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Basilica of St Sernin

Basilica of St Sernin

The Basilica of St Sernin (Basilique St-Sernin) in Toulouse is an 11th century basilica. It is said to be the largest Basilica in the Romanesque style in Europe.

Basilica of St Sernin history

Built in 1070, the basilica is named after Saint Saturninus, the first bishop of Toulouse, who was martyred in the third century AD during the Roman persecution of Christians. A vast, beautifully decorated building, the Basilica of St Sernin needed to be large enough to hold the masses of pilgrims drawn there during medieval times on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

The basilica was an ancient foundation. St. Sylvius, bishop of Toulouse, began construction of the basilica towards the end of the 4th century AD. Its importance increased enormously after Charlemagne (r. 768-800) donated a quantity of relics to it, as a result of which it became an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, and a pilgrimage location in its own right.

The Basilica of St Sernin was one of the stops along the route to this Spanish cathedral, an accolade which has earned is a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Basilica of St Sernin today

Basilica of St Sernin is characterized by its barrel vaults, sturdy columns and thick walls, and its arcade. It was built from stone and brick and is the largest known Romanesque structure still in existence. The interior of Saint-Sernin shows that arcades had begun to replace the individual columns, for a more flowing and elegant movement.

There are more registers in Saint-Sernin than in other churches built at earlier periods, as they were starting to build up height. Although there were Gothic and Baroque additions (some of which have been undone), the structure has remained largely the same throughout the years.

Despite being called a basilica, Saint-Sernin’s deviates from the basilica plan of early Christian architecture in a few ways. It is much larger compared to earlier churches, measuring 104 metres in length. It is also constructed mostly of brick. The building is in the form of a crucifix. The ceilings are vaulted, unlike many of the earlier churches.

Saint-Sernin’s contains radiating chapels which were used to display important relics. Another deviation from the earlier Christian churches is the addition of an ambulatory, a walkway that goes around the nave and side aisles to allow for viewing of the radiating chapels (which could be done while mass was being held without interrupting the ceremony). For these and other reasons, Saint-Sernin’s is often said to follow the “pilgrimage plan” instead of the traditional basilica plan.

Getting to the Basilica of St Sernin

The address of the location is Place Saint-Sernin, 31000 Toulouse, France. You can travel to the basilica via tram or metro. The nearest staion is Capitole ou Jeanne d’Arc, roughly a 10 minute walk, or 5 minute car journey away.


Basilica of Saint-Sernin, Toulouse

The Basilica of Saint-Sernin (Occitan: Basilica de Sant Sarnin) is a church in Toulouse, France, the former abbey church of the Abbey of Saint-Sernin or St Saturnin. Apart from the church, none of the abbey buildings remain. The current church is located on the site of a previous basilica of the 4th century which contained the body of Saint Saturnin or Sernin, the first bishop of Toulouse in c. 250. Constructed in the Romanesque style between about 1080 and 1120, with construction continuing thereafter, Saint-Sernin is the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. [1] [2] [ dubious – discuss ] The church is particularly noted for the quality and quantity of its Romanesque sculpture. In 1998 the basilica was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites under the description: World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.

History

The abbey of Saint-Sernin was an ancient foundation. St. Sylvius, bishop of Toulouse, began construction of the basilica towards the end of the 4th century. [3]

Its importance increased enormously after Charlemagne (r. 768-800) donated a quantity of relics to it, as a result of which it became an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, and a pilgrimage location in its own right. The size of the current building and the existence of an ambulatory may reflect the need to accommodate increasing numbers of pilgrims.

The difficulty of determining an accurate chronology for the construction of Saint-Sernin and the completion of its sculpture has given rise to numerous problems. At least as early as the 1010s, Bishop Pierre Roger had set aside a portion of the offerings to Saint-Sernin for an eventual rebuilding of the Carolingian church. [4] During the decade of the 1070s and by 1080 at the latest, the canons of Saint-Sernin had accepted the rule of St. Augustine and had placed themselves under the direct control of the Holy See. [5] Nevertheless, there are only two firm dates that bear directly on the church itself and even these involve certain difficulties. On May 24, 1096, Pope Urban II dedicated the altar of the still largely incomplete building. [6] Although there have been numerous attempts to determine the point that construction had reached at this time, the most that can be said with certainty is that 1096 is a firm terminus ante quem. That is, construction must have begun at least several years before that date.

The second firm date is July 3, 1118, the death of St. Raymond Gayrard, canon and provost of the chapter. A 15th-century life of the saint states that he took charge of the building after part of the church had been completed and that by the time of his death he had "brought the walls all the way around up to the completion of the windows. " [7] Unfortunately, the life was written much later, some three hundred years after the events it describes, and since at least three different Raymonds were involved in the building of the church, the biographer may have confused elements from the lives of all three.

