Basilica of St. Sernin

Toulouse, France

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 the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. The church is particularly noted for the quality and quantity of its Romanesque sculpture. In 1998 the basilica was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site (part of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France).

On the exterior, the bell tower, standing directly over the transept crossing, is the most visible feature. It is divided into five tiers, of which the lower three, with Romanesque arches, date from the 12th century and the upper two from the 14th century. The spire was added in the 15th century. The bell tower is slightly inclined towards the west direction, which is why from certain standpoints the bell tower roof, whose axis is perpendicular to the ground, appears to be inclined to the tower itself.

The chevet is the oldest part of the building, constructed in the 11th century, and consists of nine chapels, five opening from the apse and four in the transepts.

The exterior is additionally known for two doorways, the Porte des Comtes and the Porte des Miégeville. Above the Porte des Comtes is a depiction of Lazarus and Dives. Dives in hell can be seen above the central column. The doorway gets its name from a nearby alcove in which the remains of four Counts of Toulouse are kept. The Porte des Miégeville is known for its elaborate sculpture above the entrance.

The interior of the basilica measures 115 x 64 x 21 meters, making it vast for a Romanesque church. The central nave is barrel vaulted; the four aisles have rib vaults and are supported by buttresses. Directly under the tower and the transept is a marble altar, consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096 and designed by Bernard Gelduin.

As well as Saint Saturnin, Saint Honoratus is also buried here. The crypt contains the relics of many other saints.

The basilica also contains a large three-manual Cavaillé-Coll organ built in 1888. Together with the Cavaillé-Coll instruments at Saint-Sulpice in Paris and the Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, it is considered to be one of the most important organs in France.

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Details

Founded: 1080-1120
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Scott Stephens (26 days ago)
Toulouse has many amazing cathedrals and this one is one of them. Beautiful stained glass!! Also they have a relic of Jesus Christ. A thorn from his crown on the day he was crucified.
Feisty Grandma (3 months ago)
What a beautiful cathedral! We had the blessing of attending Mass here. The Men’s choir was superb! The stained glass inside the chapel was glorious and the exterior beautiful. The church bells, sublime!
Earl White (3 months ago)
A beautiful church where the most beautiful part cannot be easily seen. Perhaps there are ways to see the beauty of the nave(?) via a private tour but the public is excluded. There are good signs showing a path through the church. A quiet place to draw near to God, our creator, our fortress, and our Savior.
Olga Smulyanskaya (3 months ago)
One of a kind! Absolutely must to be visited if you are in Toulouse. Unique architecture. There you can easily spend a lot of time, enjoying interior of this cathedral. Stunning frescoes. Next time will for sure visit it again :)
Andy Reynolds (12 months ago)
A world heritage site and wonderful church in the centre of Toulouse. The area around the church has gradually been improved so that it is now a lovely place to sit or stroll. The church itself is magical. Don’t miss the relics under the choir which can be visited for free
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