Sections 1 and 2
I: A rich and powerful city - II: At the heart of an ebullient region
I - A rich and powerful city
At the dawn of the sixteenth century Toulouse is expanding rapidly and has become the third largest town in France. It is growing rich from the European trade in pastel (or woad), a plant cultivated in the region for the dyeing industry, but also benefits from its powerful elites.
It is home to royal authorities, including a parliament which is second in rank only to Paris and whose jurisdiction extends from the Rhône to the Bigorre. It has a respected university, a cathedral and a number of prosperous religious orders. The venerable abbey church dedicated to St Saturnin, which claims to hold famous relics including the entire bodies of six apostles, also adds to the city's renown.
The bourgeoisie of rich merchants and financiers which subsequently develops, soon turns its attention to acquiring honours. Conferred annually on the magistrates in charge of the city, the title of Capitoul is also a sign of nobility and affords its recipients various prerogatives whose origins are said to date from antiquity.
II - At the heart of an ebullient region
Circa 1510–1530 the Languedoc and its surrounding regions witness a considerable development of the arts. In this period Renaissance Toulouse sometimes follows, but more often leads. Majors works to build cathedrals and castles create multiple opportunities for interaction. These enrich the eyes, hands and minds of the artists and talented artisans who take part. Some come from Italy, others from Flanders or the Loire Valley, but mostly the glassmakers, painters, carpenters and stonemasons of Toulouse run or participate in such works to establish the preeminence of the regional capital.
Classical ornamentation, which aspires to an idealized view of the human form, and the works of court painters appear or are inflected in the most remarkable of these locations.
- Top image: Anonyme néerlandais, "Descente de Croix", vers 1510, musée des Augustins, Toulouse. Photo Daniel Martin.