If the outside of the church of the Jacobins, except for the bell tower, does not arouse the aesthetic enthusiasm, the inside with its magnificent pillars in the form of palm trees deserves the visit.
The pillar with its 22 nervures which supports the polygonal choir is amazing.
This church contains in its centre, partially hidden under a modern paving stone, the grave of St. Thomas d'Aquin (1225 -1274), Doctor of the Church. This great theologian and philosopher was member of the order of the Dominicans whose head home was the convent of the Jacobins of Toulouse.
Discrete tomb for the greatest thinker of Christianism (he is called the Christian Aristotle) with no signs of devotion as usually met in churches containing the remains of saints.
Piliers en forme de palmier.
Si l'extérieur de l'église des Jacobins, à part le clocher, ne suscite pas l'enthousiasme esthétique, l'intérieur avec ses magnifiques piliers en forme de palmiers mérite la visite.
Le pilier avec ses 22 nervures qui soutient le chœur polygonal étonne et ravit.
Cette église contient en son centre, partiellement caché sous une dalle moderne, le tombeau de St. Thomas d'Aquin, docteur de l'Eglise. Ce grand théologien et philosophe était membre de l'ordre des Frères Prêcheurs c'est-à-dire les Dominicains dont la maison mère était précisément le couvent des Jacobins de Toulouse. C'est ainsi que sa tombe se trouve en ce lieu.
Je n'ai constaté autour de son tombeau aucun signe de dévotion selon la tradition du culte des saints présent dans de si nombreuses églises contenant les restes de saints célèbres.
Pas la moindre bougie allumée en l'honneur du plus grand penseur du Christianisme. Si j'étais étudiant à Toulouse je ne manquerais pourtant pas, avant les examens, d'invoquer à tout hasard l'aide de ce grand intellectuel !
This is not upsidedown! There was a huge mirror at the base of the column so you could easily see the intricate painting detail of the ceiling. This mirror 'trick' which makes it a great space. Around the bottom of the far end column is what appears to be a circle of glass, further inspection shows you something completely different - it's a mirrored surface. as you peer over it's like looking down the side of mountain - you could feel as if you could fall - your mind has to readjust to say it's a mirror. The effect is immense then you start to play - you look at the length and the width using the mirror and thereby creating a great space.
West of du Capitole is the brick-bult Gothic church of the Jacobins (1260-1292), with a cloister of 1307.
This extraordinary Gothic structure, flooded by day in multicoloured lgh from the huge stained windows, seems to defy gravity.
A single row of seven 22m- high columns, running smack down the middle of the nave, look for all the world like palm trees as they spread their fanned vaulting.
The chapel was built off the cloister between the Chapter House and the Refectory between 1337-41 by a donation of a powerful Friar who became the fourth Bishop of Palmiers. It became the mortuary chapel for the Brethren and select others. The walls and ceiling are covered with colorful murals depicting the Second Apocalyptic Vision with Christ surrounded by the Evangelistic symbols and most of the Elders holding musical instruments. The walls supplement this with surprisingly beautiful Angels playing a variety of instruments plus scenes from the Martyrdom of the Saint, which are hard to decipher even if you know his story, because of the degradation of the work in the 19C when the chapel was the veterinary infirmary of the military stables that the cloister had become. The artists are not known.
The Refecetory sits at the Northeast edge of the cloister . It was completed for Christmas 1303. Outside of it are fragments of an ancient wash basin The inside is large and the wooden beams and vaulting have been painted to simulate brick and stone. It makes a fine recital hall and was so used just before our visit in the annual Piano Festival.
The Cloister was built from 1307-10. It has slender double columns of marble with grotesque capitals. They are better carved and more fanciful than the earlier ones seen at other sites in town. Only the North and West Galleries are original. The other two have been rebuilt after 1960 with found or equivalent pieces. There are unrerestored washing basin fragments, but a restored central fountain base. The cloister lies to the North of the church and the other conventual buildings open off it.
The Chapter House is on the East side of the Cloister and wass built between 1299-1301. It is a cross-vaulted structure with its arches between two slender hexagonaal columns creating three bays which presnt themselves into the cloister as a central portal and two windows that have lost their interior glass and tracery.On its east wall is a small chapel which on our visit held a grand piano used in an earlier recital that was part of the annual September Piano Festival. High on the walls are remnants of ancient wall paintings of religious emblems. The floor has been restored with terra cotta tiles that copy the original ones and some old gravestones have also been inserted there.
On entering the church which has two naves with a roof supporting central row of seven tall columns, one is reminded of how eagerly the people of Toulouse responded to the new 13C light and spaciousness in their churches which matched the brilliant sunlight of their town. This church outdid the others in stages over the century (but the inspired architect is unknown). The pal tree like column and rib work has been widely imitated down to small Gothic chapels (like that much later in the Cluny in Paris). So magnificent is it that the Avignon Pope Urban V decided that the body of the greatest Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, be transferred to rest here (even though Thomas had never visited Toulouse during his lifetime). He has remained in the church under the Altar slab ever since (except for a brief 100 year removal). The only 14C glass in the church is a rather abstract set in the two West Rose windows. The rest of the glass is by Max Ingrand (1958), one of our favorite glass designers, who has followed the chromatic abstract concept of the older glass.