At any rate, whenever started, it appears that construction of the church did not progress continuously through to completion, for there is physical evidence of several interruptions in construction. The literary evidence cited above indicates that construction proceeded from east to west and, indeed, it appears that the earliest part of the exterior walls is the southern, lower part of the ambulatory and its corresponding radiating chapels. The walls in this section are built of brick and stone, with a higher proportion of stone than elsewhere in the building. As construction proceeded, it was clearly marked by an increasing proportion of brick, the characteristic building material of Toulouse. While there is basic agreement on the starting point, interpretation of the subsequent archeological evidence is subject to varying opinions. The earliest systematic examinations, after the restoration of Viollet-le-Duc, concluded that there had been three major building campaigns. [8]

More recent observations have concluded that there were four major building campaigns. [9] The earliest section begins with the apse and includes the chevet and all of the transept below the level of the gallery, including the Porte des Comtes in the south face of the transept. The second stage is marked by the walls of the transept being completed with alternating courses of brick and stone. This change is also paralleled by a change in the style of the interior decorated capitals. This break is most evident in the transept buttresses, which change from solid stone at the bottom to bands of brick and stone at the top, a change which occurs at various levels around the transept but generally about the level of the gallery floor. There then follows another break between the eastern portion of the church – including the transept and the first few bays of the nave itself – and the rest of the nave. The alternating courses of brick and stone give way to a predominantly brick technique with stone quoins and stone window frames. This third campaign includes the wall enclosing the entire nave, including the western entrance and ends just below the gallery windows. During the fourth phase, the remainder of the nave was completed in brick with almost no stone.

The plan of the abbey church here was also used in the construction of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, "begun in 1082, too direct a copy to have been done by any but Saint-Sernin's own architect or his favored pupil", but finished much earlier. [10]

In 1860, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc restored the church, [11] but his changes are currently being removed to restore the original appearance.

Features

Despite being called a basilica, Saint-Sernin's deviates from the basilica plan of early Christian architecture in a few ways. It is much larger compared to earlier churches, measuring 104m [12] in length. It is also constructed mostly of brick. The building is in the form of a crucifix. The ceilings are vaulted, unlike many of the earlier churches. Saint-Sernin's contains radiating chapels which were used to display important relics. Another deviation from the earlier Christian churches is the addition of an ambulatory, a walkway that goes around the nave and side aisles to allow for viewing of the radiating chapels (which could be done while mass was being held without interrupting the ceremony). For these and other reasons, Saint-Sernin's is often said to follow the "pilgrimage plan" instead of the traditional basilica plan.

Exterior

On the exterior, the bell tower, standing directly over the transept crossing, is the most visible feature. It is divided into five tiers, of which the lower three, with Romanesque arches, date from the 12th century and the upper two from the 13th century (circa 1270). The spire was added in the 15th century. The bell tower is slightly inclined towards the west direction, which is why from certain standpoints the bell tower roof, whose axis is perpendicular to the ground, appears to be inclined to the tower itself.

The chevet is the oldest part of the building, constructed in the 11th century, and consists of nine chapels, five opening from the apse and four in the transepts.

The exterior is additionally known for two doorways, the Porte des Comtes and the Porte Miègeville. Above the Porte des Comtes is a depiction of Lazarus and Dives. Dives in hell can be seen above the central column. The doorway gets its name from a nearby alcove in which the remains of four Counts of Toulouse are kept. The Porte Miègeville is known for its elaborate sculpture above the entrance: the ascending Christ, surrounded by superb angels, is the central figure on one of the oldest and most beautiful tympanums in Romanesque architecture (end of 11th c. or circa 1115).

Interior

The interior of the basilica measures 115 x 64 x 21 meters, making it vast for a Romanesque church. The central nave is barrel vaulted the four aisles have rib vaults and are supported by buttresses. Directly under the tower and the transept is a marble altar, consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096 and designed by Bernard Gelduin .

As well as Saint Saturnin, Saint Honoratus is also buried here. The crypt contains the relics of many other saints.

The basilica also contains a large three-manual Cavaillé-Coll organ built in 1888. Together with the Cavaillé-Coll instruments at Saint-Sulpice in Paris and the Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, it is considered to be one of the most important organs in France.


The distant origins of the Basilica of Saint-Sernin (or Saint Saturnin) date back to the 3rd century, to the time of the martyrdom of Saint Saturnin, the first bishop of Toulouse.

Because he refused to make sacrifices to the pagan gods, Saturnin was accused of being the cause of the silence of the oracles, and was tied by the feet to a bull. The body of the bishop was torn to pieces as he was dragged along the ground by the animal.

During the following century, Bishop Hilario had a wooden basilica built on the site of Saturnin’s grave. Over time, in response to the success of the necropolis, which had been converted into a center of devotion, a new martyrium-style basilica was erected.

On this site, the foundations of the current Romanesque basilica were built in the 11th century. The Church of Saint-Sernin has become, since then, an important stop for pilgrims along the official Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago).

The construction continued to develop over the following centuries: in the 13th century a Gothic baldachin was added in the 14th, the vaults of the central nave were finished, the crypt was enlarged and the bell tower was raised.

With its large bays, numerous porticoes and a vast ambulatory of resplendent chapels, the basilica is perfect for allowing a multitude of pilgrims easy access to the relics on display.

In the 19th century, the restoration of the basilica was entrusted to the French architect Viollet-le-Duc. From 1860 to 1879, the architect led an intensive campaign of rehabilitation of the building however, the restoration, criticized in the 20th century, was partially suppressed.

One might ask: If the basilica was founded in honor of Bishop Saturnin, why does it bear the name of Saint-Sernin? Tradition says that Saturninus (the saint’s name in Latin) transformed over time into Sarni in the Occitan language, and then finally reached Sernin in French.

