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the grosse cloche bordeaux

“Grosse Cloche”, the great bell of Bordeaux

The Great Bell of Bordeaux (or Grosse Cloche, in French) is considered one of the most important places, apart from being one of the most photographed points. It is also one of the oldest monuments of this city, as its origins date back several centuries.

In case you did not know, this is one of the remains of the ancient walls of the city. As you may know, Bordeaux, like most European cities was fortified for a long time. The Great Bell was one of the main gates. Over time, it even came to be used as a prison.

What is the Great Bell of Bordeaux?

To talk about the Grosse Cloche de Bordeaux is to take a tour of its incredible history. Besides the fact that it is located in the heart of the city, its sound has marked the most important moments that have taken place here since the 13th century.

Today, it still sounds, only much less frequently. To be exact, it is played on the first Sunday of each month, at 12 noon. In addition to six more times throughout the year, on the days of great celebrations:

  • January 1
  • May 1st
  • May 8th
  • July 14th
  • August 28th
  • November 11th


History of the Great Bell of Bordeaux

To understand a little of the history of the Grosse Cloche, we must clarify some points.

As we have already said, the Great Bordeaux Bell dates back to the Middle Ages and the base of this building was built in the 13th century. For its part, the upper part was added in the 15th century. It was one of the most used gates of the city during the fortified period, as pilgrims used to pass through it on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

At the beginning, it had six towers, although at present only two remain. These are connected to each other by the central building. They are of circular type, with conical termination and each one has a height of 40 meters.

This door was the official bell tower of the Town Hall, so it was used to notify events such as grape harvests and fires. As a curious fact, you should know that the bell has been replaced at least six times, as they were breaking.

The current one was installed in 1775 by the foundryman Jean-Jacques Turmel. It has an approximate weight of 7,750 kilos, two meters high and two meters in diameter for the lower part and one meter, the top. It is known as Armande Louis.

The building is crowned by a beautiful golden copper weathervane representing the English leopard. According to the locals, this was a kind of inheritance or gift that the city received during the period of English rule in France.

In 1759 a clock was installed over the door, which still works. It was an innovation for the time, since it allowed citizens to see the time in a place other than the church bell tower.

What few people know is that this building was also used as a prison in the past. Young people who caused trouble or misbehaved were locked up there. In fact, you can still see some of the cells with doors about 10 centimeters thick and huge locks.

In 1886 it was declared a Historical Monument.

Over time, it has undergone different modifications and restorations, the last one being in 2016. Even with so many centuries of history, behind its walls you can still breathe history, as it somehow allows you to take a trip through the past.

Opening and prices of the Grosse Cloche of Bordeaux

The Bordeaux Tourist Office is in charge of the administration of the site. Here you can enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the whole city thanks to its height. Its views combine the quays, the river and the neighboring rooftops.

Apart from seeing the old prison, during the visit to the Grosse Cloche you can also see the old gears and mechanisms. Here you can also see some tools and utensils from different eras that were used for the daily tasks in the building.

It is open to the public every day, with the exception of December 25 and January 1. Depending on the time of the year, the opening hours vary a little:

  • to May, from 2 to 5 pm.
  • From June to September, from 1 pm to 7 pm.

The entrance fee is 5 € per person.

How to get to the Great Bell of Bordeaux?

Like many of Bordeaux’s major monuments, the Grosse Cloche is located in the heart of the city center. Getting to it is not exactly difficult, let alone far. It is at 45 Rue de Saint-James, at the intersection of Rue de Saint James and Rue de Guienne.

Getting to know the Great Bell of Bordeaux through a free Tour

There is no better way to get to know a new city than by exploring its streets and sharing a bit with the locals and Bordeaux is no exception. On the contrary, here you have the advantage of being able to take a free tour, adapted to your interests and above all, to your language.

They are guided by locals. This, among many other advantages, gives you the chance to learn more about the history. You will learn anecdotes and some secrets related to the Great Bell of Bordeaux.

We also have a wide variety of free tours and private tours around the city you might be interested in!

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