From Toulouse to the Towering Catharist Fortresses
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From Toulouse to the Towering Catharist Fortresses

The Church of the Dominicans in Toulouse includes the unusual feature of two parallel naves and exemplifies new methods of architecture along with a heavier style, reflecting the influence of master masons from northern France. The last and most famous pillar of the church is "the palm-tree", so nicknamed because it supports alone all the vaults of the apse, whose 22 ribs splay out all around like palm branches. The Cathar towering fortresses cling like eyries high up on the Fenouillèdes and Corbières, the proud, arid flanks of the Pyrenean foothills.

As well as its Romanesque treasures, Toulouse also has in the Church of the Dominicans (Eglise des Jacobins) one of the greatest masterpieces of southern Gothic Art. Built in the 13th century, shortly after Saint-Dominic founded at Toulouse, the Order of the Preaching Friars, the church was sacked after the French Revolution but saved from total destruction by being used as Army barracks. It has now been restored to its original splendour.

The edifice which includes the unusual feature of two parallel naves, was conceived on a grandiose scale to accomodate enormous congregations, the Friars being then engaged in the crusade against the Albigensian heresy. It exemplifies new methods of architecture and a heavier style, reflecting the influence of master masons from northern France who came south in the wake of the conquering forces. Its walls are made of brick, like its vaulting and the seven magnificent columns supporting the vault ribs of the nave on either side. The last and most famous pillar is "the palm-tree", so nicknamed because it supports alone all the vaults of the apse, whose 22 ribs splay out all around like palm branches. Among the other outstanding features of the Church of the Dominicans are its flying buttresses and its pulpit.  

But the only way to really understand the life of the far southwest of France is to leave Toulouse and Carcassonne behind and set off at random through the country villages, stopping now and then to contemplate the towering Catharist fortresses which scatter the landscape. They cling like eyries high up on the Fenouillèdes and Corbières, the proud, arid flanks of the Pyrenean foothills. You should visit Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse, Quéribus and Montségur, where the Albigensians made their desperate last stand in 1244. Unlike the Châteaux of Foix, rebuilt at the end of the Middle Ages, nothing survives of the Cathars today but ruins, but they still bear eloquent witness to Occitania's tumultuous past. At the time of the Saracen invasion they played a valiant defensive role. But above all, they were silent spectators of the final act of a tragedy that took a century to unfold: the destruction of the Occitanian culture. 

The curious "Palm-tree" in the Church of the Dominicans at Toulouse.

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c4/Eglise_des_Jacobins_toulouse.jpg

The Church of the Dominicans as seen from the Garonne River: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/%C3%89glise_des_Jacobins_depuis_la_Garonne_Toulouse_IMG_7323.jpg

Apse of the Church of the Dominicans, Toulouse: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/Couvent_des_Jacobins.jpg

Detail of the vault of the Chapel Saint-Antonin, Church of the Dominicans, Toulouse: 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Jacobins_11.JPG?uselang=fr

Inner courtyard of the Fortress of Puilaurens: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Puilaurens_%2811140%29.JPG

Fortress of Quéribus: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Qu%C3%A9ribus.JPG

Castle of Montségur: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Montsegur3.jpg?uselang=fr

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Comments (1)

Nice work and a Merry Christmas to you too!

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