The practice of venerating relics

The origin of the basilica is closely linked to the practice of venerating the relics of Saint Saturnin. The dedication of the building as a place of pilgrimage was reinforced with time and the monument was enriched with multiple relics, offerings of simple pilgrims or powerful donors.

Relics are testimonies of God’s saving power in the lives of the saints thus, especially during the Middle Ages, they have exerted a strong attraction for the faithful, who hoped to obtain protection or healing through the intercession of the saints. The relics of the Holy Thorn or of the True Cross invite the faithful to recall the events of Holy Week, while the relics of the saints recall that their bodies were temples of the Holy Spirit.

In the reliquary chests of the ambulatory of the basilica in Toulouse lie the remains of saints Lawrence, Boniface, Anthony the Abbott and Vincent of Saragossa. In addition, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, donated by Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, brother of St. Louis, has been kept there since the mid-13th century. More than 200 fragments of bones of various saints are also housed in the basilica, along with a piece of the True Cross and the remains of Sts. Etienne, Bernadette Soubirous and Therese of Lisieux.

After St. Peter’s in Rome, the cathedral of Toulouse houses the largest collection of relics in the world.

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Features

Despite being called a basilica, St. Sernin's deviates from the basilica plan of early Christian architecture in a few ways. It is much larger compared to earlier churches. It is also constructed mostly of brick. The building is in the form of a crucifix. The ceilings are vaulted, unlike many of the earlier churches. St. Sernin's contains radiating chapels which were used to display important relics. Another deviation from the earlier Christian churches is the addition of an ambulatory, a walkway that goes around the nave and side aisles to allow for viewing of the radiating chapels (which could be done while mass was being held without interrupting the ceremony). For these and other reasons, St. Sernin's is often said to follow the "pilgrimage plan" instead of the traditional basilica plan.

Exterior

On the exterior, the bell tower, standing directly over the transept crossing, is the most visible feature. It is divided into five tiers, of which the lower three, with Romanesque arches, date from the 12th century and the upper two from the 14th century. The spire was added in the 15th century. The bell tower is slightly inclined towards the west direction, which is why from certain standpoints the bell tower roof, whose axis is perpendicular to the ground, appears to be inclined to the tower itself.

The chevet is the oldest part of the building, constructed in the 11th century, and consists of nine chapels, five opening from the apse and four in the transepts.

The exterior is additionally known for two doorways, the Porte des Comtes and the Porte des Miégeville. Above the Porte des Comtes is a depiction of Lazarus and Dives. Dives in hell can be seen above the central column. The doorway gets its name from a nearby alcove in which the remains of four Counts of Toulouse are kept. The Porte des Miégeville is known for its elaborate sculpture above the entrance.

Interior

The interior of the basilica measures 115 x 64 x 21 meters, making it vast for a Romanesque church. The central nave is barrel vaulted the four aisles have rib vaults and are supported by buttresses. Directly under the tower and the transept is a marble altar, consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096 and designed by Bernard Gelduin.

As well as Saint Saturnin, Saint Honoratus is also buried here. The crypt contains the relics of many other saints.

The basilica also contains a large three-manual Cavaillé-Coll organ built in 1888. Together with the Cavaillé-Coll instruments at Saint-Sulpice in Paris and the Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, it is considered to be one of the most important organs in France.


Pilgrimage routes and the cult of the relic

Y2K. The Rapture. 2012. For over a decade, speculation about the end of the world has run rampant—all in conjunction with the arrival of the new millennium. The same was true for our religious European counterparts who, prior to the year 1000, believed the Second Coming of Christ was imminent, and the end was nigh.

When the apocalypse failed to materialize in 1000, it was decided that the correct year must be 1033, a thousand years from the death of Jesus Christ, but then that year also passed without any cataclysmic event.

Just how extreme the millennial panic was, remains debated. It is certain that from the year 950 onwards, there was a significant increase in building activity, particularly of religious structures. There were many reasons for this construction boom beside millennial panic, and the building of monumental religious structures continued even as fears of the immediate end of time faded.

Not surprisingly, this period also witnessed a surge in the popularity of the religious pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place. These are acts of piety and may have been undertaken in gratitude for the fact that doomsday had not arrived, and to ensure salvation, whenever the end did come.

Map of pilgrimage routes (image adapted from: Manfred Zentgraf, Volkach, Germany)

The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

Pilgrims from the tympanum of Cathedral of St. Lazare, Autun (photo: Holly Hayes, Art History Images)

For the average European in the 12th Century, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Jerusalem was out of the question—travel to the Middle East was too far, too dangerous and too expensive. Santiago de Compostela in Spain offered a much more convenient option.

To this day, hundreds of thousands of faithful travel the “Way of Saint James” to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. They go on foot across Europe to a holy shrine where bones, believed to belong to Saint James, were unearthed. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela now stands on this site.

The pious of the Middle Ages wanted to pay homage to holy relics, and pilgrimage churches sprang up along the route to Spain. Pilgrims commonly walked barefoot and wore a scalloped shell, the symbol of Saint James (the shell’s grooves symbolize the many roads of the pilgrimage).

In France alone there were four main routes toward Spain. Le Puy, Arles, Paris and Vézelay are the cities on these roads and each contains a church that was an important pilgrimage site in its own right.

