Visiting Notre-Dame du Taur, Toulouse, France: 14th-16th century southern Gothic, with a very conspicuous tower
Defined by a narrow street
This ancient ecclesiastical structure in Toulouse, in south-west France, is not the most famous of the city's buildings, but chances are that visitors will have seen its very conspicuous tower. This tower has a carillon of 13 bells.
The building is situated on rue du Taur, which essentially lies between two famous, visitor attractions, the Capitole, with its Square, and the Saint-Sernin Basilica. Rue du Taur is a very narrow street, and from the Capitole area the most visible part of Notre-Dame du Taur is its tower, with the tower also of the Basilica in the background (see the main photo, right).
Dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries, the building is executed in brick — as are many of Toulouse's ancient buildings (1) — and exhibits Southern Gothic style. Thus, at its rue du Taur frontage there are features such as repeated pointed arching and pinnacles. The pointed window theme is also continue along the sides of the building, not so often seen by visitors. Also at its rue du Taur elevation are some interesting geometric patterns, which might otherwise have been more identified either with Mozarabic or Art Deco designs.
The narrowness of rue du Taur seems to accentuate a strongly two-dimensional feeling to the frontage of the building.
The interior of the church includes a large pipe organ by Alexandre Guilmant, dating from 1880.
The narrowness of the street at rue du Taur, and the looming tower of this building, give the visitor the strong impression of being in a part of the South of France which seems hardly to have changed for centuries. (The sheer narrowness of many streets in Europe is one of the less attractive features for North American drivers! having proving to be a source of frustration in traffic. But it has to be conceded that it does add to a sense of history!)(2)
Toulouse is situated in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France.
February 9, 2015
(1) It is interesting that the term 'Red Brick' was sometimes used in Great Britain in the early to mid 20th century to describe in a slightly pejorative way what were then modern buildings, particularly university buildings of recent date. However, especially in the South of France, red brick has been a favoured building material for centuries, and has been used by many heritage structures dating back to the Middle Ages.
(2) So many streets in Europe were of course built long before the advent of the automobile; I myself have had cause to regret the sheer hazards of attempting to negotiate the merely narrow spaces available in some places for the motorist! It might be nostalgic to recall days when horse-drawn and horseback travel was de rigueur in Europe but in many parts of some European towns and cities the urban planning still reflects this former state of affairs; and mundane matters such the way automobile wing mirrors mutual 'threaten' each other are a practical consequence of this! Another hazard is the way that youthful riders of motorized bikes frequently scream along narrow streets past other vehicles attempting to extricate themselves from gridlock! It would be a mistake for the North American visitor to assume that sleepy-looking sedate streets in Europe are inhabited by similarly sedate drivers or bikers!
Some sourcing: Wikipedia.
Cahors (distance: 113 kilometres) has some impressive, Medieval architecture, including the 14th century Valentré bridge and the Cathedral.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), where car rental is available; there are also domestic air services between Paris and Toulouse-Blagnac airport (Aéroport de Toulouse - Blagnac ), where car rental is also available. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services from Paris to Toulouse . (Paris-Toulouse: distance: 677 kilometres.) Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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