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 building in 1190, ...
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 room ...
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 into ...
Founded: 40 AD | Location: Toulouse, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.

Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.

When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.

In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.

Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.

Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.

In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.

The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.

Architecture

The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.

In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.

The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.

In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.

The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.

Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.