In the 13th century, the prosperity of the city led to its extension towards the South and the construction of a new rampart. The Grosse Cloche, also called the Porte Saint-Eloi, was one of the main gates. This monumental building, which stands against the church of Saint-Eloi to the right of it, is located on the route of the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. It was listed as a historical monument by a decree of 12 July 1886.
The belfry of the Town Hall since the 13th century, this defensive gateway appears in the arms of the city of Bordeaux, which can be seen on its façade. The bell weighs 7,800 kilos and was for many centuries the voice of the capital of Gironde, ringing to announce joy and sorrow. The door itself has kept only two of the six towers it originally had and opens onto the old Saint Eloi quarter, also known as the Rousselle quarter.
Today, it rings 6 times a year on the occasion of major celebrations: 1 January, 1 May, 8 May, 14 July, 28 August and 11 November at 11 am, as well as the first Sunday of each month at noon (since July 2016).
In the street, located in the extension of the central arcade, Montaigne’s Essays were first published in 1580 by the printer Simon Millanges.
At the top of the gate the lion of Guyenne shines brightly. The gate was in fact also called “the hotel of the golden lion” and when someone boasted of having slept in the hotel of the golden lion, it was because they had simply spent the night in one of the cells in the tower! When the lion turns its head towards the Garonne, we have a saying in Bordeaux that it is because it is thirsty, and that it is therefore a sign of good weather.
The Grosse Cloche is, together with the Cailhau Gate, one of the few civil monuments that have been preserved from the Middle Ages. It was built in the 15th century but was also restored from 4 to 22 July 2016. The Saint Eloi gate was built on the remains of the old gate, also called the Saint James gate. This gate used to welcome pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.
The bells of the gate were used to give the signal during the harvest season. But also to warn the population of possible fires. This gate has always been the symbol of the city and still appears on the coat of arms of Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is one of the cities in the South of France with the richest heritage. A must-see on your trip to the Gironde and the South West.
The Gothic architecture style of the Grosse Cloche consists of two circular towers 40 metres high, connected by a central building and crowned by the golden lion. However, the original Grosse Cloche did not look like it does today. It was a set of four round towers to which two other towers were added. These last two towers were located in the middle of the current Cours Victor Hugo, which was a moat at the time.
Want to see the Grosse Cloche in a unique way? Come and visit Bordeaux with our panoramic bus and experience a visit from 4 meters high! The 70-minute audio-guided tour will allow you to find out more about Bordeaux’s key monuments.
45 Rue Saint-James, 33000 Bordeaux
Single admission: 5€