Toulouse was integrated into the Roman empire during the 2nd century BC and boasted aqueducts, theatres, therms and a forum. Actually, it was the fourth largest city in the western half of the empire!
Toulouse changed hands quite few times. It became the capital of the Visigothic kingdom, which stretched from the Loire Valley to the Gibraltar Strait, in AD 418; part of the Merovingian kingdom 90 years later (thanks to Clovis I); the chief town of the Carolingian kingdom of Aquitaine after successfully withstanding a Saracens siege in 721; and the seat of the feudal countship of Toulouse after 778.
The early history of the city is marred by the martyrdom of its first Bishop, St Saturnin(us) (or St Sernin).
"[T]o reach the Christian church Saturninus had to pass before the capitol [the Capitole], where there was an altar, and according to the Acts [of Saturninus] were employed as historical sources by the chronicler Gregory of Tours, the pagan priests ascribed the silence of their oracles to the frequent presence of Saturninus. One day they seized him and on his unshakeable refusal to sacrifice to the images, they condemned him to be tied by the feet to a bull which dragged him about the town until the rope broke. (Tellingly, the identical fate was ascribed to his pupil Saint Fermin whose site of martyrdom is at Pamplona.)
The bull, it is said, finished at the place since named Matabiau -- that is, matar ("the killing") and biau or bœuf ("bull"). [...] Two Christian women piously gathered up the remains and buried them in a "deep ditch", that they might not be profaned by the pagans. [...]
The site, said to be "where the bull stopped" is on rue du Taur ("Street of the Bull")." (Source: Wikipedia)
In 403, the site of the Bishop’s grave was used as the building location for Saint-Sernin Basilica.
Toulouse played an important role during the Albigensian Crusade. Raymond VI, its count, was a Catholic and a Cathar sympathizer.
The city was besieged several times. The last assault (1217-1218) saw the death of their leader, Simon IV de Montfort. "Simon stopped to aid his brother Guy, who had been wounded by a crossbow, and was hit on the head by a stone from one of the defenders' siege engines (either the trebuchet or a mangonel), apparently operated by donas e tozas e mulhers (ladies, girls, and women). It killed him. The leadership of the Crusade fell to his son Amaury but the siege was soon lifted." (Source: Wikipedia)
The Dominican order was also established in Toulouse during that time. (Founder Saint Dominic's home was at 7 Place du Parlement, which is less than 200 metres from I used to live. There is a memorial plaque on the building.)
The Inquisition settled in the city in the 1230s, via the Council of Toulouse. Its hunt for heretics contributed to crushing the Cathar movement in the 14th century.
Toulouse had its first university in 1229. Its aim was to teach theology and Aristotelian philosophy, and combat heresy. It is also one of the oldest in Europe.
Jardin Royal, one of the gardens that I mentioned in part 1, is Toulouse's first public park. It was created in 1754 and features exotic plants, diverse species of flowers, and a duck and swan pond.
I spent many Sunday mornings reading there. Visiting this place always brings back good memories!
Detail of the Statue of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in Jardin Royal.
Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) wrote several great books. Among them, The Little Prince, a masterpiece of French literature.
But he is also a pioneer in international postal flight. He worked for Aéropostale in Toulouse for a while, covering routes between France, Spain and North Africa.
Saint-Exupéry disappeared in August 1944, during a reconnaissance mission over occupied France. The wreckage of his plane was found 56 years later in the Mediterranean Sea near Marseille.
The statue, created by Sculptor Madeleine Tézenas, was erected in 2000 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Jardin du Grand Rond (or Boulingrin) was created between 1752 and 1754 and originally used as a boules-playing area.
The garden was then modified, statues added, and alleys constructed. Today, it features a small bandstand where people practice dancing on a regular basis.
Grand-Rond is linked to Jardin des Plantes and Jardin Royal by footbridges.
Walk to the end of the avenue and you will reach one of the entrances to Jardin du Grand Rond. Toulouse's main (WWI) war memorial is behind you.
Every first Sunday of the month, there is an exhibit of classic cars on Allées François Verdier. Antique dealers also gather there during the same weekend.
The Musée des Augustins is one of the oldest museums in the country. The building that houses it dates back to 1309; it was built in the Gothic style.
The museum is famous for its cloister, its convent (opened to the public in August 1795) and its 4,000 sculptures / paintings made between the Middle Ages and the early 20th century. It also has an organ that was built in 1981.
The Jardin Japonais (Japanese Garden) is a wonderful little public park. Created at the beginning of the 1980s, it is perfect for anyone interested in a change of scenery without leaving the city.
Toulouse is a former Roman colony. Its first protective wall was built in the 3rd century A.D., and then reconstructed during the first century CE.