Romanesque - Introduction
The Musée des Augustins' collection of Romanesque sculpture is composed mainly of remnants from the three most significant religious buildings in Toulouse: the Monastery of La Daurade, the Collegiate Church of Saint Sernin and SaintEtienne Cathedral.
It was the choice the clerics (monks or canons) responsible for the upkeep of these religious buildings made to live as a community, that led to the construction of functional convent buildings, organised around large cloisters decorated with simple or elaborate sculpture.
As the capital of a powerful county and a fast growing economic, political and religious centre, in the 11th and 12th centuries, Toulouse enjoyed a context highly favourable to the birth of an original art movement. The quality, diversity and exceptional longevity of the movement place Toulouse firmly among the major centres of Romanesque art. Thus, the works in the Musée des Augustins constitute fundamental milestones for the history of sculpture.
Although these works allow us to draw up a very full panorama of the evolution of Toulousan Romanesque sculpture throughout the 12th century, they are also often the only remnants of monuments that have since disappeared, the victims of demolitions from as early as the 18th century (changing tastes) and particularly after the Revolution law nationalising the property of the Church.The rampant property speculation that followed throughout the 19thcentury, irreversibly disfigured the city and earned Toulouse the less than glorious sobriquet of "the land of vandalism".
Beyond this trail which covers only Toulousan cloisters, it is worth noting some remarkable works from the Languedoc, such as the enigmatic Pilier de Narbonne (Narbonne pillar), or the capitals from the Saint-Pons de Thomières Abbey (in the Hérault region).
All of these sculptures have been dated usingdata both from art history and from archeology. This explains why the dating range is sometimes rather wide. These datings are open to modification dependent on the latest research currently being carried out.