The Dominican Order was founded in 1215 by said saint and the first monastery of the Order was started in Toulouse the next year. A gift of land led to the building of the church and monastery complex in 1229. With limited funds, it was built almost entirely of brick except for added decorations along the way of small columns, gargoyles and tower toppings. The monastery buildings were added just after 1300. The only door is Romanesque in style and is on the West front where there is a small Rose Window. The impressive belfry is an imitation of that of St.-Sernin and was built and finished at the same time in 1298. Its steeple was dismantled during the Revolution. Its appearance is attractive, forceful but also restful. Its interior is a marvelous example of Rayonnant Gothic.
The Ensemble conventuel des Jacobins (the Jacobin’s convent collection, essentially) is a massive Gothic building in the maze of streets that occupy the area south-west of the Place du Capitole. It was constructed in the 13th century and actually incorporates three separate structures: a church, a cloister and a convent. The huge size of the building owes to the fact that it was supposed to aid the preaching order of the Jacobins to combat the Cathar heresy, and also because this site housed the University of Toulouse when it was first founded in 1229. The church housed the relics of Saint Thomas of Aquinas until the 1780s, when these were moved to Saint Sernin (the church north of the Place du Capitole), but they were return in the 1970s to mark the 700th anniversary of the Saint’s death. Like many religious sites, it was closed and handed over to the city after the French Revolution, but eventually regained its status as a religious institution. The sheer size of the building is awe-inspiring, especially once you enter it. Nevertheless, the real attraction in the church is the Jacobins’ Palm-tree, a column and balustrades inside the church that rise up 28 meters. The curators have been thoughtful enough to place mirrors at knee’s length below so that you can properly admire them without hurting your neck. There is also a very interesting bell-tower, not dissimilar from the one that is attached to Saint-Sernin, although without the same sort of historical importance.
Mandatory thing to do here in Toulouse....
...a little bit from the official web page:
"L'Ensemble Conventuel des Jacobins de Toulouse, ancien couvent des Frères Prêcheurs, est un magnifique exemple de construction monastique des XIIIe et XIVe siècles, entièrement réalisé en briques, véritable joyau de l'art gothique languedocien.
L'église est un monument exceptionnel empreint d'une profonde harmonie qui, en réalité, n'est qu'apparence. Cette très forte impression d'unité dissimule, de fait, une construction compliquée, réalisée en étapes successives qui répondaient à des besoins sans cesse renouvelés de l'Ordre des Frères Prêcheurs alors en pleine expansion.
Le contraste est spectaculaire entre l'aspect massif, voire austère, de l'extérieur et l'extraordinaire légèreté de l'architecture intérieure : une double nef est séparée par des colonnes de vingt-deux mètres de haut, d'où jaillissent, portées à vingt-huit mètres, des voûtes d'ogives qui se terminent par le rayonnement des nervures du gigantesque et célèbre palmier."
This church was built from the 1200s through the 1400s, and was used as a convent for Dominicans to help combat religious dissent in the region. The bell tower has no spire, which apparently is much imitated in the region. The vaulted ceilings are in the palm style, as can be seen in the photo.
This church was the ancient convent of the Dominicans until 1791. It is described in the Toulouse visitors guide as the 'chef d'oeuvre du gothique languedocien'. Here again we see an incredible edifice built almost entirely of brick. Come to the Jacobins for the architecture and for the serenity but also to pay your respects to St. Thomas Aquinas whose relics were returned here on the 700'th aniversay of his death.
Read about the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1255) and you'll understand why the attempts of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) to bring people to the faith through reason were so revolutionary and so necessary. This period is incredibly fascinating and marks the transition from the dark ages to the pre-Renaissance. Although Aquinas never(?) lived in Toulouse, he and Toulouse were both pivotal in this transition.
The conventual whole of the Dominican friars owes its name to the Dominicans who possessed a convent, in Paris, Street St.-Jacques.
In 1229, a rich merchant, Pons Capdenier, bequeaths the site to the order of the preachy brothers, created by Dominique Guzman.
The first stone, of the first convent and the first church, is put December 24, 1230. Raymond of Falgar, bishop of Toulouse, there famous, August 5, 1234, the canonization of St.-Dominique.
It is only toward the end of the XIII or in the beginning of the XIV century that the whole knows its present aspect.
The misfortunes of the Dominican friars begin in 1234, when the pope Gregoire IX, name Inquisitor, Pons of Saint-Gilles, prior of the convent, and four of his brothers. They will light the first stake of the inquisition the same year.
In 1812, following the suppression, in 1790, of the religious communities, and to the military requisitions, the enclosure of the Dominican friars is transformed in district of artillery.
The magnificent stained glass windows and the way the light through them plays on the columns, which appear to hold up the sky. And light is the key.