Le Musée de la Tour Carrée
Though Sainte-Maxime is synonymous with the enthralling beaches and exquisite marinas found across France’s Southern coast, the Cote d’Azur city also houses an abundance of culture; and nowhere more so than in Sainte-Maxime’s oldest, and most famous building; La Tour Carrée.
La Tour Carrée is immersed in history, and its construction first began in 1520, after Sir Francis River, then Reverend Father of the Thoronet Abbey, initiated the construction of a tower overlooking the Mediterranean. The tower was to serve as a sanctuary for the patrons of Sainte-Maxime, in order to provide protection from the pirates that terrorised the South of France. Invasions by pirates were common, and often they would frequent France’s sandy shores to pillage and plunder, often taking helpless townsfolk for their slaves.
40 years later in 1560, Father Jacques Ursin commissioned a further two floors to be erected; which wouldn’t be completed until 1856! This makes the construction escapades of today look tame, but then we didn’t have to deal with pirates on a daily basis. After numerous makeovers throughout its prosperous history, la Tour Carrée eventually arrived in the state as we know it in 1969, and in 1985 it would establish itself as The Musée de la Tour Carrée.
Before assuming its role as a museum, the Square Tower had a variety of facades, in the past operating as sanctuary, town hall, school, granary, dungeon; and perhaps most significantly as an artillery battery, when at the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon ordered that la Tour Carrée, along with Tour du Portalet and the Lerins Islands, be installed with cannons to deter the British advances as they sought to topple the French Empire. Today, however, the Square Tower has reprised a new role within the city, and amongst the buildings stone walls you will find an insight into Sainte-Maxime’s rich history, in oppose to cannons, criminals and pencil cases.
The permanent collections within the museum consist of a number of exhibitions, displaying all manner of artefacts, clothing, art and commonplace utensils; which all contribute a clear insight into Sainte-Maxime life through the ages, sparing none of the gory details. Throughout the year the museum is also home to an extensive collection of model boats; many of which were handcrafted by sailors with incredible attention to detail, making for fascinating viewing when visiting Le Musée de la Tour Carrée.
The museum also hosts an ever-changing array of exhibitions throughout the course of the year, which in the past has included a diverse array of topics, including displays from famed painters, collections of artwork portraying the Square Tower, exhibitions dedicated to Operation Dragoon (the code name for the Allied invasion of Southern France); as well as one of the largest collections of Coca-Cola memorabilia ever seen in France!
Ultimately, the Musée de la Tour Carrée offers both education and entertainment in abundance, and is the only place to visit if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of Sainte-Maxime’s rich history! In addition, with the museum’s convenient location in the historic Old Town, a short walk down the alluring cobbled lanes leads you to a wealth of shops offering handcrafted goods, various admired restaurants, and a whole host of other amenities; which will cater for any wants you may have whilst exploring the historic vicinity of Le Musée de la Tour Carrée.
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