one of the oldest symbols and a great one in the pink city of Toulouse, the visit is free and only 2€ for the crypt treasury
name after the martyr killed in 250AD, who evangelise the city and area. He was carried along the rue du Taur that takes you to the place du Capitole and basilica, being drown by bulls along the way.
It will take a book to write about it and plenty already here, but its a region that I go often so if more info is needed let me know.
Romanesque style and built between about 1.080 and 1.120, this Basilica is the former abbey church of the Abbey of St. Sernin or St. Saturnin.
It's an important site for pilgrims on the Way of Santiago.
This Romanesque church, considered to be the biggest in the western world. Inside this 11th century church, you can discover the capitals and tympanum of the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as visit the crypt which holds a treasure trove of reliquaries including that of Saint Saturnin, the martyred bishop of the city, to whom the building is devoted.
This monument is an essential stage on the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage.
The galleries above the aisles of the nave were completed by the end of the 12C, when the curch was vaulted. By this time the stone carvers had progressed technically (with over 100 years of handed down experience, some having just worked at Vezelay), although most still relied on block corners for depth. The capitals were needed rather quickly and there was no program, hence a variety of figures and foliage.
The crypt has two levels, the lower one with ribbed vaulting is of the 14C. The upper crypt is more Romanesque and contains the most celebrated relics. The lower one is where the saint's tomb once was. The finest relics are in a glass case. One of the most revered is a fragment of the True Cross housed in a very early 12C Limoges enamel reliquary. Other pieces are also very ancient examples of religious art ware, the equal of the finest in any museum.
In the first bay, at the entrance to the North Transept, are Romanesque mural paintings from just after 1100. On the west wall is a series of the Resurrection. At the bottom , the Holy Women find the open grave and an explaining Angel. Above this are two prophets. Stllhigher is a Christ in Glory witha Virgin and John the Baptist at each side. On the vault are the Lamb surrounded by Angels. These and other nearby dry fresco paintings were done just after those in St.-Savin (See Our Tips) in the Poitou. The great sculptor Gislebertus is believed to have done his apprenticeship here at this time and attempts have been made to associate his hand with the paints and the capitals in the nave. We are not qualified to pass judgement on this. At the base of one of the piers, two carved feet stick out. What does this signify?
A visit to the Ambulatory should be the main reason for entering the church today, just as it was for pilgrim’s when it was built. It is best seen in the morning when the light is strongest. The pilgrims came for a “Tour of the Holy Relics”, some of which are still there in chapels and reliquary cabinets. We came to view the sculptural masterpieces fixed into the outer wall of the chancel. At the top of the curve sits a beardless Christ in Majesty. (He is beardless because that was the early custom and besides all the members of the Order were clean-shaven, but he has beautiful long hair). The figure is 3 1/2 ft tall and is in a mandorla surrounded by the symbols of the Evangelists. On either side are similar sized statues of a cherub and an archangel. More laterally are two prophets on one side and two angels on the other. These are 5 1/2 ft high and are deemed to be made a little later. There is a strong resemblance to the style of the bas-relief figures on the piers of the cloister at Moissac and they undoubtedly all are a series of figures produced under the guidance of the head of the group, Bernard Gilduin who also carved the Altar. The intended original use of the Sernin figures is not clear, possibly as a reredos; they seem to have been added to the wall. as inclusions. Starting at the extreme of the arch it is possible to observe the expansion of carving technic on the capitals above as one progresses westward.
The church is very long, tall and wide with two aisles on each side of the nave. The round vaulting of the nave is buttressed above the tall tribune-gallery that rests over the inner aisles. An angled view from the nave reveals a welter of columns. (We could not examine the ancient altar obscured by remodeling). The ambulatory, chapels, chancel and transepts were built in the 11C and the foundations of the church were laid out by then. The works surrounded a double level crypt beneath the chancel. The doming of the crossing and the lower part of the tower were only completed in 1250 as was the rest of the church. The top two levels of the tower waited for another 150 years. The transepts are unusually large with aisles and a 4 bay length. This gave room for a wide single ambulatory and radiating chapels typical of pilgrimage churches. Only the south transept has an active portal (the Counts' Door, see our Tip). There was enough built to make it possible to use and consecrate the church in 1096. This detail provided the nurturing climate for the birth of modern European Art.
The Miegeville Door (Occitan “mieja vila”, center of town, which it faces) is halfway along the nave and was built in the 1110-15 period. At the same time the school of sculptors were working on the Great Tympanum for Moissac, which served as the prototype for all that followed. This panel is a simplified version of the plan, probably in part because it is for a much narrower doorway. The construction is the same: large carved bas-relief panels above and smaller ones below as a lintel, secured and separated by a decorative floral band. Note that the Ascending Christ is bearded (not clean-shaven as he is in the earlier Ambulatory here and that the supporting angels do not use a mandorla). The Apostles below and the Acclaiming Angels above have Archaic hair or headgear, folded garments and hyper extended feet. Since the carving is excellent and the figures show plasticity and movement, this technic may indicate a desire to be “conservative” and does not mean lack of skill. On the jamb edges one of the supporting ends has a David and his Harp. There are figurated capitals on the jamb columns and these are finer than those on the Counts’ Door, being 30 years further on.(illustrated are an Annunciation and Visitation). The cornice has the finest modillions.
