La Tour du Guet

Not rated ,  Historic site and monument ,  Fortified structure at Calais

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  • Built in the 13th century, this tower is the oldest monument in Calais. The tower’s original purpose still remains unclear. Some believe it was one of the “lighthouses” which Charlemagne had constructed to protect the northern French coast against barbarian raids. Others think it was part of the defensive works built by Philippe de Hurepel in 1224. From the first platform of the tower, Jean de Vienne informed the inhabitants of Calais of the harsh conditions for the surrender of the city laid down by King Edward III of England in 1347.
    In April 1580 the city was struck by a violent earthquake that caused half the tower to collapse. Luckily, the lookout had been able to take cover in the remaining part and he was rescued two days later. In 1696 the tower was bombarded by the English fleet and damaged once again, then restored and adapted: another platform was added, surrounded by an iron railing. This tower, intended as a lookout, was equipped with a revolving lantern with two oil lamps in 1818. It was used as a telegraph relay station and lighthouse until 1848. The top, reaching 38 metres, was fitted with a glass cage which existed until the bombardment of 1940. The bell placed on the ground dates from 1770. While over 70% of Calais was destroyed at the end of World War II, the tower was spared in both world wars.
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