Hôtels Renaissance Mansions, Toulouse
The Hôtel d'Ulmo is a private mansion that was built from 1526 to 1536 for Jean or Jehan de Ulmo, a magistrate who for a short time was the président à mortier or principal magistrate of the parlement, the highest court in Toulouse.
He can’t have lived in the house for very long, because in 1536 he was accused of corruption, tried, convicted, put in a cart and driven to the Place Saint-Georges where he was pilloried and branded on the forehead with a hot branding iron. He was then sentenced to life imprisonment in the castle of Saint-Malo.
Ulmo must have been the ultimate con-man. Despite the brand on his forehead he was able to win the confidence of the prison governor, who even put him in charge of the prison’s finances. In this capacity he embezzled large sums of money. When he was caught he was sentenced to death by hanging, and the sentence was carried out in 1549.
Second and third photos: In the courtyard of the Hôtel d'Ulmo.
Fourth photo: Our tour group at a nearby building, Palais Niel.
Fifth photo: Our tour group walking in Rue Vélane.
Address: Hôtel d'Ulmo, 15 rue Ninau, 31500 Toulouse
Directions: VélÔToulouse station 2
Aerial view and photo of Hôtel d'Ulmo on monumentum.fr
Next: St. Etienne Cathedral
The rather ordinary-looking plant that Sarah is showing us here is the pastel plant or Isatis tinctoria, which was a source of great wealth in Toulouse and vicinity in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Apparently the soil around Toulouse is ideally suited for the growing of pastel plants. The plants themselves are of little value, but through a long and complicated manufacturing process they can be turned into an indelible blue dye which was exported to England and Flanders, where it was sold for high prices to cloth manufacturers.
Around 1560 the pastel trade started to decline. There were several reasons for this, including mismanagement, bad weather and the wars of religion, but the main reason was the introduction of indigo dye from South America, since indigo was also a blue dye but was cheaper and easier to use than pastel.
Second photo: One of those who became very wealthy through the pastel trade was a Spanish merchant named Jean de Bernuy, who settled in Toulouse and had this elaborate Renaissance house built to show off his wealth and status.
Third photo: The ornamentation on this vaulted ceiling reminds people of artichokes.
Fourth photo: The tower of the Hôtel de Bernuy was one of the tallest in Toulouse at the time.
Fifth photo: The Hôtel de Bernuy now belongs to a school, the College Pierre de Fermat.
Address: 1 Rue Léon Gambetta, 31000 Toulouse
Directions: VélÔToulouse station 11
Aerial view and photo on monumentum.fr
Phone: +33 5 62 15 42 15
Next: Jacobean Church
This striking mansion was just down the street from where I was staying (rue de la Dalbade)
It is known by several different names, the most common being the Hotel de Pierre (pierre meaning "rock"). It is also known as the Hotel Bagis and Hotel Clary, thus named after two of its owners.
The mansion was originally bought by Jean Bagis in 1533. Monsieur Bagis was a counselor of the parliament in Bordeaux. He hired Nicholas Bachelier (1487-1556), who was to become the grand architect of Toulouse. Bachelier was later to be responsible (in whole or in part) for a number of major projects, among which are some of Toulouse's grand sights. Among these are: Portal of the Capitole, Pont Neuf, Hotel Bernuy, Hotel Assezat, St Etienne Cathedral,
In 1608 ownership passes to François Clary, the Speaker of the Parliament. He is the one who ordered the main facade.What you will notice first is the elaborate, ornate facade. This is, in fact, a deliberate element of Bachelier's design, to bring elaborate facades to the mansions he was designing. This was copying elements of Italian Renaissance architecture.
One of the interesting things about this mansion is that it is fundamentally different from most construction in Toulouse, its facade is stone rather than brick, which is what you will see everywhere else in the city.
(work in progress)
Toulouse has plenty of mansions. Most of these were built my merchants and businessmen who got rich off a plant based blue dye starting around the 15th century. Toulouse started to modernize and with the influx of money and trading power it started something of a golden age.
Even if you don't go inside, you can see the ornate facades of some of these mansions. You will see the historic marker outside but these almost never have any indication as to whether the building is open to the public. I did find, however that a lot of times the owners were more than happy to show you around the courtyard and let you take pictures.
Toulouse boasts about 50 handsome hotels particuliers - grand, private mansions mostly dating from the 16th century. Hotel D'assézat built by a rich woad merchant, is one of the finest. It now houses a museum, the Foundation Bemberg, with a collection of paintings, bronzes and objects d'art from the Renaissance to the 20th century assembled and donated to the city by George Bemberg a cosmopolitan Argentinean collector.