Why make a pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was an expression of Christian devotion and it was believed that it could purify the soul and perhaps even produce miraculous healing benefits. A criminal could travel the “Way of Saint James” as an act penance. For the everyday person, a pilgrimage was also one of the only opportunities to travel and see some of the world. It was a chance to meet people, perhaps even those outside one’s own class. The purpose of pilgrimage may not have been entirely devotional.

The cult of the relic

Reliquary of St. Foy at Conque Abbey (photo: Holly Hayes, Art History images)

Pilgrimage churches can be seen in part as popular desinations, a spiritual tourism of sorts for medieval travelers. Guidebooks, badges and various souvenirs were sold. Pilgrims, though traveling light, would spend money in the towns that possessed important sacred relics.

The cult of relic was at its peak during the Romanesque period (c. 1000 – 1200). Relics are religious objects generally connected to a saint, or some other venerated person. A relic might be a body part, a saint’s finger, a cloth worn by the Virgin Mary, or a piece of the True Cross.

Relics are often housed in a protective container called a reliquary. Reliquarys are often quite opulent and can be encrusted with precious metals and gemstones given by the faithful. An example is the Reliquary of Saint Foy, located at Conques abbey on the pilgrimage route. It is said to hold a piece of the child martyr’s skull. A large pilgrimage church might be home to one major relic, and dozens of lesser-known relics. Because of their sacred and economic value, every church wanted an important relic and a black market boomed with fake and stolen goods.

Portal, Cathedral of Saint Lazare, Autun, 12th century

Accommodating crowds

Pilgrimage churches were constructed with some special features to make them particularly accessible to visitors. The goal was to get large numbers of people to the relics and out again without disturbing the Mass in the center of the church. A large portal that could accommodate the pious throngs was a prerequisite. Generally, these portals would also have an elaborate sculptural program, often portraying the Second Coming—a good way to remind the weary pilgrim why they made the trip!

A pilgrimage church generally consisted of a double aisle on either side of the nave (the wide hall that runs down the center of a church). In this way, the visitor could move easily around the outer edges of the church until reaching the smaller apsidioles or radiating chapels. These are small rooms generally located off the back of the church behind the altar where relics were often displayed. The faithful would move from chapel to chapel venerating each relic in turn.

Thick walls, small windows

The thrust of a barrel vault

Romanesque churches were dark. This was in large part because of the use of stone barrel-vault construction. This system provided excellent acoustics and reduced fire danger. However, a barrel vault exerts continuous lateral (outward pressure) all along the walls that support the vault.

This meant the outer walls of the church had to be extra thick. It also meant that windows had to be small and few. When builders dared to pierce walls with additional or larger windows they risked structural failure. Churches did collapse.

Nave, Tournus Cathedral, 11th century

Later, the masons of the Gothic period replaced the barrel vault with the groin vault which carries weight down to its four corners, concentrating the pressure of the vaulting, and allowing for much larger windows.


Tympanum of the Porte Miegeville depicts the Ascension of Christ (c.1110-15). It is an important milestone in the development of early Romanesque sculpture. The faded red bricks of the Basilica of St. Sernin contribute to Toulouse&rsquos nickname of the &ldquoPink City&rdquo. This is a collection of detailed carvings in the portal. Two of the eight carved capitals (column tops) are shown here. In the 1970&rsquos the 19-century top coat of plaster was removed and these richly decorated frescos painted in 1140-1180 we discovered. (A fresco is created by painting on wet plaster)

Marble panel of Christ in Majesty. Looking to the east in the Nave. The lustrous central chapel in the ambulatory (fee for entry) is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. This fresco depicts the last scene in the transept of Saint Sernin. Carved apostles appear on this sarcophagus from the late 4th or 5th century. Colourful stained glass windows and Romanesque arches. Vault fresco of the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) with angels.

The organ built by Cavaillé-Coll in 1888 is considered to be one of the most important organs in France.


Contents

Toulouse is in the south of France, north of the department of Haute-Garonne, on the axis of communication between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hydrography Edit

The city is traversed by the Canal de Brienne, the Canal du Midi and the rivers Garonne, Touch and Hers-Mort.

Climate Edit

Toulouse has a temperate humid subtropical climate (Cfa in the Köppen climate classification). Too much precipitation during the summer months prevents the city from being classified as a Mediterranean climate zone.

