TOURKAI '(Flemish Doornik), a city of Belgium, in the province of Hainaut, situated on the Scheldt. Pop. (1904), 36,744. Although in the course of its long history it has undergone many sieges and was sacked at various epochs by the Vandals, Normans, French and Spaniards, it preserves many monuments of its ancient days. Among these is the cathedral of Notre-Dame, one of the finest and best preserved Romanesque and Gothic examples in Belgium (for plan, etc., see ARCHITECTURE: Romanesque and Gothic in Belgium). Its foundation dates from the year 1030, while the nave is Romanesque of the middle of the 12th century, with much pointed work. The transept was added in the 13th century. The first choir was burned down in 1213, but was rebuilt in 1242 at the same time as the transept, and is a superb specimen of pointed Gothic. There are five towers with spires, which give the outside an impressive appearance, and much has been done towards removing the squalid buildings that formerly concealed the cathedral. There are several old pictures of merit, and the shrine of St Eleuthere, the first bishop of Tournai in the 6th century, is a remarkable product of the silversmith's art. The belfry on the Grand Place was built in 1187, partly reconstructed in 1391 and finally restored and endowed with a steeple in 1852. The best view of the cathedral can be obtained from its gallery. The church of St Quentin in the same square as the belfry is almost as ancient as NotreDame, and the people of Tournai call it the " little cathedral." In the church of St Brice is the tomb of Childeric discovered in 1655. Among the relics were three hundred small golden models of bees. These were removed to Paris, and when Napoleon was crowned emperor a century and a half later he chose Childeric's bees for the decoration of his coronation mantle. In this manner the bee became associated with the Napoleonic legend just as the lilies were with the Bourbons. The Pont des Trous over the Scheldt, with towers at each end, was built in 1290, and among many other interesting buildings there are some old houses still in occupation which date back to the 13th century. On the Grand Place is the fine statue of Christine de Lalaing, princess d'Epinoy, who defended Tournai against Parma in 1581. Tournai carries on a large trade in carpets (called Brussels), bonnet shapes, corsets and fancy goods generally. With regard to the carpet manufactory, it is said locally to date from the time of the Crusades, and it is presumed that the Crusaders learnt the art from the Saracens.
The history of Tournai dates from the time of Julius Caesar, when it was called civitas Nerviorum or castrum Turnacum. In the reign of Augustus, Agrippa fixed the newly mixed colony of Suevi and Menapii at Tournai, which continued throughout the period of Roman occupation to be of importance. In the sth century the Franks seized Tournai, and Merovaeus made it the capital of his dynasty. This it remained until the subdivision of the Frank monarchy among the sons of Clovis. When feudal possessions, instead of being purely personal, were vested in the families of the holder after the death of Charlemagne, Tournai was specially assigned to Baldwin of the Iron Arm by Charles KNIGHTS JOUSTING WITH CRONELLS ON THEIR LANCES. French MS. early XIV Century. (Royal MS. 14 E. Hi.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)