I am a lover of old things. I could spend hours at antique and vintage stores; I find such beauty and warmth in antiques that I don’t feel with modern things. I love old architecture for the same reasons, but even more so because I feel a sense of permanence and a connection with the past. I find old cathedrals particularly beautiful, with their impressive architecture, innumerable details, and long history. As a city that flourished in the Middle Ages, Toulouse has many beautiful churches and cathedrals to explore!
Basilica of St. Sernin
One of the most famous churches in Toulouse is St. Sernin, which in fact is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I find the history of this church fascinating, so I’m going to tell it. It is named after the first bishop of Toulouse, Sernin, or Saturnin, sent there by the Pope as a missionary. The pagan population decided to kill him by dragging him through the streets tied to a bull. Two Christian women in the town protected his dead body from pagan profanation by burying it. In the 300’s and 400’s AD, Sernin’s successors built a church on his burial site to house his remains, which today is the site of the Notre Dame du Taur (Our Lady of the Bull) church. As the number of pilgrims to the site grew, another larger church was built at the end of the 4th century. In the 700’s, Charlemagne gifted the larger church with many important relics, leading to an explosion of pilgrimage. The current St Sernin church was built in 1080 to accommodate the further increase in pilgrims.
My mom and I were both amazed at how “tall and thin” the inside of the church was, in comparison to others we’ve seen.
The Church of the Jacobins
The Church of the Jacobins, built in the 1200’s, was the home of the Dominican monks (called “Jacobins” in France) of Toulouse.
It’s a bit plain on the outside, but the inside is certainly breathtaking.
The first thing you see upon entering is one of the arches, which remind me of Moorish designs with their shape and colorful geometric tile patterns. (Well, what used to be colorful tiles, they are faded after hundreds of years and didn’t show up very well in the picture.)
If you are familiar with church history, then you probably know the name Thomas Aquinas. He is considered one of the greatest theologians and thinkers of the Middle Ages and is a saint in the Catholic church. After being kept in St Sernin for centuries, his remains are now in the Jacobin church. He was a Dominican, after all.
We didn’t go into the cloister, but this is what it looks like.
There are so many more beautiful churches in Toulouse to highlight, this will end up being a post of multiple parts!