Basilica Saint Sernin, Toulouse!!!

Looking back I cannot believe not written a post on one of the most important monuments in Toulouse!! It goes saying there is a lot of things to see in my belle France. Right here in lovely pink city of Toulouse, the Basilica of Saint Sernin is awesome to say the least.


It’s time I remedy this oversight and tell you a bit on this wonderful place we love so much. Architecturally ,historically ,and religiously it is all tops.

The Saint-Sernin Basilica is a sanctuary built to house the relics of Saint Saturnin, first bishop of Toulouse, martyred in 250. It became one of the most important pilgrimage centers of the medieval West, it was served since the 9C at the latest and until the French revolution, by a canonical community. Saint-Sernin is one of the largest preserved Romanesque churches in Europe!


Saint Saturnin, then head of the Christian community of Toulouse, was taken to task in 250 by pagan priests in the forum at the foot of the ancient Capitolium (current Place Esquirol). He refused to renounce Christianity and to sacrifice to Jupiter ;a bull; he was then attached to the latter who dragged him through the streets of the city along the cardo and crossed the north door to the present site of the basilica, where the rope broke. Two young girls, the holy Puelles, buried Saint Saturnin on the spot. The bull notably passed by the rue de Claustre, now Rue du Taur, renamed after the animal.


The Basilica St Sernin retains 260 Romanesque capitals and is the symbol of southern Romanesque architecture. Toulouse then received the visit of many pilgrims on the way to Saint-James of Compostela, who came to honor the relics of Saint Saturnin. The Saint-Sernin Basilica is classified as a historic monument by the 1840 list. It is also listed as a UNESCO world heritage site by the ways of Santiago de Compostela in France since 1998.


As said , a brief description. The nave is 115 meters long. It is made up of 5 naves and its main nave is 8 meters wide. The nave presents stands on the side aisles. The height of the semicircular vault is 21 meters. The transept of the basilica extends from the Porte des Comtes to the Chapels of the Sacred Heart and Saint-Exupère, formerly the royal door open to the monastery, to the north of the church. In front of the Porte des Comtes (counts gate) are, on one of the pillars, a carved feet of Saint-Christophe and, on the eastern face of the southern transept, the Chapels of Sainte-Germaine and the Virgin Mary. The Choir of the basilica houses the tomb of Saint-Saturnin: a baroque canopy in which there is a statue to the glory of the Saint, his burial, as well as a representation of his ordeal in a bas-relief of golden lead. This tomb, was made between 1718 and 1759.

Just above the crossing of the transept, where the main altar is located, stands a bell tower 65 meters high and octagonal in shape. It consists of 5 levels. The transept is followed by an ambulatory bedside with radiating chapels. These chapels are the exhibition site for the reliquaries of the abbey. The ambulatory is decorated with seven marble bas-reliefs embedded in the wall, with in the center a Christ framed by a cherub, a seraphim, two apostles and two angels.

The Basilica of Saint-Sernin has preserved the head and body of Saint James the Great since 1354. The reliquary of the Holy Thorn has since 1251 been preserved here , this is a thorn taken from the Holy Crown thanks to the gift of Alphonse de Poitiers, brother of Saint Louis. From 1083, after a brief period of monastic obedience under the authority of the abbots of Cluny and Moissac, the basilica became a collegiate church, that is to say a church held by a college of regular canons led by a provost, then by an abbot. The canonical chapter was suppressed during the French revolution and Saint-Sernin became a simple collegiate church until 1878, when it was consecrated again and received the honorary title of minor basilica by Pope Leo XIII. After the Revolution and with the abandonment of the abbey buildings, it was decided to clear the basilica and make its forecourt and its various doors accessible. This project will be implemented at the beginning of the 19C. From 1804 to 1808, the cloister of the old abbey was dismantled and some capitals were preserved and exhibited at the Musée des Augustins. Then, by expropriation and repurchases, the buildings and edifices are destroyed all around the church under the impulse of the city architect, in order to form an elliptical square. The Saint-Raymond museum, a former college of the same name, originally a hospital run by the abbey, is the only surviving old building in the abbey complex.


The great organs of the Saint-Sernin Basilica, renowned throughout the world, were completed in 1889 by the house of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Inaugurated on April 3, 1889 by Alexandre Guilmant, the instrument has fifty-four stops distributed over three keyboards and a pedal (exactly 3,458 pipes). From 1992 to 1996, it was restored.


The chapels and doors inside the Basilica are numerous but will mention the main ones briefly here: Porte des Comtes, Enfeu des Comtes; Porte Miégeville; Chapel of Saint-Pierre; Sacristy; Chapel of the Crucifix; Chapel of Souls in purgatory; Chapel of the Immaculate Conception; Chapel of Saint-Georges; Chapel of the Holy Spirit; Chapelle Saint-Martial, Saint-Cyr and Sainte-Julitte: Chapelle Saint-Sylve; Chapelle of the Virgin; and Sainte-Germaine Chapel.

It is a huge building and will take at least half a day to see all in details, but worth it. We have done in several trips here and each time come back for somthing new and its great. Come see the Basilica of Saint Sernin in lovely Toulouse.

The tourist office of Toulouse: Tourist office of Toulouse on the Basilica St Sernin

Official Basilica of St Sernin: Official Basilica of Saint Sernin

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


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