place Canteloup, 33000 Bordeaux

Opening hours:

The Saint-Michel Spire reopens on 1 April 2021 before closing for 5 years from September/October 2021.
Every day between April 1st and October 31st for individuals, free visit without reservation, last visit 30 mn before closing.

Prices:

Admission: 5 € | 3,50 € Reduced rate | Free for accompanied children under 12

Accessibility:

The Basilica of Saint-Michel is accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Languages:

French, English

 

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