Le Canal du Midi, an engineering marvel for the time in which it was constructed (circa 1680-Pierre Paul Riquet, bisects France from the Atlantic Ocean, near Bordeaux, to the Mediterranean Sea, near Beziers. Along the way east, along the Canal, near the middle of the country, you will discover an large city called Toulouse, on the Garrone River (about 60 miles west of Carcossonne). Its name comes from a pre-Roman word of ancient Aquitain that evoques the Garonne's waters and stones. The red brick façades of the houses built in the fifteenth/sixteenth centuries change from a pink hue (Rose) in the morning to a purplish hue at day's end. Toulouse has been the fourth city of the Roman Western Empire, the capital of Visigoth France, the capital of the Languedoc, a center of Catharism (contra Carcassonne).
Landmarks of Toulouse patrimony include the grande Romanesque Basilique of Saint Sernin and the gothic Église of Les Jacobins. L'Hôtel d'Assezat represents the city's sixteenth century merchant architecture. It is the home to the Bemberg Collection of paintings from the Renaissance, an important collection of 17th century works and Post-impressionists such as Sisley, Matisse, Gauguin and Signac.
The current Saint-Sernin basilica arose during the Romanesque Period between AD 1080 and 1120. It sits on the site of a previous, 4th century basilica which contained the body of Saint Saturnin or Sernin. He was the first bishop of Toulouse in AD 250 and martyred by pagan priests. Tradition says that the Church of Notre Dame du Taur (Our Lady of the Bull) was built on the spot of the first tomb of St. Saturnin. The bishop’s relics went to the first St. Sernin’s basilica when it was built.
Despite being called a basilica, Saint-Sernin deviates from the basilica plan of early Christian architecture in a few ways to make it more friendly to pilgrimage (via Tolosana - Saint-Jacques de Compostelle). Please see http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~hart205/Cathedrals/Plan/plan.html -- Plans compared; http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/arch/st_sernin.html -- Many pictures of this and other styles of medieval architecture. St. Sernin, at Toulouse, has no fewer than 17 pentagonal chapels, linked by narrow passages.
Toulouse was the chief town of the native Tectosagi, who at the end of the second century B.C. tried to resist Roman immigration (during the invasion of the Cimbri); but, by the beginning of the empire it had become a prosperous Roman civitas with famous schools in which the three brothers of the Emperor Constantine were pupils. As Roman rule declined, by 413 it was taken by Astulph, the Goth, and in 419 under Wallia it became the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom. In 508, after conquest by Clovis it came under Frankish control. Some legends claim that it was evangelized by Saint Martial, but as far as historical evidence goes, the see seems founded by Saint Saturninus (Sernin) in the middle of the third century. The Passio Sancti Saturnini corroborates this period as that of his incumbency and martyrdom. Saint Papoul was his companion and like him a martyr.
The name of St. Honoratus, given in some lists as St. Saturninus' successor, seems to have crept in through error from the legend of St. Firminus of Amiens and, according to Louis Duchesne, ought to be omitted. Toulouse was the capital of the Duchy of Aquitaine, from 631; it became (in 778) the capital of the County of Toulouse created by Charlemagne, and which by the tenth century was one of the main fiefs of the crown. Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, known as Raymond de Saint Gilles (1042-1105), was one of the leaders of the First Crusade. A list of Bishops is HERE, as well as a brief history.
A veritable gem of the Gothic-style in the south Église of Les Jacobins sat within the former monastery of the Dominicans, a mendicant Catholic order founded to fight the Cathar faith. It houses the relics of St Thomas Aquinas. Its 85-foot-high (28-meter) ribbed roof vaults and the famed and gigantic “palmier” -- one column whose ribs fan out resembling a palm-tree, are highlights. The large Gothic-style cloister retainst its medieval aspects. L'Hôtel d’Assézat dates from the 16th century when it was built by Nicolas Bachelier for M. Pierre d’Assézat. Its architectural design is identical to that of the square courtyard of the Louvre in Paris. The d’Assézat fortune rested on a tinctorial plant, the pastel or woad plant. http://www.promotoulouse.com/english/toulouse_mp/tlse_patrimoine.lasso
Today Toulouse is the capital of MIDI-PYRÉNÉES and of France's ærospace industry, as well as the country's premier place to enjoy a game of Rugby. Many Toulouse Pictures are HERE
Tidbits: Le Pont Neuf (the New Bridge), remains the oldest bridge of Toulouse still in use. In 1305, the Pope Clément V, while passing through, proposed to construct, at his expenses a bridge of stone on the Garonne in return for the camaieux of the treasure of St. Sernin (proffered to the city by Charlemagne). The city magistrates decline the generous offer. The pope leaves, very unhappy, and the bridge is not constructed. In some places about the city, one may view vestiges of the Roman Wall that surrounded the city in its entirety. The column at the left commemorates the Battle of Toulouse that took place on Easter April 10, 1814, between the army of Spain (Soult) and the one led by Wellington. Soult retires to Carcassonne leaving the English to walk into Toulouse. Many pictures of la Cathédrale Saint-Etienne can be found HERE and in the following few pages -- also has many pictures of different merchant houses, too. The cathedral appears unsymetrical from sucessive additions. The Roman part is in the back of the church (navee), while the choir is Gothic. Picture/blog of Toulouse
The Toulouse-Atlanta Sister City Committee was formed to promote friendship and build personal and business relationships between the citizens of Toulouse, France, and Atlanta, after the 1974 designation. Nicknamed la ville rose (the pink city), because of the predominant use of a rose-colored brick in its buildings, Toulouse is the capital of the Midi-Pyrenees, and the space and technology center of Europe. Aerospatiale employs 9,000 workers, and Alcatel, the world's largest builder of satellites, and maker of other electronics operates here. http://www.sprawls.org/ATSCC/ Atlanta's symbol is the mythic phoenix, which is reborn from ashes, a reference to Atlanta' rebirth after its destruction in (1864) during the war between the states. On May 20, 2005, a phœnix memorial arose in Atlanta's sister city. The sculpture topped by a Phœnix, by renowned Atlanta artist David Landis, was chosen to be the legacy gift from the citizens of Atlanta to its Sister City Toulouse, representing the solidarity between the citizens of Atlanta and Toulouse in the aftermath of an explosion that killed and injured so many people on September 21, 2001. http://www.physics.gatech.edu/people/faculty/young/Phoenix.html
The Toulouse Metro system is a VAL (Véhicule Automatique Léger) metro system made up of driverless (automatic) rubber-tired vehicles.