Bordeaux, during its fortified period, came to have a large number of medieval gates that gave access to the city. However, throughout history the wall surrounding Bordeaux would be destroyed, and with it its gates would be thrown down.
To open the city, and under the leadership of Mayor Tourny, new doors were built.
Large and impressive triumphal arches are the gates of Burgundy, Aquitaine, Dijeaux and Coin. You can also see the Great Bell, the door par excellence of Bordeauxand the Cailhau gate.
Next we go through the 6 Bordeaux doors that impress both locals and tourists.
Map of the 6 medieval gates of Bordeaux
1- Burgundy Gate
Along the quays, on Bir Hakeim Square, exactly on the axis of the Pont de Pierre and at the beginning of the Cours Victor Hugo, is the Burgundy gate, also known for a long time by the name of the Salinières gate. This gate was built in the 18th century (between 1750 and 1755) in honor of the Duke of Burgundy, which explains his name.
For a long time, and since Pont de Pierre was the only way to cross the Garonne river, the Burgundy gate was one of the main entrances to enter Bordeaux.
Decades before the construction of the Burgundy gate, Bordeaux had a wall with a small opening in its same location. That opening was known as the Salinières gate.. The name “Salinières” comes from the salt used at the time by local merchants.
2- Aquitaine Gate
Built in 1753 and dominated by an ornately carved triangular pediment, the Porte d’Aquitaine stands on the Place de la Victoire and it is one of the main passageways to access Rue Sainte Catherine. This gate is a true triumphal arch, formerly known as the Saint Julien gate, as is the square it stands on, which was named Victory Square in 1918.
On its pediment, on one side, various details can be seen, such as the coat of arms of Bordeaux with the Great Bell (item 3 on this list) and a leopard. But also the city’s coat of arms, barrels… and even a parrot. On the other hand sea gods and fleurs-de-lis can be seen in relief.
3- Door of the Great Bell
The most famous face of the Great Bell (Grosse Cloche) is undoubtedly the one seen from cours Victor Hugo, on the Mirail street alignment. However, its two sides are really impressive. Unlike the other gates in Bordeaux that have no direct connection to other buildings, here the Great Bell remains embedded between the neighboring houses and, in particular, with the church of Saint Eloi.
The Great Bell appears on the coat of arms of Bordeaux.
The Great Bell, the oldest door in Bordeaux that is still visible, is crowned by a weather vane with an animal often, said to be the symbol of the golden leopard of Guyenne. It is more likely that this leopard was actually inherited from the kings of England during the English rule of Bordeaux.
This gate, which was originally incorporated into the 13th century walls, has undergone many changes during different remodeling works that took place from the 14th to the 18th century. The bell that can be seen and heard today (called Armand Louise) is not the original bell. It is believed that it would be the sixth bell to occupy the place. This bell would take the place of the previous bell, which was broken when used to report a fire in March 1774.
Created in 1775 by Jean-Jacques Trumeau, Armande Louis weighs 7,750 kilos, has a height of 2 meters and a diameter of 2 meters. in its wide part, being 1 meter in its narrow part.
The Bordeaux Tourist Office regularly offers visits to the Great Bell, inside which you can discover gears and other elements that make up the mechanism of your watch. However, a really surprising part is discovering that the inside of the Great Bell was used as a prison, and today you can see an authentic jail with centuries-old bars.
4- Cailhau Gate
Located on the banks of the river, between the Porte de Bourgogne and the Place de la Bourse, the Cailhau Gate was an important defensive element erected at the end of the 15th century (1493-1496) with a height of 35 meters.
It commemorates the victory of Carlos VIII during the Italian battle of Fornovo. The Cailhau Gate is distinguished by its high conical ceilings, mullioned windows and sculptures in which King Charles VIII, Cardinal d’Epernay (Archbishop of Bordeaux) and Saint John the Evangelist, among others, are represented. In addition to these historical figures, if we look closely we can see other representations carved in stone. They are disturbing characters, representations of animals and other clearly visible chimeras.
On both sides of the door, which is one of the most photographed elements in Bordeaux, there is still a small trace of what was the connection with the old wall that surrounded the city.
5- Coin Gate
Porte de la Monnaie is located on the river bank and marks the separation between the Quai de Sainte Croix and the Quai de la Monnaie. It is halfway between Pont de Pierre and Pont Saint-Jean. It was in 1752 when it was decided to erect a gate that led to the Casa de la Moneda. In front of the door is the Léon Duguit square, where you can still see the old name of the place engraved on the stone that recalls his activity. Depending on where one is located, it may read “Place de la Monnaie” or “Place de la Monnoy”.
6- Dijeaux Door
Porte Dijeaux is located behind Place Gambetta, at the end of rue Bouffard. This door has a great number of similarities with the Aquitaine door, particularly in its architecture surmounted by a triangular pediment..
On one of the sides of the façade of the Dijeaux gate, and like the Aquitaine gate, you can see the coat of arms of Bordeaux with the towers of the Great Bell crowned by the leopard. Cornucopia, bunches of grapes and sea symbols complete this triangular faceunder which a mask covered with two animal heads similar to goats is also carved.
On the other side of the door, the “triangle” is occupied by royal symbols, a crown and fleurs-de-lis, but also by two wings, a helmet and a fish. In addition, an animal head sits on top of the inscription “1748”, the year the gate was built.