Tournai – Sbattu finish & Bush Hammered paving transforming the historical city center

Tournai – Sbattu finish & Bush Hammered paving transforming the historical city center

Stone Paving for an Historic City

This historic city in south-west Belgium is nowadays in the process of recovering its position as a major tourist destination, so it was entirely predictable that Irish Blue Limestone would be chosen for the major task of repaving its inner streets, as well as the picturesque walkways along the banks of the Escaut river.   Over 5,800 tons of limestone were used in a project lasting six years.

Non-Slip Finishes for Busy Walkways

The Sbattu finish, which uses irregular chiselling cuts to create an effect of light-grey markings against a darker background. was used here as much for its aesthetic characteristics as for its noted non-slip properties (as a European city, Tournai is accustomed to icy winters and wet spring and autumn seasons).

Irish Limestone paving with a Bush-hammered finish was also used.  For this finish, which like Sbattu is beautiful as well as utilitarian, the stone is mechanically treated with a multiple-pointed hammer, producing a non-slip surface with an agreeable textured look, having a dark blue-grey background with randomly distributed, closely spaced and contrasting paler blue-grey indentations. The surface is generally smoother and a little lighter in colour than that produced in the Sbattu process.

A Turbulent History

The oldest of Belgian cities, Tournai was founded in Roman times and was for a long time part of France.  (It was also occupied by the English, under Henry VIII.)  Much damaged by bombardment during the Second World War, the city also suffered a very un-Belgian catastrophe when the Cathedral was damaged by a severe tornado in August 1999.

The River Escaut, which at one time divided French and Dutch territory in the city, remains a major commercial waterway as well as a pleasant place to stroll on Irish Limestone paving.  The 13th century Pont des Trous limits the size of vessels using the river, but locals have fiercely opposed any plans to modify the bridge.

Celebrity Resident

Tournai’s newest celebrity resident is the famous French actor Gérard Depardieu, who is said to have moved from Paris to escape French taxes, but meanwhile has made himself at home in Tournai by opening a wine bar near the cathedral; he is often to be seen sitting at an outside table on the Irish Limestone paving.