Climate data for Toulouse (TLS), elevation: 151 m (495 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1947–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.2
(70.2)
24.1
(75.4)
27.1
(80.8)
30.0
(86.0)
33.4
(92.1)
40.2
(104.4)
40.2
(104.4)
40.7
(105.3)
35.3
(95.5)
30.8
(87.4)
24.3
(75.7)
21.1
(70.0)
40.7
(105.3)
Average high °C (°F) 9.5
(49.1)
11.1
(52.0)
14.5
(58.1)
17.0
(62.6)
21.0
(69.8)
25.2
(77.4)
28.0
(82.4)
27.9
(82.2)
24.6
(76.3)
19.5
(67.1)
13.3
(55.9)
9.9
(49.8)
18.5
(65.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) 5.9
(42.6)
7.0
(44.6)
9.8
(49.6)
12.1
(53.8)
16.0
(60.8)
19.7
(67.5)
22.3
(72.1)
22.2
(72.0)
19.0
(66.2)
15.0
(59.0)
9.5
(49.1)
6.5
(43.7)
13.8
(56.8)
Average low °C (°F) 2.4
(36.3)
3.0
(37.4)
5.0
(41.0)
7.1
(44.8)
10.9
(51.6)
14.3
(57.7)
16.5
(61.7)
16.5
(61.7)
13.4
(56.1)
10.5
(50.9)
5.8
(42.4)
3.2
(37.8)
9.1
(48.4)
Record low °C (°F) −18.6
(−1.5)
−19.2
(−2.6)
−8.4
(16.9)
−3.0
(26.6)
−0.8
(30.6)
4.0
(39.2)
7.6
(45.7)
5.5
(41.9)
1.9
(35.4)
−3.0
(26.6)
−7.5
(18.5)
−12.0
(10.4)
−19.2
(−2.6)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 51.3
(2.02)
41.6
(1.64)
49.1
(1.93)
69.6
(2.74)
74.0
(2.91)
60.3
(2.37)
37.7
(1.48)
46.8
(1.84)
47.4
(1.87)
57.0
(2.24)
51.1
(2.01)
52.4
(2.06)
638.3
(25.13)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 9.2 7.8 8.6 9.6 9.9 7.1 5.0 6.1 6.5 8.1 9.2 8.6 95.7
Average snowy days 2.1 2.0 1.0 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.6 7.5
Average relative humidity (%) 87 82 77 76 76 72 68 71 74 81 85 88 78
Mean monthly sunshine hours 92.5 115.0 175.1 186.1 209.2 227.6 252.6 238.8 204.0 149.2 96.0 85.3 2,031.3
Source 1: Meteo France [12] [13]
Source 2: Infoclimat.fr (relative humidity 1961–1990) [14]
Climate data for Toulouse–Francazal, elevation: 164 m (538 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1922–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 23.3
(73.9)
24.8
(76.6)
28.3
(82.9)
29.9
(85.8)
33.9
(93.0)
39.3
(102.7)
40.2
(104.4)
44.0
(111.2)
36.0
(96.8)
35.4
(95.7)
27.0
(80.6)
26.9
(80.4)
44.0
(111.2)
Average high °C (°F) 9.7
(49.5)
11.1
(52.0)
14.5
(58.1)
16.9
(62.4)
20.9
(69.6)
25.0
(77.0)
28.0
(82.4)
28.0
(82.4)
24.6
(76.3)
19.5
(67.1)
13.4
(56.1)
10.1
(50.2)
18.5
(65.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) 6.1
(43.0)
7.2
(45.0)
9.9
(49.8)
12.2
(54.0)
16.1
(61.0)
19.8
(67.6)
22.4
(72.3)
22.3
(72.1)
19.1
(66.4)
15.2
(59.4)
9.7
(49.5)
6.8
(44.2)
13.9
(57.0)
Average low °C (°F) 2.6
(36.7)
3.3
(37.9)
5.4
(41.7)
7.4
(45.3)
11.3
(52.3)
14.7
(58.5)
16.8
(62.2)
16.7
(62.1)
13.7
(56.7)
10.8
(51.4)
6.1
(43.0)
3.4
(38.1)
9.4
(48.9)
Record low °C (°F) −19.0
(−2.2)
−16.7
(1.9)
−7.4
(18.7)
−4.1
(24.6)
0.1
(32.2)
4.5
(40.1)
7.0
(44.6)
7.3
(45.1)
0.0
(32.0)
−2.6
(27.3)
−8.5
(16.7)
−13.4
(7.9)
−19.0
(−2.2)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 50.4
(1.98)
38.5
(1.52)
45.9
(1.81)
65.7
(2.59)
73.7
(2.90)
58.0
(2.28)
38.5
(1.52)
42.7
(1.68)
51.9
(2.04)
55.4
(2.18)
52.4
(2.06)
52.5
(2.07)
625.6
(24.63)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 8.5 7.1 8.2 10.0 9.6 7.0 4.9 6.2 6.3 8.2 8.8 8.7 93.4
Average snowy days 2.1 2.0 1.0 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.6 1.6 7.5
Average relative humidity (%) 87 82 77 76 76 72 68 71 74 81 85 88 78
Mean monthly sunshine hours 93.1 116.6 173.6 186.7 207.5 224.8 246.8 234.9 202.5 147.9 94.9 85.4 2,014.5
Source: Meteo France [15]

Early history Edit

The Garonne Valley was a central point for trade between the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic since at least the Iron Age. The historical name of the city, Tolosa (Τολῶσσα in Greek, and of its inhabitants, the Tolosates, first recorded in the 2nd century BC), is of unknown meaning or origin, possibly from Aquitanian or Iberian, [16] but it has also been connected to the name of the Gaulish Volcae Tectosages. [17]

Tolosa enters the historical period in the 2nd century BC, when it became a Roman military outpost. After the conquest of Gaul, it was developed as a Roman city in Gallia Narbonensis. Under the reign of Emperor Augustus and thanks to the Pax Romana, the Romans moved the city a few kilometres from the hills where it was an oppidum to the banks of the Garonne, which were more suitable for trade. Around the year 250, Toulouse was marked by the martyrdom of Saturnin, the first bishop of Toulouse. This episode illustrates the difficult beginnings of Christianity in Roman Gaul.

