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.

References:

Comments

Your name



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

Yves Pausch (4 months ago)
Impressive place especially the passage around the altar area impresses enormously. There are many wonderful details to see such as relics. The tomb is accessible. Free access
Tom Holder (4 months ago)
Catholic Basilica in the heart of Toulouse. Free to enter. Has a small crypt area you can access. As an active church it does feel a bit like any other large church, but still worth visiting.
Matthias Fischer (7 months ago)
Extraordinary cathedral with impressive crypt. It should be on every must-visit list for Toulouse. Entrance is free and even at a second visit we saw many new interesting things.
Vanessa McCormack (9 months ago)
Impressive Basilica with some amazing history. Would recommend reading about it before you go, so you know what you are seeing. I liked the fact that it was free to visit even though it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Hina Patidar (10 months ago)
I was just passing by from this place on cycle in evening and man I had to stop for few minutes to feel the beauty of this attractive place what my eyes were looking at. Please please take a walk near this church in evening/night you will be amazed with less crowded beauty ?
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

La Iruela Castle

The castle of La Iruela, small but astonishing, is located on the top of a steep crag in Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park. From the castle, impressive views of the surrounding area and of the town can be enjoyed.

The keep dates from the Christian era. It has a square base and small dimensions and is located at the highest part of the crag.

There are some other enclosures within the tower that create a small alcázar which is difficult to access.

In a lower area of the castle, protected with defensive remains of rammed earth and irregular masonry, is an old Muslim farmstead.

After a recent restoration, an open-air theater has been built on La Iruela castle enclosure. This theater is a tribute to the Greek and Classic Eras and holds various artistic and cultural shows throughout the year.

History

The first traces of human activity in La Iruela area are dated from the Copper Age. An intense occupation continued until the Bronze Age.

Originally, La Iruela (like Cazorla) was a modest farmstead. From the 11th century, a wall and a small fortress were built on the hill to protect the farmers.

Around 1231, don Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, conquered La Iruela and made it part of the Adelantamiento de Cazorla. Over the Muslim fortress, the current fortress was built.

Once the military use of the fortress ended, it was used as cemetery.