Postcard from Toulouse, France: A basilica with great bones

Above: Reliquary in the Basilica of Saint Sernin

Most people reading this headline would assume I’m talking about religious architecture, but those definitely are not the only bones on my mind. This does not mean that the architecture of the Basilica of Saint Sernin is not amazing; it is. So, we’ll just get those bones out of the way first.

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Postcard from Toulouse, France: Brick and timber swaybacks still standing

After the aristocratic, monochromatic ashlar (of large cut-stone masonry) buildings lining the streets of Bordeaux, walking the streets of Toulouse is like a double jolt of espresso. Yes, there are a multitude of stone-faced structures of the same period of affluence as those in Bordeaux, but there is also brick, tons of it. Often brick is laid in striking patterns contrasting the red with stone.

But, for now, I’ve isolated a few of what certainly appear amongst the oldest group of structures in the historic center of Toulouse. Without turning to experts to verify in each of these cases, these half-timbered houses with brick infill probably date to the 16th century. Several are constructed of Roman brick, shorter in height and wider than more “contemporary” brick.

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Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Churches, saints and bones for All Saints and Souls

Above, a carving of Saint Michel slaying the dragon tops the baldaquin in the Basilica dedicated to the Archangel.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Book of Revelation, Chapter 12

This part-time boulevardier does not just spend her time “going cafe to cabaret,” as Joni Mitchell sang, she goes to church. Well, sort of. That part of Mass, communion and particularly confession are all avoided. But I do visit tons of churches, appreciative of their architecture, art, role in history and stories of saints and miracles.

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