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

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Hardik Patel (6 months ago)
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin is a church in Toulouse, France. Belonging to the Roman world, which contained the body of Saint Saturnin or Sernin, the first bishop of Toulouse in c. 250. Must visit place if you travel to Toulouse
Emilie Roberts (7 months ago)
Gorgeous basilica with many gothic touches. It is enormous and bursting with relics (made me recall the descriptions of holy relics in Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad - there were certainly thorns, holy wood, arm bones and more). Some altars have a collection of relics that go well together. As an amateur at religious history, I also noticed some interesting gnostic themes, for example on the dome of the basilica there appears to be representations of the tetramorph (apostles shown as lion, bull, eagle, anglel) with archangles and a distinctly gnostic look. Certainly I could be wrong. You can make out some of these details in the 360 photos I uploaded. Regardless - enormous, beautiful, interesting cathedral. Absolutely a must-see in Toulouse.
Micaela Almeida (10 months ago)
Wonderful church. The history is very interesting. I visited it as part of an audio tour and loved the story about St Sernin sacrifice.
Laura Debello (11 months ago)
Very nice from the outside, simpler from the inside. Beautiful altar
Jinto louis (12 months ago)
Old and beautiful architecture and collections of old things well maintained building
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