Toulouse City Guide

Would you believe that before becoming France’s aeronautics capital, Toulouse flew back and forth between prosperity and ruins many times in the past? Thank goodness that today, it can afford to look skywards and lavish the freedom it remarkably fought for over and over again. The city’s history is as old as 2000 years, starting with a Celtic tribe that inhabited the Garonne Valley in 300 B.C. Toulouse is strategically located between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. It is no wonder that many invaders wanted it. The Romans took great interest in this city and colonized it in the 2nd century A.D. subsequently making the wine trade prosper a great deal. By the 3rd century A.D., Christianity was introduced to the city by Saint Saturnin, who eventually died when a mob of nonbelievers tied him to the tail of a bull. This is the reason why many of the city’s monuments and buildings were named after him and his martyrdom. Among them are: Saint-Sernin Basilica, Matabiau Station (from “matar bios”, meaning to kill the bull) and, Rue du Taur (from taureau, meaning bull). The city was subjected to the invasions of the barbarians from the 5th century. First were the Vandals who were successfully stopped by the Gallo-Roman soldiers (Gallo-Roman is the term that describes Romanized culture of Gaul or Western Europe). However, after impeding the Vandals, the Visigoths came, who entered from the side of the Black Sea and made the city their empire’s capital. One century past. Occupying then Tolosa, the Visigoths were taken over by another barbaric tribe, the Franks, and they stayed there until the 9th century. During the medieval period, the County of Toulouse made Toulouse its capital headed by Raimond II. This became the time of development of the city. It was initially ruled by the noble people and expanded its walls to the present-day Place Saint-Sernin to the north, Saint-Michel to the south, and to the west by Garonne River. In the 12th century, the nobles were replaced by city consuls or Capitouls. After the Capitouls, a heretical sect, called the Cathars, invaded them. This stirred the founding of the Dominican Order and later, a theological university. It was a good era and Toulouse went through great economic, artistic, and intellectual growth. However, in the 14th century, the city also became a victim of the Hundred Years’ War when famine, fire, and floods devastated the region. The city went through two or three more cycles of ups and downs before reaching the 20th century when it took its significance place under the industry of aeronautics. In 1920, the internationally-known aeronautics company, Aerospatiale, was established here. Since then, aviation industry continued to grow, as well as space exploration and electronics. This brings us to the Toulouse we know now. Toulouse is the fourth largest city of France and it’s right at the foot of the Pyrenees. Flying from the sky, the city is surely an inviting site, looking like a blooming rose with its pale red infrastructures and tree-lined roads down the center. Walking in the streets, the colorful flowers and the aromas of its delicacies will surely lure you to an enjoyable exploration.