May 24 - Toulouse
we left Pau and were taken to Toulouse, a large city that is the
center of the aerospace industry in France and that is often called
the Pink City because of its brick architecture. It is the connection
point between the River Garonne, flowing to the Atlantic and the
canal that carried trade to the Mediterranean.
checked in to the Holiday Inn on the Place Wilson and then went
on to lunch in a very pleasant, very busy restaurant on the second
floor of a building with an outdoor balcony. We ate inside and dined
well. Then we had a lecture at the hotel on the architecture of
Toulouse by our local guide Emeline Lair. After that we started
a walking tour of the city with her.
we went to the Capitole. This has been the seat of government in
Toulouse since the 12th C and today houses the city hall, as well
as an opera company and symphony orchestra. The Salle des Illustres
contains 19th century works of art done in pointillist style.
Some of the interior of the Capitole can be traced back to the
16th century, but the current façade, 135 meters long and
built of the characteristic pink brick in Neoclassical style, dates
from 1750, built according to plans by Guillaume Cammas. In 1873,
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc built a bell tower typical of the style
of northern France on top of the donjon of the building. Only the
Henri IV courtyard and gate survive from the original medieval buildings.
It was in this courtyard that the Duke de Montmorency was decapitated
after his rebellion against Cardinal Richelieu.
Place de Capitole is huge, and on Sunday part was devoted to a tennis-like
game that seemed to be associated with handicapped children, as
well as others. Across the Place from the Capitole was an attractive
arcade filled with shops and restaurants. We gawked here a bit and
then moved on, along the rue du Taur, past the Church of Notre Dame
du Taur with its strange facade, toward the Basilica of St. Sernin.
The abbey of St. Sernin was an ancient foundation, but its importance
increased enormously after Charlemagne 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 current building was built to accommodate
these pilgrims. The plan of the abbey church here was also used
in the construction of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
The stone that killed Simon de Montfort in 1218, while he was besieging
Toulouse, was thrown from the roof of St. Sernin's. In 1860, Viollet-le-Duc
restored the church, but his changes are currently being removed
to restore the original appearance.
The Basilica is the largest conserved Romanesque building in
Europe. 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 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 Gilduin.
we moved on to the
13th C gothic Couvent des Jacobins, the first home of the Dominican
order. The exterior is quite striking due to its use of brick. The
interior is noted for the 12th C columns which are similar to palm
trees. Under the very plain altar is a reliquary holding the relics
of St. Thomas Aquinas. There is a beautiful cloister and from there
the chapter house and the chapel of St Antonin.
this time it was 6 PM and we went back to the hotel. Dinner was
at 8 in Le Cave au Cassoulet restaurant. It was, indeed, Cassoulet,
a special regional dish and it was delicious.
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