Toulouse, France is home to the Saint Sernin Basilica, which is among the grandest, largest and most fabulous in the Western World. Its magnificent splendor never fails to draw "oohs and aahs" from those who are blessed to visit it. Saint Sernin Basilica's sheer size and utter architectural beauty are qualities that have that irresistible ability to draw people into itself. You cannot simply resist coming in for a visit.
Some parts, such as the choir, was built as early as the late 11th century. However, the basilica itself was completed during the 13th century. Sadly, it fell into ruins until Viollet-le-Duc had it restored during the 19th century. But these "renovations" are also undergoing renovations at the moment, as the desire is to restore the basilica to its original appearance.
The Saint Sernin Basilica was built in honor of Saturnin, who is the city's first bishop. In fact, the basilica was constructed on the very site where the revered St. Saturnin (also called Sernin) was buried. It harks back to the 11th century and is an imposing brick structure with rows of Roman arches, an octagonal bell-tower, three-aisled transepts and a five-aisled nave.
The basilica is different from other basilicas of its time. Whereas most basilicas are made of stone, St. Sernin is made mostly of brick. It also features a cross-shaped structure, with vaulted ceilings. There is also a walkway that encircles the side aisles and the nave. There are also a number of chapels that surround the main area.
What's more, the basilica features a very impressive tower which has six stories that soon became the model for such structures in Gaston and Languedoc. Enter through its grand doorways, the grandest of which is in the south aisle, namely the Porte Ridgeville. This area features Romanesque sculpture of the Apostle, King David and the scene of the Ascension.
Another fascinating portal is the Porte des Comets, which has capitals that show the torments of the damned, as well as the scene involving Lazarus and the rich man. To the left of the portal, you will find sarcophagi of the different counts of Toulouse.
Inside the basilica, you are literally imbibed with feelings of peace and harmony. How can you not feel serene in such magnificent surroundings? Feast your eyes on the magnificent choir which is surrounded by nine chapels. The adornments are predominantly Baroque in inspiration. There is a scene depicting the martyrdom of St. Sernin. Also, you will find a high marble altar right above St. Sermon's crypt.
Charlemagne gave the basilica some of its major relics. These relics are mainly kept inside the crypt. It is said that there are relics of some 128 saints housed in the crypts, this includes a thorn that used to belong to the "Crown of Thorns" Jesus wore during his crucifixion. There is also a magnificent 1888 Cavaille-Coll organ, which is considered as one of France's most important organs. Be sure to view the bas-reliefs, especially the ones that depict Christ in His Majesty, a grand work that harks back to the 11th century.
The Basilica is a very important stage in the pilgrimage known as the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. It is also undoubtedly one of the finest pilgrimages churches. The Basilica of Saint Sernin is equally majestic, imposing and an unforgettable sight.
You may visit the basilica everyday although sightseeing is not allowed during masses held on Sunday mornings.
Saint Sernin Basilica
Toulouse, Midi Pyrenees, France
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