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Toulouse
May 3, 2008
Pete's Pics > Toulouse
 
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Close to where we abandoned Heidi and took to the bikes, we came across the dapper little Musee Georges Labit. Although George only lived from 1862 to 1899, in his 37 years he collected art and cultural exhibits from small and vanished Asian nations


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This murky looking creek has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the Canal du Midi, the result of a monumental 17th century engineering project that connected the Atlantic Ocean via the River Garonne through Toulouse and over 600 foot high foot hills. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canal_du_Midi - it is awesome stuff!


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Palais Niel, built in the 1860s for Auguste Niel, the War Minister and a French Marshall. Sadly for him, he conked out in 1869 just one year after moving in


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The Place Saintes Scarbes is a triangular square - go figure - in the St Stephen district of Toulouse. Apparently, it was very noisy here in 1216 during the crusade against the Cathares but it was very peaceful during our visit


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A tenth of a mile of cobblestones later found us in another triangular square, this time the Place Saint Etienne


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At the east end of the square is one of the two Toulouse cathedrals. If the building looks confusing it may be because one church was started in 1230 followed by a second on the same site but on a different axis. The two buildings were repeatedly fiddled with until the 1920 in numerous unsuccessful attempts to work out the kinks


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Inside, the cathedral is just as confusing although the stupendous overall scale draws a gasp from everyone who enters. The massive pillar was built in the 16th century in one attempt to blend the building together. Not a great success, it seems


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Keeping in style with the building, several huge paintings are hung around the walls


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A particularly odd corner of the church offers more visual confusion with the clash of two different gothic styles


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Of the pair, this, the "newer" church, seems to be the one that works. It certainly is an impressive space


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The nave is simply vast. Most of the stained glass is 19th century although sections can be found dating from most of the last 9 centuries


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The heavy and ornate choir stalls were carved in 1610-1613 Pierre Monge, a craftsman from Narbonne, France


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Much of the figuring is centered on mythological and even pagan themes


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Stone carvings around the church are also appropriately lavish and detailed


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The high altar is an incredible piece of work. Along the nave and round the apse there are an astonishing fifteen chapels


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The walnut cased organ, carved at the same time as the choir stalls, lends scale to the church. Rising almost 60 feet, it completely dwarfs the couple standing under it. Last restored in 1976, this magnificent instrument is frequently used for concerts. Incidentally, the older church nave can be seen here on the left - a really strange brew


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Outside, the confused picture doesn't get any clearer. The north facing side of the complex was tidied up in the 1920s but the overall effect wouldn't fool anyone


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The triangular square, which was now hosting a book market, seemed quite normal by comparison


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The entire complex is the former convent and monastery of the Saint Augustine order. Since 1795 it has been a museum centered on Roman sculptures


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Saint Augustins church, now part of the museum, has a turbulent history including involvement in the 1463 fire that destroyed three-quarters of Toulouse. Once housing as many as 200 monks, the order declined rapidly as the Revolution approached


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The entire establishment was renovated between 1950 and 1980. A little galling that France found money to spend on work like this after WWII, while Britain was still fighting bankruptcy from rescuing them from Hitler's tyranny just five years earlier. To the vanquished go the spoils


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A popular mid-town park has been built around the Donjon (dungeon) where unpopular things used to go on. This mother-and-child sculpture makes a comfortable perch for kids of all ages


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Here is the "evil" donjon. One has to wonder what it really looked like before it was all gussied up


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A short bumpy bike ride later, we were in the Place du Capitole with the imposing Hotel de Ville taking up the entire south side. Lots of eateries were busy racking up the Euros on the other three sides and preparations for a concert were underway in front of the Town Hall


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Continuing north we passed the first of three, yes three, Notre Dame churches in Toulouse. This one, facing onto a narrow pedestrian way, is Notre Dame du Taur, Our Lady of the Bull


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Looking back at the church from a little further along the road, it can be seen that the facade is just that, a facade. Unfortunately, the church was locked


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A short bone-jarring ride north brought us to Place Saint Sernin, home of the other Toulouse Cathedral. Saint Sernin, by way of contrast with the unruly mess that is Saint Etienne, is a classical cruciform basilica although it is rather on the large side


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Built (sort of) in 1080-1120 on the site of a 4th century basilica, the church was given some relics by Charlemagne and promptly became a stop on the pilgrim tours. Built on the installment plan, it originally had a three tier tower with two more tiers added in the 14th century and, finally, the spire was built in the 15th century


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With interior dimensions of 380' x 212' x 70' high, this ugly Romanesque edifice was restored in 1860 by Viollet le Duc. It was recently "unrestored" to remove some of 1860 changes and bring it closer to its original form


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Eglise St-Pierre-des-Chartreux, one of two Saint Pierres on adjacent streets, turned out to be a remnant of a vast monastery of the Chartreux friars that is now largely gone. There are two naves to this tiny church, one for the hoi polloi, the other, with a private entrance, for the friars. Different degrees of equal, I suppose


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Indeed there is another Saint Pierre just around the corner. This one, St Pierre des Cuisines, is the oldest church in south-west France and was built on the site of a Gallo-Roman necropolis (graveyard). Restored and classified as a historic monument in 1977, the church no longer "churches" but contains a 400-seat auditorium for song and dance


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The Jacobins Church, in Southern Gothic style, was part of the former monastery of the Dominicans. The relics of St Thomas Aquinas are worshipped in this church


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The river Garonne at the west side of the old town


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Begun in 1544 and finished in 1632, Pont de Pierre is commonly known as Pont Neuf (New Bridge)


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Across the river from the old town lies Saint Nicholas, one of the more historic churches in Toulouse. Named after the saint who protects sailors whilst they are away at sea the church has itself been severely flooded on many occasions. I wonder who the Saint of Sandbags is?


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Certainly the welcome mat is beginning to look a little threadbare


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This large, fortress like church is Notre Dame de Dalbade - the second of three Notre Dames. Rebuilt several times over the centuries, the present structure dates from the 16th century. The church had a 275 foot bell tower and spire until one night in 1926 when they collapsed, crushing an unfortunate baker and his wife


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The tympanum over the main door boasts a 1874 ceramic reproduction by Gaston Virebent of the Coronation of the Virgin


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Inside, the church has clean and simple lines with a wealth of stained glass windows


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A fine organ is mounted over the entry door below the rose window


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The figures here are purported to have survived from the 14th century. The lack of security, casual presentation and uncontrolled lighting indicate that this is not so. I wonder if Mattel know about these dolls


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Across the street beside the church the old town architecture was in all its glory
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