In our walks we encountered this “hotel particulier”, the best of its type in Toulouse. Its two wings are the equal from the outside of most chateaux we have seen in the Loire valley. It is the work of Nicolas Bachelier between 1555-7 for a prominent magistrate (a “capitoul") of said name. Its courtyard is separated from the street by a simple decorated gate and brick wall. It is composed of two wings joined by a monumental stairwell which displays the three classical orders. On the right is a portico with a four arched gallery on the other side of the outside wall. In this section of the building there is now an Art Collection from the Bemberg Foundation containing many Bonnard canvases. (Remodelling prevented us from visiting the interior or the gallery when we were there). The building also houses six intellectual societies
The Hôpital de la Grave is a special medical institution, not just because of its size and imposing architecture, but also because of its history. When the hospitals of the city of Toulouse were being amalgamated under the direction of the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques, the Hôpital de la Grave remained outside of this administration. This is because it was meant to specialize in treating victims of the plague, which it did during the Middle Ages right up to the worst outbreak of the plague in the first half of the 17th century. Ironically, most of those sent to the hospital died there – if they were already in advanced stages of the plague, they were finished off thanks to contagion. In the 1650s, the Hôpital de la Grave was used to “quarantine” the poor, mendicants, epileptics and prostitutes, in order to care for them and instruct them in proper moral conduct. The building was taken over by the city after the Revolution and enlarged thanks to the confiscated lands of an adjacent Carmelite convent. Perhaps the most recognizable part of the Hôpital is the Chapelle de Saint-Joseph de la Grave, which can clearly be seen from the other side of the Garonne thanks to its cupola. This structure was begun in the 1750s and not finished until the 1840s. Today, the hospital is no longer reserved for those suffering from the plague or for prostitutes, but I would imagine that its continued use as a centre for medical care would dissuade most tourists from visiting.
The Hotel d’Assézat is, today, the seat of the Bemberg Foundation (a collection of 99 different art works donated to the city by a wealthy Argentine) as well as the headquarters of a variety of different social science organizations. However, the original use of the building was as a home for Pierre d’Assézat, a wealthy citizen of Toulouse, who wanted to build a luxurious residence in French Classical style. The building, which was constructed in the mid-16th century, was originally supposed to be twice as large, but the neighbours held out and wouldn’t sell their properties to Assézat, so the plans had to be scaled back. The building is open to visitors who want to marvel at the stunning interior courtyard, even if you don’t want to go into the Bemberg Foundation collection or visit the various learned societies. It is a great place to stop in at as you wander about the city’s Mediaeval and Renaissance quarters and its marvelous courtyard provides an excellent opportunity to take great pictures.
The Bemberg Collection is housed in the very lovely Hotel d'Assezat, a palatial 16th century residence just off the Rue de Metz, between the Pont Neuf and Place Esquirol.
The collection of paintings includes works by Gauguin, Matisse, Canaletto, Guardi, Cranach, and Bonnard, as well as antique furniture.
Entrance fee, as of late 2004, is 7.35 €
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am to 12. 30pm and 3.30pm - 6pm
Hôtel de Dame Vélane
Dans la première cour, à gauche, se trouve un élégant escalier de bois aux plafonds à caissons dont la rampe en fer forgé est ornée de griffons ; les paliers accueillent des guerriers de métal portant une torche.
Dans la deuxième cour un cadran solaire de 1750, surmonté d'une galerie vitrée, nous rappelle "OMNES VULNERANT ULTIMA NECAT", soit "Toutes les heures blessent, la dernière tue".
In the first court, on the left, be an elegant staircase of wood to the ceilings to caissons whose wrought-iron rail is decorated of griffins; the landings welcome warriors of metal carrying a torchlight.
In the second court a solar dial of 1750, surmounted of a glazed gallery, recalls " us OMNES VULNERANT ULTIMA NECAT ", either " All hours wound, the last kills ".
De nombreuses maisons offrent une façade, remarquable ou austère, sur la rue. Souvent c'est la seule chose que peut voir le touriste non averti. Mais Toulouse cache les plus beaux de ses trésors à l'intérieur de ses cours, bien dissimulés derrière de lourds portails qu'il faut pouvoir ouvrir.
En semaine, beaucoup de ces portes sont ouvertes, pour permettre l'activité commerciale, certaines restent définitivement closes pour l'étranger qui ne connaît pas les précieux sésames pour accéder aux trésors inaccessibles et secrets de la Ville Rose.
Numerous houses offer one facade, remarkable or austere, on the street. Often it is the only thing that the non aware tourist can see. But Toulouse hides the most beautiful of its treasures inside its patios, very hidden behind heavy portals that it is necessary to be able to open.
In week, a lot of these doors are open, to permit the commercial activity, some remain definitely enclosed for the stranger who doesn't know the precious sesames to reach the inaccessible and secret treasures of the Pink City.
The hôtel d'Assezat has belonged to the town of Toulouse for nearly 100 years, and under the terms of the bequest it houses the "Academies et societes savantes", a group of six historic cultural and scientific organisations - one founded as early as 1323.
It was built in the second half of the XVIth century for Pierre Assezat, a prosperous merchant in the pastel trade that flourished at the time. Pierre Assezat came to Toulouse from the town of Espalion in the early XVIth century to join older brothers already involved in the business, and became the heir and successor to the business in 1545. He was married to the daughter of Toulouse's "Capitoul" or town magistrate, who was also officer general to the dowager Queen Eleanor of Austria. Pierre Assezat himself became Capitoul of the town in 1552. From 1551 he began to acquire land suitable for the construction of a great house, and on the 25th March 1555 he agreed a working contract with a master mason, Jean Castagne, and the architect-sculptor Nicolas Bachelier to build a house formed by two perpendicular wings linked by the staircase. When Nicolas Bachelier died in 1557, his son Dominique directed the construction of the entrance porch, the open gallery onto the courtyard, and the splendid "coursiere" - an upper gallery that crowns the blind party wall.