In the 5th century, Tolosa fell to the Visigothic kingdom and became one of its major cities, in the early 6th century even serving as its capital, before it fell to the Franks under Clovis in 507 (Battle of Vouillé). From that time, Toulouse was the capital of Aquitaine within the Frankish realm. [18] [ citation needed ]

In 721, Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated an invading Umayyad Muslim army at the Battle of Toulouse. Many Arab chroniclers consider that Odo's victory was the real stop to Muslim expansion into Christian Europe, incursions of the following years being simple raids without real will of conquest (including the one that ended with Charles Martel's victory at the Battle of Tours, also called the Battle of Poitiers). [19]

The Frankish conquest of Septimania followed in the 750s, and a quasi-independent County of Toulouse emerged within the Carolingian sub-kingdom of Aquitaine by the late 8th century. The Battle of Toulouse of 844, pitting Charles the Bald against Pepin II of Aquitaine, was key in the Carolingian Civil War.

County of Toulouse Edit

In 1096, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, left with his army at the call of the Pope to join the First Crusade, of which he was one of the main leaders.

In the 12th century the notables of the city took advantage of a weakening of the county power to obtain for their city a great autonomy, they created a municipal body of consuls (called capitouls in Toulouse) to lead the city.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the county of Toulouse was taken in another crusade, of which it was the target this time. The reason for this was the development of Catharism in the south of France, which the Pope wanted to eradicate by all possible means. This struggle took on several aspects, going beyond the military crusade, such as the creation of an original and militant Gothic architecture: the Southern French Gothic.

In 1215, the Dominican Order was founded in Toulouse by Saint Dominic in the context of struggle against the Cathar heresy.

In the Treaty of Paris of 1229, Toulouse formally submitted to the crown of France. The county's sole heiress Joan was engaged to Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, a younger brother of Louis IX of France. The marriage became legal in 1241, but it remained childless and so after Joan's death, the county fell to the Crown of France by inheritance.

Also in 1229, University of Toulouse was established after the Parisian model, intended as a means to dissolve the heretic movement. [ citation needed ]

Various monastic orders, like the congregation of the order of frères prêcheurs, were started. They found home in Les Jacobins. [ citation needed ] In parallel, a long period of inquisition began inside the Toulouse walls. The fear of repression forced the leading figures to exile or to convert themselves. The inquisition lasted nearly 400 years, making Toulouse its capital. [ citation needed ]

Kingdom of France Edit

In 1271, Toulouse was incorporated into the kingdom of France and declared a "royal city". [ citation needed ] In 1323 the Consistori del Gay Saber was created in Toulouse to preserve the lyric art of the troubadours by organizing a poetry contest and Toulouse became the centre of Occitan literary culture for the next hundred years. The Consistori del Gay Saber is considered to be the oldest literary society in Europe, at the origin of the most sophisticated treatise on grammar and rhetoric of the Middle Ages, and in 1694 it was transformed into the Royal Academy of the Floral Games (Académie des Jeux Floraux), still active today, by king Louis XIV.

The 14th century brought a pogrom against Toulouse's Jewish population by Crusaders in 1320, [20] the Black Death in 1348, then the Hundred Years' War. Despite strong immigration, the population lost 10,000 inhabitants in 70 years. By 1405 Toulouse had only 19,000 people. [21]

The situation improved in the 15th century. [22] Charles VII established the second parliament of France after that of Paris. Reinforcing its place as an administrative center, the city grew richer, participating in the trade of Bordeaux wine with England, as well as cereals and textiles. A major source of income was the production and export of pastel, a blue dye made from woad. [23] The fortune generated by this international trade was at the origin of several of Toulouse's superb Renaissance mansions.

In 1562 the French Wars of Religion began and Toulouse became an ultra-Catholic stronghold in a predominantly Protestant region, the era of economic prosperity came to an end. The governor of Languedoc, Henri II de Montmorency, who had rebelled, was executed in 1632 in the Capitole in the presence of King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu.

In 1666 Pierre-Paul Riquet started the construction of the Canal du Midi which links Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea, and is considered one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. Completed in 1681, the canal stimulated the economy of Toulouse by promoting the export of cereals (wheat and corn) and the import of oil and other goods from the Mediterranean regions.

In the 18th century, Toulouse was a provincial capital that prided itself on its royal academies (the only city in France, along with Paris, to have three royal academies), but seemed far removed from the debates of ideas that agitated the Enlightenment. A famous example illustrates this backwardness of Toulouse mentalities of the time: in 1762 its powerful Parliament sentenced Jean Calas to death. The philosopher Voltaire then accused the Parliament of Toulouse of religious intolerance (Calas was a Protestant), gave the affair a European repercussion and succeeded in having the judgment of the Parliament quashed by the King's Council, which did much damage to the reputation of the Parliament. It was on this occasion that Voltaire published one of his major philosophical works: his famous Treatise on Tolerance.

With the French Revolution of 1789 and the reform or suppression of all royal institutions, Toulouse lost much of its power and influence: until then the capital of the vast province of Languedoc, with a Parliament ruling over an even larger territory, the city then finds itself simply at the head of the single small department of Haute-Garonne.

