Three Nights in Toulouse
Part of: The Great European Road Trip
Tonight is the last of three nights we've spent in Toulouse, one of the largest cities in France and capital of Europe's aerospace industry. It's actually pretty nice for a big city and we've enjoyed our stay here. It's been consistently sunny and in the upper 80s; a little hot but not nearly as bad as the South was.
Yesterday I had a busy day of photography work here in Toulouse, with David joining me later in the evening. I visited the fantastic Basilica of St. Sernin in both the morning and evening (for light in both directions) and two excellent museums in between. Happily, all three sights allowed unrestricted photography.
The Basilica of St. Sernin was built 1080-1120 to better accommodate all the pilgrims stopping by on their way to Santiago. It is huge, with two side aisle on each side, a tall central tower, and a roomy ambulatory with chapels around the east end. And it has lots of great details to discover, like medieval murals in the north transept, reliquaries in the crypt, and many Romanesque sculptures on the outside.
Lovely east end in the morning
West end in the evening. It looks a little weird because they ran out of money for stone halfway up, and never finished the towers.
Capital with St. Peter and his oversized key
Mural of two women at the empty tomb of Jesus on Easter morning
Ambulatory around the choir (upper level) and crypt (lower level)
Crypt with shrines
The Musee des Augustins, housed in a former monastery, has a huge collection of Romanesque and Gothic art salvaged from churches in Toulouse, some of which were destroyed in the Revolution.
Some of my favorite things in the Musee des Augustins:
The Musee St. Raymond is right next to the main basilica and specializes in antiquities, with an especially big collection of Roman statues and Early Christian tombs. Lucky for me, they were also having a temporary exhibition of very interesting Roman altars from the local Midi-Pyrenees region.
Left to right: museum entrance; Roman altar with swastika, back when it was a good symbol (it still is in East Asia); a Roman altar to sex! (OK, not really, it's dedicated to the sex arborbus or "six trees" of a sacred grove).
Small altars and offerings, in "snow". One thing I liked about the temporary exhibition was the nature background they gave to most of the altars, giving a sense of where these shrines would have been originally located.
This morning we visited another church in Toulouse and checked out the riverfront. The church (the Eglise des Jacobins) made my list for its Gothic vaulting that looks like palm trees and the tomb of medieval theologian St. Thomas Aquinas.
And this afternoon we drove 45 minutes up the freeway to visit the church in Moissac, which is famed for its Romanesque sculpture. The overall experience of church and town didn't come close to Conques, but the sculpture and cloisters definitely lived up to expectations. Photos of these sights will have to wait for the next post.
In other news, did you know that Angelina Jolie moved into a hospital room in Nice, just three days after we left? Humph! The hospital is right on the boardwalk and we walked by it many times, but sadly we narrowly missed the chance to join the paparazzi outside waiting for Brad to visit.
Tomorrow we'll make a lot of progress north, driving 3.5 hours to the town of Saintes. Just one night there for a quick look and rest, then on to Poitiers, where we will stay in a castle!