Toulouse Cathedral

Toulouse, France

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 includes the rose window from 1230; and the other begun in about 1272, on a new plan and a different axis, which was later abandoned, although by 1445 a triforium had been added to the choir and a Flamboyant west portal had been inserted. It is off-center because the architect took care to save the baptismal chapel north of the entrance. An oblong tower, composed of a Gothic portion on Romanesque foundations, and capped by a 16th-century gable belfry, completed the west façade. Also in the 15th century the nave and choir vaults were unsymmetrically connected, while in 1609, after a fire, the choir vault was rebuilt. It was not until the 1920s that its north wall was cleared of abutting buildings and a doorway added, similar in style to the west entrance.

The interior is as disconcerting as the exterior because the two sections are not on the same axis and juxtapose two styles of Gothic architecture. A massive round pillar, built at the beginning of the 16th century in an attempt to begin the transept, now stands incongruously between the two parts, lining up with the center of the nave in the west, and with the south pillars of the choir in the east. The vast proportions of the five-bay choir, with ambulatory and radiating chapels, dwarf the older nave. Of the 15 chapels, the oldest date from 1279–86, but the majority were completed during the 14th century. Most of the stained glass is 19th-century, but there is glass from almost every century beginning with the end of the 13th in the Saint Vincent de Paul chapel. This is the oldest stained glass in Toulouse.

The interesting choir stalls whose decoration includes pagan and mythological subjects were carved in walnut in 1610-13 by Pierre Monge of Narbonne. The walnut case of the organ was carved at the same time, rising some 17 meters above the floor. Restored in 1868 by Cavaillé-Coll and in 1976, the organ is often used for concerts.

The beautiful, but worn, tapestries (c. 1609) by Jean du Mazet, and the Baroque retable of the high altar are also of particular note.

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Details

Founded: 13th century
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Nelis Willers (9 months ago)
Beautiful architecture, kept in pristine condition. We happened to enter just as Sunday mass commenced and were pleasantly surprised by the full sound of the organ and stunning acoustics of the building. We were unable to follow the rituals in French, but it did not detract from the richness of the experience. One cannot help to sense some measure of 'holy place'.
Mark Lynch (10 months ago)
Interesting site. Architecturally, the two phases of construction - one Gothic and one Romanesque - are not aligned, making for a curious space to conduct services. The chapels in the apse are in obvious disrepair; if I had to hazard a guess, a flood damaged many of the frescoes. The cloister that once adjoined the church was destroyed during the religious wars in the 1790´s.
Vanessa McCormack (10 months ago)
Another beautiful cathedral. Worth visiting on your walk around the city centre.
Amy Wang (11 months ago)
Beautiful cathedral with lots of character, not a lot of information in the building in English but lovely and lots of detail to look at.
Kathy Nguyen (13 months ago)
It was a very nice cathedral with interesting architecture. I spent more time here than I thought, but not too long (15-20 minutes). I would recommend reading up on the history before hand.
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