19th century Edit

On 10 April 1814, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition (a fact that the two armies involved were not yet aware of), the Battle of Toulouse pitted the Hispanic-British troops of Field Marshal Wellington against the French troops of Napoleonic Marshal Soult, who, although they managed to resist, were forced to withdraw. Toulouse was thus the scene of the last Franco-British battle on French territory. [24]

Unlike most large French cities, there was no real industrial revolution in 19th century Toulouse. The most important industries were the gunpowder factory, to meet military needs, and the tobacco factory. In 1856 the railway arrived in Toulouse and the city was modernised: the ramparts were replaced by large boulevards, and major avenues such as the rue d'Alsace-Lorraine and the rue de Metz opened up the historic centre.

In 1875 a flood of the Garonne devastated more than 1,000 houses and killed 200 people. It also destroyed all the bridges in Toulouse, except the Pont-Neuf. [25]

20th and 21th centuries Edit

World War I brought to Toulouse (geographically sheltered from enemy attacks) chemical industries as well as aviation workshops (Latécoère, Dewoitine), which launched the city's aeronautical construction tradition and gave birth after the war to the famous Aéropostale, a pioneering airmail company based in Toulouse and whose epics were popularised by the novels of writers such as Joseph Kessel and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (himself an Aéropostale pilot). [26]

In the 1920s and 1930s the rise of the Toulouse population was increased by the arrival of Italians and Spaniards fleeing the fascist regimes of their country. Then, in the early 1960s, French repatriates from Algeria swelled the city's population.

In 1963, Toulouse was chosen to become one of the country's eight “balancing Metropolis”, regaining a position among the country's major cities that it had always had, but lost in the 19th century. The French state then encouraged the city's specialisation in aeronautics and space activities, sectors that had experienced strong growth in recent decades, fueling economic and population growth.

On 21 September 2001, an explosion occurred at the AZF fertiliser factory, causing 31 deaths, about 30 seriously wounded and 2,500 light casualties. The blast measured 3.4 on the Richter scale and the explosion was heard 80 km (50 miles) away.

In 2016 a territorial reform made Toulouse the regional prefecture of Occitanie, the second largest region in metropolitan France, giving it a role commensurate with its past as a provincial capital among the most important in France.

Historical population [2] [3]
Urban Area Metropolitan
Area
1695 43,000
1750 48,000
1790 52,863
1801 50,171
1831 59,630
1851 95,277
1872 126,936
1911 149,000
1936 213,220
1946 264,411
1954 268,865
1962 329,044
1968 439,764 474,000
1975 509,939 585,000
1982 541,271 645,000
1990 650,336 797,373
1999 761,090 964,797
2007 859,336 1,187,686
2012 906,457 1,270,760
2017 968,638 1,360,829

The population of the city proper (French: commune) was 479,553 at the January 2017 census, with 1,360,829 inhabitants in the metropolitan area (within the 2010 borders of the metropolitan area), up from 1,187,686 at the January 2007 census (within the same 2010 borders of the metropolitan area). [2] [3] Thus, the metropolitan area registered a population growth rate of +1.4% per year between 2007 and 2017, the highest growth rate of any French metropolitan area larger than 500,000 inhabitants, although it is slightly lower than the growth rate registered between the 1999 and 2007 censuses. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon, and the fourth-largest metropolitan area after Paris, Lyon, and Marseille.

Fueled by booming aerospace and high-tech industries, population growth of +1.49% a year in the metropolitan area in the 1990s (compared with +0.37% for metropolitan France), and a record +1.87% a year in the early 2000s (+0.68% for metropolitan France), which is the highest population growth of any French metropolitan area larger than 500,000 inhabitants, means the Toulouse metropolitan area overtook Lille as the fourth-largest metropolitan area of France at the 2006 census.

A local Jewish group estimates there are about 2,500 Jewish families in Toulouse. [ citation needed ] A Muslim association has estimated there are some 35,000 Muslims in town. [29]

Toulouse Métropole Edit

The Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse (Communauté d'agglomération du Grand Toulouse) was created in 2001 to better coordinate transport, infrastructure and economic policies between the city of Toulouse and its immediate independent suburbs. It succeeds a previous district which had been created in 1992 with fewer powers than the current council. It combines the city of Toulouse and 24 independent communes, covering an area of 380 km 2 (147 sq mi), totalling a population of 583,229 inhabitants (as of 1999 census), 67% of whom live in the city of Toulouse proper. As of February 2004 estimate, the total population of the Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse was 651,209 inhabitants, 65.5% of whom live in the city of Toulouse. Due to local political feuds, the Community of Agglomeration only hosts 61% of the population of the metropolitan area, the other independent suburbs having refused to join in. Since 2009, the Community of agglomeration has become an urban community (in French: communauté urbaine). This has become a métropole in 2015, spanning 37 communes. [30]


[Basilica of St. Sernin]

Photograph of the Basilica of St. Sernin in Toulouse, France. In the foreground, an archway is visible leading to another arched door. The arches are decorated with stone carvings. A boy stands outside the first arch and a group stand outside the door.

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1 photograph : positive, col. 35 mm.

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This photograph is part of the collection entitled: Professor Ray Gough Slide Collection and was provided by the UNT College of Visual Arts + Design to the UNT Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. It has been viewed 82 times. More information about this photograph can be viewed below.

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The UNT College of Visual Arts and Design fosters creative futures for its diverse student population and the region through rigorous arts-based education, arts- and client-based studio practice, scholarship, and research. One of the most comprehensive visual arts schools in the nation, the college includes many nationally and regionally ranked programs.


