March 27, 2012

0159 FRANCE (Occitania) - Basilica Saint-Sernin in Toulouse (UNESCO WHS)

0159 Toulouse - Basilica Saint-Sernin

Per Tolosa totjorn mai (For Toulouse, always more). This is the motto of the capital of the former province of Languedoc, located on the banks of the River Garonne, which is part of Canal des Deux Mers. Settlement of the Aquitani, over which came first the Iberians, then the Volcae Tectosages tribe, followed in the next centuries by the Romans, the Cimbri, the Visigoths and finally the Franks, Toulouse became in the early Middle Ages the capital of the county with the same name, annexed by Kingdom of France in 1271.

In 1998, 78 structures from France were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, under the name Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France (part of the Way of Saint James), about which I wrote here. Among these are two objectives from Toulouse: Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques and Basilica Saint-Sernin. Built in the Romanesque style between about 1080 and 1120, it 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.

Its importance increased enormously after that Charlemagne (r. 768-800) donated a quantity of relics to it, as a result of which it became an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, and a pilgrimage location in its own right. The plan of the abbey church was used in the construction of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. In 1860, Viollet-le-Duc restored the church, but his changes are currently being removed to restore the original appearance.

Apart from the church, the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe, if not the world, none of the abbey buildings remain. The bell tower, divided into five tiers, of which the lower three date from the 12th century and the upper two from the 14th century, is the most visible feature. 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.

As well as Saint Saturnin (one of the Apostles to the Gauls, martyred in c. 257 AD), Saint Honoratus (Archbishop of Arles, died in 429 AD) 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 Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris and the Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, is considered to be one of the most important organs in France.

About the stamp, blue Marianne et l'Europe, I wrote here.

Basilica of St. Sernin, Toulouse - Wikipedia

Sender: Sheila (direct swap)
Sent from Toulouse (Midi-Pyrénées / France), on 12.12.2011
Photo: Alain Baschents

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