The Capitol on the magnificent Place du Capitole in the centre of Toulouse is one of the most famous buildings in the pink city. Behind its impressive façade, it houses not only the city government but also unimaginable art treasures.
"Le Capitole" is one of the reasons why Toulouse is also called the "pink city". As early as the Middle Ages, life in Toulouse took place on the Place du Capitole. To this day, the grandiose square, dominated by the equally grandiose Capitole, is the scene of numerous events and gatherings.
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PICTURES: Capitol in Toulouse
Photo gallery: Capitol in Toulouse
Construction of the Capitol in Toulouse
As the official seat of the city government, a predecessor of today's Capitol was built as early as 1190. At that time, Toulouse was an up-and-coming city whose prosperity and influence were increasingly growing.
Today's façade of red brick, pink marble and white limestone - 135 metres of the finest neoclassicism - dates from 1750 and still dominates the Place du Capitole, now around 2 hectares in size.
At the back of the Capitol is a fortified bell tower, built in 1873 by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, which today offers a fantastic panoramic view over Toulouse. Formerly used as a dungeon, it also houses Toulouse's tourist information office.
Symbolism at the Place de Capitole
The French, European and Occitan flags fly above the entrance to the Capitol. The latter, like the huge Occitan cross at the bottom of the square, is a tribute to the historical culture and language Langue d'Oc.
The walls and wrought-iron balconies of the Capitol are also covered with numerous figures, coats of arms and symbols:
- The eight marble columns above the portal represent the eight city councillors of Toulouse.
- Two angels hold the city's coat of arms on the central gable.
- On the right, allegories of comedy and tragedy point to the Toulouse Opera.
- On the left, Clémence Isaure, the legendary founder of the Academy of Floral Games of Toulouse, and the Greek goddess Athena are enthroned.
Places of interest in the Toulouse Capitol
Toulouse City Hall is not only breathtaking from the outside. The magnificent interior has also made many a visitor hold their breath in amazement. Almost every square metre of walls and ceilings is decorated with gilded carvings and elaborate paintings from the 19th century.
Some of the building parts, such as the Henri IV courtyard and gate, date back to the 16th century. This courtyard made bloody history when Henri II de Montmorency, the governor of Languedoc and the last duke of his bloodline, was beheaded as punishment for his rebellion against Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII. A memorial plaque commemorates this tragic event today.
Art in the stairwell
In the stairwell, visitors are greeted by Jean-Paul Laurens' colourful artwork "Jeux floraux de Toulouse". Clémence Isaure, already immortalised as a statue on the gable of the Capitol, appears here again, right next to the ceiling painting "Triumph of Clémence Isaure".
Art in the State Rooms
The Gervais Hall is also particularly worth seeing, with its paintings of 20-, 40- and 60-year love, and is often used as a wedding hall.
Equally popular for weddings is the incredibly decorative Salle des Illustres, which features works by Jean-Paul Laurens, Benjamin Constant, Jean-Andre Rixens, Paul J. Gervais, Edouard Debat-Ponsan, Henri Paul Pujol Rachou and Henri Martin.
Speaking of Henri Martin, the Salle Henri Martin has its own room dedicated to the French Impressionist, where 10 of his works can be admired in large format.
Tip: On the first Sunday of every month, the car-free day in Toulouse, you can visit the grandiose premises of the Capitol.
Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse - Culture at the Capitol
The Capitol of Toulouse houses not only the municipal town hall, but also the Toulouse Opera, as well as the municipal ballet and symphony orchestra. In 1736, the first stage hall was installed here, which was immediately used for opera and ballet performances. Today, the theatre seats just under 1200 people, having been restored in 1923 after a fire.