Cloche de la Tour de l’Horloge - Crédits Gillard et Vincent
Cloche de la Tour de l’Horloge - Crédits Gillard et Vincent

The monumental clock

The Clock Tower owes its name to the monumental clock that it has housed since 1399. It is one of the four oldest bells in Touraine.

Horloge monumentale - Crédit : Christophe Raimbault
Horloge monumentale - Crédit : Christophe Raimbault

The monumental mechanism of the clock (a wrought iron cage of about 1 m3) activated an external hammer which struck the fixed bell every hour. The mechanism room was located under the bell to which it was connected. The gear system still visible today can be dated to the 17th or the 18th century. It is placed on a wooden support called a trestle.

This original mechanism was not very reliable: it was about one hour late per day!

It was operated by two stone weights, suspended on ropes, which had to be lifted manually every day. They went down to a pit located under the ground floor of the tower, through openings in the floors of the different levels. Only one of the two weights has been preserved and is presented next to the mechanism.

An inscription in gothic lowercase accompanied by three fleur-de-lis is engraved on the bell. It does not mention the name of the bell, but it states the founder and the date of its manufacture:

This was ordered to sound the hours
the clock in Chinon was made
in the year Mil IIIccc IIIIxx XIX [1399]
Henri Cressaut made me

The presence of the fleur-de-lys on the stamp reminds us that it is a royal order from Charles VI. According to an old Chinon saying, the bell is named Marie-Javelle just like his godmother, the fiancée of the captain of the fortress at the end of the 14th century:

Is my name.
He who put me here
Placed me well
He who removes me
Will repent.

The bell was electrified and disconnected from the mechanism in the 1960s. You can still hear and see it in its bell tower that rises to the top of the highest tower of the fortress.

The mechanism is highlighted by the presence of a Zoetrope. It is an original optical illusion device that you are invited to operate.