Top Historic Sights in Toulouse, France

Explore the historic highlights of Toulouse

Capitole de Toulouse

The Capitole is the heart Toulouse, the town"s hôtel de ville (city hall). The town hall was supposedly located on the spot where St Saturninus was martyred. The bishop was said to have been tied to the legs of a bull, which was driven down the steps of the town"s capitol, causing his head to be dashed open. The Capitouls (governing magistrates) of Toulouse embarked on the construction of the original bui ...
Founded: 1750 | Location: Toulouse, France

Basilica of St. Sernin

The Basilica of St. Sernin is a former abbey church in Toulouse. Apart from the church, none of the abbey buildings remain. The current church is located on the site of a previous basilica of the 4th century which contained the body of Saint Saturnin or Sernin, the first bishop of Toulouse in c. 250. Constructed in the Romanesque style between about 1080 and 1120, with construction continuing thereafter, Saint-Sernin is t ...
Founded: 1080-1120 | Location: Toulouse, France

Musée des Augustins

The Musée des Augustins is a fine arts museum in Toulouse which conserves a collection of sculpture and paintings from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. The paintings are from throughout France, the sculptures representing Occitan culture of the region with a particularly rich assemblage of Romanesque sculpture. The building in which the museum is sited was built in 1309 in the Gothic style and prior to t ...
Founded: 1795 | Location: Toulouse, France

Notre-Dame de la Daurade

Notre-Dame de la Daurade was established in 410 when Emperor Honorius allowed the conversion of Pagan temples to Christianity. The original building of Notre-Dame de la Daurade was a temple dedicated to Apollo. During the 6th century a church was erected, decorated with golden mosaics; the current name derives from the antique name, Deaurata, (Latin aura, gold). It became a Benedictine monastery during the 9th century. Af ...
Founded: 1764 | Location: Toulouse, France

Pont Neuf

The Pont Neuf is a 16th-century bridge in Toulouse across the Garonne river. Original planning for the bridge started in 1542 by the assembly of a committee of master masons and carpenters. Construction started on the foundations in 1544; the first arch was started in 1614. The bridge was finished in 1632, and was inaugurated on 19 October 1659. The bridge is not symmetrical; the longest arch is the third from the right- ...
Founded: 1544-1632 | Location: Toulouse, France

Church of the Jacobins

The Church of the Jacobins is a large brick building whose construction started in 1230, and whose architecture influenced the development of the southern Gothic style. The relics of Thomas Aquinas are housed there. In the two centuries following the dissolution of the Dominican Order at the time of the French Revolution it served various different purposes before undergoing major restoration in the 20th century. In the e ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Toulouse, France

Toulouse Cathedral

The exact date of the original Toulouse Cathedral is unknown; the first mention of a church building on that site is found in a charter of 844. In 1073 the bishop of Toulouse commenced work on a more elaborate structure, followed by additional construction in the 13th century. The irregular west front exists because the cathedral consists of two incomplete churches, the first dating from the early 13th century, which inc ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Toulouse, France

St. Nicolas Church

Saint Nicolas Church is located just outside the old city walls of Toulouse. The Tolosan style octagonal bell tower was rebuilt around 1300, copying those of Saint Sernin and Church of the Jacobins.
Founded: 1300 | Location: Toulouse, France

Georges Labit Museum

The Georges Labit Museum (founded in 1893) is dedicated to artifacts from the Far-Eastern and Egyptian civilizations. The museum was founded by Georges Labit (1862–1899), a passionate amateur who travelled the world in search of ancient art and artifacts. It is housed in a moorish villa erected by Toulousian architect Jules Calbayrac. The complex also contains an exotic garden, a specialist library, and a screening ...
Founded: 1893 | Location: Toulouse, France

Toulouse Roman Amphitheatre

The amphitheatre of Toulouse-Purpan is constructed on a filled structure, unlike those in Arles, Nîmes, and the Colosseum in Rome, where a hollow structure composed of vaults and pillars supports the tiers. The cavea (the rows of seats intended to receive the public) is fifteen meters wide. This area is separated from the arena by a wall and bound at the outside by a high wall covered in brick. The cavea is divided ...
Founded: 40 AD | Location: Toulouse, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.