After all of the overwhelming amount of activity the past few days, I’d like to have the peace and tranquility of a Medieval church. To continue highlighting the different churches of Toulouse, this post will focus on the most recent church I’ve visited: Notre Dame de la Dalbade.
I’ve wanted to visit this church for a while now since I frequently see it’s 3 turrets when crossing the river.
The church gets its name from the original church which was on the same site but was destroyed by a fire in 1442. The previous church was built with white limestone and was given the name Santa Maria Dealbata (“Dealbata” means white. I’m assuming in Occitan.) When the present church was built in 1480 it was given the French version of the original name: Notre Dame de la Dalbade.
As I stood taking this picture I noticed a curious thing. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Then I thought perhaps the pews were not aligned. But as I examined the church from different angles and studied the floor tiles, I came to a surprising conclusion: this church is not symmetrical. The altar is not centered. Look at the niches on the far side of the altar; the right one appears much wider than the left from this angle, although I am in the center of the church.
In the above picture it appears that I am viewing the altar almost head on, although clearly I am standing at an extreme angle. Do you see what I see?? Or do my eyes deceive me? For some dumb reason I didn’t take a picture of the floor tiles around the altar, but from examining those I assure you the church is asymmetrical.
Anyways, one charming aspect of this church is all the live plants and flowers. The stark white walls of the church could make it seem a bit cold, but the small plants help make the church seem more alive.
I was mostly alone in the church until an older gentleman entered and saw me taking a picture of a stained glass window that I found to be pretty.
He proceeded to tell me an amazing story about the main stained glass window.
In September 2001, a few days after the terrorist attacks in NY, a chemical factory in Toulouse exploded. According to Wikipedia, 2/3 of the city’s windows were destroyed, including the beautiful stained glass window of Notre Dame de la Dalbade. However, the center panes featuring the Virgin Mary survived. Artists and experts worked for 3 years to recreate the window and perfectly match the new window with the few pieces remaining. I think they did a wonderful job; had he not told me the story I never would have noticed.
When I first went into la Dalbade, I was a little disappointed. I found it to be plain and a bit boring compared to the other churches of Toulouse. But now I have a bit of a soft spot for it. Every church is a reflection of all the souls that have worshiped there. And the congregation of la Dalbade is fiercely proud of their miraculous window, and that is all that matters.