Romanesque

The eleventh century (1000 – 1100 AD) saw peace and prosperity gradually begin to return to Europe after several centuries of war and poverty since the collapse of the Roman Empire at the end of the 5th century. Encouraged by the Catholic Church, communities began to replace their small wooden chapels with large stone churches. These builders looked to the structures of ancient Rome for guidance and for inspriation. These new churches were in the style of the Romans and therefore called Romanesque.

The Romanesque church was based on a Roman structure the Bascilica A long rectangular building with a central nave and two aisles – one on either side. The aisles were seperated from the nave by an arcade consisting of a row of pillars and arches. The Romanesque bulders added to two transepts the top of the nave, one on either side to form a crucifix shape. Behind this was a small recess called an apse. This structure was the standard format for a Romanesque Church. Later on as Romanesque architecture developed, towers and other such features were added.

Romanesque Churches were built completely of stone and in some cases of brick. This was a huge improvement on previous churches which were constructed with a wooden roof – a stone roof was permanent since if would not burn or rot. Stone was cut into wedge shapes blocks valled voussoirs. These were built up to form a vault. There were two main types of vaults Barrel Vaults and Groin Vaults.

Holding up the weight of a stone roof proved to be problematic. As the stone was very heavy – much heavier than wood, it created pressure on the walls of the church – this is called “ Outward Thrust”. As the walls were at risk of collapsing under the pressure of the outward thrust, Romanesque builders made the walls extra thick to compensate for this pressure – 2 to 3 meters in thickness.

The thick walls gave Romanesque Churches a very heavy appearance. Also very few windows could be built as this would weaken the walls, this meant that Romanesque churches were very dark inside.

St Sernin’s Basilica, Toulouse, France 1080 – 1120 AD

St Sernin’s is a large Romanesque Church. It was located in Toulouse along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, ( where St james is reputedly buried) so it was built extra large to accommodate the numerous pilgrims aswell as the local population.

St Sernin’s is a typical Romanesque church in that it was built in the basilica format, but because it is so large it has a few adaptions to this format. The main features of St Sernins are

1) Heavy appearance with small rounded windows
2) Made of local brick not stone
3) An extra aisle on either side of the nave
4) The extra aisle continues around the transept and the apse creating an ambulatory where pilgrims could walk and pray
5) Nine small chapels at the back of the chuch behind the transept and the apse.
6) The nave is barrel vaulted the aisles are groin vaulted
7) Lantern Tower at the crossing of the transepts and the nave which lets in much light
8) A Clerestory/ Clearstory – a row of windows up at the top of the walls to let in light

Groundplan of St Sernins Aerial view of St Sernin’s Interior of St Sernin’s


Romanesque Sculpture

Romanesque sculpture had two functions
1) firstly sculpture was used to decorate the church very often sculpture was placed in prominent positions such as the capitals ( top of the pillars) or the Tympanum ( the space over the doorway).
2) Secondly, Sculpture was used tell the stories of the bible to the ordinary people. At that time there were very few books in existence as they has to be written by hand. Almost all the population with the exception of the clergy could not read or write. These scupltures were used by the church to teach the bible.

Romanesque sculpture is carved “ in relief”. This means that it is not free standing but is carved out of the background support. Sculptors had not yet developed the skills and techniques to carve a fully 3-dimensional figure.

Gislebertus A Romanesque Master Sculptor

Gislebertus is perhaps the most famous sculptor of the Romanesque Era. His work on the Cathedral of St Lazare in Autun, France 1120 -1135 is the most original sculpture of the period. Gislebertus is a master of visual storytelling and his work brilliantly expresses the stories from the bible.

Gislebertus The Dream of the Magi This relief sculpture is careved into a capital in Autun Cathedral. It tells the story of the Three Wise Men being wakened by an angel and pointed in the direction of a star. Gislebertus in a very simple beautiful way shows us the kings asleep together wearing their crowns. One blanket sweeps over the three kings. He shows us the bed at such an angle that we can see all three kings. The angel is gently waking one of the kings by touching his hand and is pointing the way for the kings

The Last Judgement is Gislebertus masterpiece. It is carved into the Tympanum of St Lazare, Autun. ( A Tympanum is the semi-circular space over the doorway). Gislbertus boldly carves his name below Christs feet – Gislebertus Hoc Fecit ( Gislebertus made this).

The large figure of Christ is enthroned in centre with four angels – one either side of his head and one at each foot. On Christs right side are the good souls who will be saved and who are being helped into heaven by St Peter and the angels. On Christs left side – the Archangel Michael weighs each soul to see who is worthy to enter heaven. The devil is there to take the unworthy souls to hell. Below Christs feet the unweighed souls line up in purgatory waiting their turn to be weighed.

The Last Judgement by Gislebertus Detail of the Last Judgement . The Archangel Michael and the Devil weighing the souls. See below the feet of the devil – the hand of God pulls a frightened soul out of Purgatory in order for it to be weighed

In the Last Judgement Gislebertus shows us why he is master of visual story telling. The expressions on the faces and his use of hand gestures conveys strong emotion to us. Gislebertus had a talent for drama and his vision of the Last Judgement must have been truly terrifying to people of the medieval era who gazed upon it.


Map of St. Sernin Basilica, Toulouse

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