Notre Dame du Taur, Toulouse.

Jammed in amongst a street full of shops and other old buildings is a sweet little church that you can easily not notice at all as you walk down Rue du Taur from the Place du Capitole, the main square in the French city of Toulouse, to the Basilica dedicated to St Sernin, the patron saint of the city.  Yet, here was where the remains of St Sernin (or Saturnin) were first interred, only being transferred to the newly built basilica down the street when the crush of pilgrims became too great.

St Sernin was the first bishop of Toulouse, supposedly appointed by St Peter himself in the 1st century AD.  The church is named Notre Dame du Taur (Our Lady of the Bull) because, for refusing to worship pagan idols, St Sernin was allegedly martyred by being tied to a bull and dragged around by a rope until he was dead.  Legend has it that the place where the rope finally broke is where this church is today.

The church was built in the 13th-14th century, and the facade is of characteristically ‘Toulousain’ red brick, but not overly impressive.  And the only way to take any sort of picture of it in that very narrow street is from down a nearby alleyway.

Red brick façade of Notre Dame du Taur, in Toulouse, France.

Red brick façade of Notre Dame du Taur, in Toulouse, France.

Inside, though, it’s a little gem.   Quite short and squat, with side chapels but no transept, nearly all the surfaces, including the vaulting ribs, are quite nicely decorated.

Inside Notre Dame du Taur, looking towards the altar down the short nave.

Inside Notre Dame du Taur, looking towards the altar down the short nave.

The surfaces inside Notre Dame du Taur are quite intricately painted and gilded.

The surfaces inside Notre Dame du Taur are quite intricately painted and gilded.

Many medieval churches were once gilded and decorated like Notre Dame du Taur

Many medieval churches were once gilded and decorated like Notre Dame du Taur

Over the altar is a 19thC tableau depicting the moment the rope broke and St Sernin’s body, and the bull, came to rest.

The painted tableau over the altar showing the martyrdom of St Sernin is from the 19th century

The painted tableau over the altar showing the martyrdom of St Sernin is from the 19th century

There are several stained glass windows with traditional imagery that I also think are rather nice, like this ‘Pieta’, although I suspect that they are a relatively modern addition, from the 19th or perhaps even early 20th century.

This lovely stained glass window of the Pieta is not original, but a much later addition.

This lovely stained glass window of the Pieta is not original, but a much later addition.

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2 Comments

  1. Bari Sparshott

     /  July 21, 2013

    The top third of this facade is Moorish in design, whereas the the bottom thirds are Christian. It occurs to me that the top would be visible from afar, whereas the bottom would be concealed by the surrounding buildings, which would act as a kind of protectionfrom any passing Moslem horde!

    Bari W Sparshott

    Reply
    • It is a rather strange top to the facade, isn’t it? I’m not sure there’ve been too many Moslem hordes passing through there, though.

      Reply

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