Known as the "pink city" because of the colour of the terracotta brick found on the facades of most of its buildings, Toulouse is also known as the "city of violets". But it could also be called the city of pastels, host to countless private mansions... To run in Toulouse is to discover a city brimming with a rich and tumultuous past, the former capital of vanished kingdoms and one of the most beautiful cities in France.
"I will never forget Toulouse, which nourished me, and which is surrounded by an immense brick wall, while on its side flows the beautiful Garonne..."
So spoke Ausonius in his Ordo urbium nobilium. This 4th century Latin poet was already living in a majestic Toulouse, which would soon become, less than a century later, the capital of the Visigothic kingdom. Successively one of the capitals of the kingdom of Aquitaine, of the county of Toulouse and of Languedoc, the "pink city" overflows with history at every turn of the road.
An impressive religious architectural heritage
Toulouse's heritage of Catholic buildings is exceptional in its diversity when you consider the size of the city. During your walk in Toulouse, you will certainly discover the Saint-Sernin basilica, the Saint-Etienne cathedral and the Jacobins convent. These three emblematic monuments of Toulouse surround the Capitol, in the heart of the city.
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin is a southern Romanesque church, built around the 11th century and classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indeed, Saint-Sernin is the largest Romanesque church in France, if not in Europe. It is also reputed to be one of the most beautiful. It is also the church with the most relics in France, with nearly two hundred of them, including those of six apostles. As such, it is a major place of pilgrimage - and a must-see on your visit to Toulouse!
Not far away, the cathedral of Saint Stephen will surprise you with its special appearance. This is due to the succession of different architectural styles according to the political variations in the 13th century. Indeed, this was the time when Toulouse lost its independence and was reintegrated into the kingdom of France.
Finally, complete this triptych with the Jacobin convent. This one, hardly more recent, is entirely made of brick, in the purest Languedoc gothic style. Pope Urban V considered it to be the most beautiful Dominican church in Europe at the time. For this reason, in the 14th century he had the bones of Thomas Aquinas, the famous Dominican philosopher and theologian, transferred there.
Toulouse also has religious monuments of other faiths, such as the Protestant temples in Place du Salin and Rue Pargaminières. During your run in Toulouse, you may discover its two Orthodox churches, or its multiple mosques! For example, the Grand Mosque of Toulouse, inaugurated in 2018, is a jewel of modern architecture, with an impressive dome.
As you run through Toulouse, you will also come across the Palaprat synagogue, the oldest in the city, a simple but historic building dating from the mid-19th century. It was the centre of Jewish resistance in the Midi-Toulousain.
"Pastelliers" and "capitouls"
As far as civil buildings are concerned, Toulouse is not to be outdone either. It is the French city with the most Renaissance townhouses. Indeed, Toulouse has always been one of the main cities in France. As a centre of power and de facto a place of commerce, its elites have built many mansions over the years. Capitouls - Toulouse's notables - nobles of the cloth and above all the great pastel merchants.
Indeed, the Lauragais region, a triangle between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne, flourished during the Renaissance thanks to the trade in "Isatis tinctoria", the woad herb - also sometimes called the Lauragais herb. It was used to obtain a blue dye that was highly prized over the centuries, before being replaced by the indigo tree. In the 16th century, at the height of the pastel trade, Toulouse experienced a remarkable boom. However, the dynamic of luxurious urbanisation around these mansions lasted until the 19th century. During your tour of Toulouse, you will be able to admire one of the 200 private mansions that make up the charm of the pink city at almost every street corner.
For museum lovers, there are several museums in Toulouse that are not to be missed. In this capital of aeronautics and aerospace, you will inevitably find major technical museums. The Airbus sites are open to visitors, as are Aeroscopia and the Cité de l'Espace. You can also enjoy one of the many historical museums, such as the Musée Saint-Raymond. Located in the former Saint-Raymond university college, dating from the 16th century, it is the archaeological museum of Toulouse. Finally, the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain des Abattoirs, created in 2000, will allow you to travel, through its modern and contemporary collections, into the imagination of artists from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Finally, it is impossible to visit Toulouse without admiring the Capitol. This is a complex that includes the city hall, the opera house and the square of the same name. Behind the Capitole, in the Square Charles de Gaulle, you will see the Capitole dungeon, which houses the tourist office.
This may be an opportunity to find out more about this beautiful city... Or you can simply start Runnin'City and let yourself be guided through the history of the Languedoc capital.
Run with Runnin'City from the Capitol to the Arènes !