The Count’s Portal was let in the end of the South Transept arm and a funeral niche created to its left. It received its name because it opened on a graveyard for primarily the nobility. The double door has pairs of slender columns on each jamb and they all bear figurated capitals which were completed before 1082. Carving capitals was in progress both here and at Moissac where the craft started after 1050 for its cloister. The capitals were created at the bench and then installed as evidenced by the fact that they are worked on all four sides (some of which are hidden from view). There is no tympanum work as yet. The subject of the capitals is the story of the Rich Man (Dives) and the pauper (Lazarus) who dies and goes to Heaven while Dives suffers eternally with his Sins in Hell as illustrated by several figures. This popular iconography was repeated more elaborately 30 years later on the entry porch at Moissac (See our Tips there). In the niche are 3 ancient Paleo-Christian sarcophagi from the graveyard; two were reworked in the 11C for the counts. Next on the wall are two bas-relief pieces of tomb covers of the same period. Along the cornice above the doors are carved heads (modillions) a decoration carried out on other doors and chapel roofs.
In the last half of the 11C, a tight relationship was established between Cluny and the Abbots of St. Sernin and Moissac. They became part of a master plan to expand religious teaching (and enrich the Benedict Order) by educating and sheltering the pilgrims (tourists) on their way to Santiago de Compostela. In the cloister of the Abbey of Moissac, the figurative carving of column capitals had begun. The first sculpture since Roman times. In 1075 a model for a (large) pilgrimage church at Toulouse was developed which would be copied along the route (most notably at Compostela and Conques, and greatly enlarged at Cluny itself). By 1080 much of the stonework was transferred to Toulouse, probably between the church and the Tarn , where some finished works could be barged down to Moissac 60 km away. The church up through the transepts was finished and consecrated by the Pope in 1096 as a basilica-shrine, since it housed the remains of the saint. (St. Sernin was redesignated as a basilica by the Pope in 1878). With the demolition of Cluny the church has become the largest Romanesque church in France. The construction of the nave and West front proceeded slowly with Wars and Crusades limiting funds. The crossing tower of 5 stories was completed in stages over the 13C. No towers were built on the west end and it is minimally decorated with a Rose window that has no tracery and a double door similar to the lateral ones (which will be described in a separate Tip). Above it are 5 arches and all around the fine red brickwork and white stones for which Toulouse is famous.
The St. Sernin Basilica is famous for a variety of reasons – not just because it dominates the northern end of the Rue du Taur, a popular tourist destination for visitors to Toulouse. First of all, the Basilica is the largest Romanesque place of worship in the world. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, the church has a massive circular tower that looks like one of those folding plastic cups. Secondly, the Basilica is famous because it is built on the remains of an earlier basilica, which housed the remains of the first Bishop of Toulouse, St. Sernin, who died in 250. Thirdly, it was from the roof of this Basilica that the stone that killed Simon de Montfort (who led the French armies during the Albigensian Crusade) was thrown. Finally, St. Sernin’s architectural claim to fame is that, although called a Basilica, it does not, in fact, follow the traditional outline of a Basilica, as it has vaulted ceilings, radiating chapels and a special corridor that bypasses the nave and the pews to allow for visiting of the chapels during mass without distracting parishioners. When you enter the church, you are generally struck by the sense of peace and calm that pervades the entire structures. Even with so many tourists going in and out, it is easy to feel that this is a place for reflection and meditation rather than a church built to awe the faithful (after all, it was completed before the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation). The church authorities have also put up various information centres of a type, informing visitors of the significance of the church and St. Sernin, which is quite helpful for you to understand the reasons why the unique and beautiful place are so important in the history of Toulouse.
C'est la plus grande, et probablement la plus belle des églises romanes encore debout dans le monde.
Les fondations de la basilique actuelle furent exécutées vers 844 lorsqu'une abbaye fut établie pour veiller sur les reliques du saint. Les Comtes de Toulouse, les évêques et les personnes appartenant aux grandes familles y furent également ensevelis.
It is the biggest, and probably the most beautiful of the even standing Romance churches in the world.
The foundations of the present basilica were executed toward 844 when an abbey was established to watch over the saint's relics. The Counts of Toulouse, the bishops and people belonging there to the big families were also buried.
We also took a walk to Saint Sernin Cathedral, with its distinctive spire, easily visible in the distance from the city centre and main square.
Building of the cathedral began in the year 1080 to accommodate passing hoards of pilgrims.
Saint Sernin is one of the oldest churches in Toulouse. Construction on the basilica began in 1070 and continued through the 14th century. Not much has been done to the stucture since. Saint Sernin was built in rememberance of the first bishop of Toulouse who became a martyr in 250 AD. The Romans controlled Toulouse at the time and wanted everyone to make public sacrafices to the Roman Gods. When Bishop Saturnin refused, he was tied to the back of a bull and dragged through the streets until death.