Toulouse’s Roman Past

Ok I’ve been very Paris-centric lately and although I still have hundreds of pictures to show from Paris, I’d like to return to posting about Toulouse. Today I visited Museum Saint Raymond, which covers the history of Toulouse. Or more accurately the history of Tolosa, Toulouse’s name before it was French.

The museum courtyard

The museum courtyard

During the Roman conquest of Southern France, Tolosa, which already existed, became an important military outpost, and under Roman rule a burgeoning center of trade.

The first floor of the museum is dedicated to the wonderfully intact remains of Chiragan, a town south of Toulouse filled with lavish Roman villas.

The goddess Minerva is on the top left. She was Athena to the Greeks.

The goddess Minerva is on the top left. She was Athena to the Greeks.

Scenes from Hercules

More Hercules. Apparently he did all his heroic deeds naked – so not in the Disney movie…

These sculptures are from the first century AD, so it’s truly remarkable how intact they are.

There was a long display of busts or heads of statues from the town. Almost all of them were missing their noses. I don’t know if this is because the nose is the most fragile part of a marble face, or if defacing noses (or should I say denosing faces) used to be a thing.

Even without a nose this military figure still commands respect.

Even without a nose this military figure still commands respect.

The second floor of the museum (or 3rd floor for us Americans. I will never get used to that.) is dedicated to Roman Tolosa itself.

This map is from the museum and shows the Roman cities and roads (green lines) of the era. I circled Toulouse in red and Chiragan in blue. The purple circles, Carcassonne and Albi, are cities I’ve visited that were around in Roman times. As you can see, all roads led to Tolosa.

These urns were used to bring spices, oils, etc from around the Roman Empire to Toulouse. It really shows how much of a trade center Toulouse was.

These urns were used to bring spices, oils, etc from around the Roman Empire to Toulouse. It really shows how much of a trade center Toulouse was.

This was my favorite floor since each piece came from Toulouse and the plaques mentioned where each piece was found, usually a place I knew.

For example, the above altar and statue of Venus were found in the Cathedrale Saint Etienne. The foot piece below was found in Place Saint Etienne, the main plaza in front of the Cathedral and one of my favorite parts of Toulouse. It was found in 1987. That is NOT that long ago!

Preserved mosaic

Preserved mosaic

Last, we went underground to visit the Necropolis. The museum is right next door to the Saint Sernin Basilica, so needless to say, over the centuries a lot of dead bodies have accumulated in the area. I don’t know of a better way to say that. So yeah. But even so, it wasn’t until 1994-95 that the area directly under the museum was excavated and not only were 95 more burial sites found but also a limestone quarry.

Quarry. Literally under the museum. How convenient.

Quarry remains. Under the museum. How convenient.

Roman headstones from in and around Toulouse

Roman headstones from in and around Toulouse

After the headstones are coffins. The coffins are interesting because they have Christian imagery  This was the beginning of the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and in France.

Jesus multiplies the bread for 10,000

Jesus multiplies the bread for 10,000, a popular theme I noticed

The Apostles

The Apostles

The Museum was very well done because it was specifically about one thing: Toulouse’ Roman history, thus it could be very in depth and tell a complete story. I am happy to report that I left with a better understanding of Toulouse then when I entered. Mission accomplished.

The museum and the bell tower of St Sernin

The museum and the bell tower of St Sernin

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About emilytoulouse

In love with all things travel and culture.
This entry was posted in Around Toulouse and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Toulouse’s Roman Past

  1. jeffswebb says:

    amazing… you tell it all so well.

  2. Robin Wong says:

    Hi Emily, Love all the great pictures. I have a novel I’m saving for you on Cathedral building in the middle ages.

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