Toulouse

We flew into Marseille airport, so had a three-hour drive west to our first week's stay in Toulouse.

So along the way we stopped at the Aquaduct of Roquefavour. It was built in the mid-nineteenth century to extend a water canal over a river valley. It is 1230 feet long and 272 feet at its highest point, and designed to resemble the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aquaduct in the same region.

We rented an apartment in Toulouse for a week. It was a great place, very funky and filled with artwork.
The best part was the private open air courtyard where we sat each evening to have a drink.

Well, almost every evening. One day it hailed--and they were huge hailstones the size of golf balls!

The apartment was situated in the old part of Toulouse, only a few blocks from the medieval basilica of Saint Sernin.
The church was once one of the great pilgrimage churches of France, built in the eleventh century in the Romanesque style.

The cathedral is dominated by its octagonal tower rising from the center of the church.

The interior is a picture-perfect example of the medieval barrel vault--and is huge at 377 feet long and 68 feet high.

A Renaissance portal leads out from the churchyard to the square beyond.

This square is the site of almost daily markets--sometimes of food, sometimes of books, sometimes of bric-a-brac and junk.

The old town of Toulouse is distinctive because so much of it was built out of red brick.

The old town is full of interesting details--from the Renaissance portal seen below on the left to the modern window below on the right.

One of sights is the Jacobin church or church of Saint Dominic. It was part of the first monastery for the Dominican
order of monks, who were best known in the Middle Ages as the leaders of the Inquisition. The order was founded in
1215 by Saint Dominic to eradicate heresy--especially the Cathar heresy widespread in this part of France at the time.

Saint Dominic thought that heretics could be converted--and Catholics prevented from converting to heresy
--by listening to preaching. So the Dominican churches were designed differently from other churches,
as large open spaces with good acoustics for hearing preachers.

You can see that this church has one row of columns down the center
of the church rather than the more typical two rows on either sides.

Among the saints depicted in this church was Saint Expeditus--patron saint of urgent causes. He is always depicted
as a Roman soldier stepping on a crow. (The crow was the devil who appeared to him and tried
to tempt him to postpone his conversion to Christianity. The noise a crow makes
sounds like the Latin word "cras" that means "tomorrow.")

Another of the sights of old Toulouse is its museum of art--housed in the former medieval monastery of the Augustinians.
At the center of the museum is the cloister of the former monastery.

There is also the former chapel--its tower is seen above on the right, its interior, below left, and a fresco inside the chapel, below right.

The collection of art is varied and fascinating, including these examples of sculpture below from the Middle Ages.

The paintings are also intriguing:
Below is a depiction of medieval Toulouse.

Below is a representation of the torments inflicted on Saint William of Toulouse by demons.

There is a sizeable collection of column capitals from now demolished medieval churches and monasteries.
These are especially interesting for their depiction of scenes of daily life.

Below, scenes from royal banquets.

Below, a peasant boy grabs an animal's tail.

Below, musicians strum a harp and beat a drum.

Below, men row a ship through the waves.

Below, a king shows his interest in a young woman. (This is the biblical story of King Herod and Salome.)

This nineteenth-century painting shows a woman getting a massage at a
public baths (and, as art, offered a legitimate reason for depicting nudity).

This weird nineteenth-century sculpture is entitled "The Nightmare."

Another art museum is housed in the Hotel d'Assezat, the former mansion of a wealthy sixteenth-century architect of Toulouse.

Toulouse also has a small public park that offers a green space and tranquility in the old town.

One of the most curious sights of Toulouse was this street beggar, who had covered himself in a sheet
topped by a wooden deer head to which plastic Christmas tree branches had been added as antlers.
The fellow played Arabic music and clacked the jaws of the deer head open and shut in time to the music.
(It seems to have worked to get attention, as you can see, since this woman is dropping a coin on his mat.)

At night we walked around the old town and enjoyed some delicious meals. This eighteenth-century square is the Place du Capitole.

During the week that we spent in Toulouse, we alternated days spent in the city and days spent driving to sights outside the city.

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