Toulouse's Short History
The 4th city of France in terms of number of inhabitants Toulouse is known throughout the world mainly as the place where Airbus planes are built!
It is however also an ancient city where history is written on almost each of its stones!
Toulouse was founded 4th centuries BC by Celtic people called the Volques Tectosages.
During the 1st century BC the Romans occupy it and give the city the name Tolosa.
During the roman occupation Tolosa became one of the most important cities of the empire. At the collapse of the Roman Empire the region of Tolouse comes under Visigoth rule, and becomes the capital of the Visigoth kingdom that stretched from Loire in the north all the way to the Gibraltar Strait.
The Visigoth rule was however short in historical terms and in 507, at the Battle of Vouille, the Visigothic king Alaric was defeated by the Clovis, the king of Franks who were extending their territories to the south. Toulouse consequently became a part of the Frankish kingdom.
Due to the internal power struggles of the Frankish heirs, the invasion of Moors and of migratory peoples Toulouse knows for the next 250 years in a dark period. The prosperity comes again during the reign of Charlemagne when Toulouse becomes again a major stronghold of the empire. His son Louis the Pious is declared King of Aquitaine and he establishes his capital in Toulouse. At the death of Charlemagne Louis becomes the new emperor and he leaves Toulouse under the rule of his adviser, Frédellon, the first Count of Toulouse.
At the beginning of the second millennium Toulouse was the capital of a quasi-independent county, technically under the sovereignty of the Kings of France.
During the crusade against the cathars the city played an important role, its count of the time Raymond VI , while a catholic was also a cathar sympathizer. It was in Toulouse that one of the most important crusade leaders Simon de Montfort was killed in 1218 during the siege of Toulouse. It was also in Toulouse that Saint Dominique the founder of the Dominican monastic order settled during the crusade years and tried to convert the heretics to the Catholic faith. The house he inhabited is still standing and can be seen at the address 7, Place du Parlement.
At the end of the crusade when the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1229 the County of Toulouse lost its quasi-independence and was firmly incorporated in the Kingdom of France.
The 15th and the 16th centuries were a time of prosperity for the city. This wealth was brought by the pastel – a plant whose leaves macerated and ground can produce a pale blue dye very sought after, at the time, all over Europe.
It is during this period that many of the red bricks mansions that are still standing and give the city the name “La Ville Rose” or “The Pink City” were built.
Towards the end of the 16th century the import of the indigo brought from India brings an end to the prosperity epoch.
During the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century Toulouse remained mainly Catholic and loyal to the crown, even though at the beginning of the wars it witnessed street fight between the followers of the two religions.
At the end of the 17th century Toulouse receives an economic boost in the creation of the Canal du Midi that opens a water highway linking the city not only with the sea but also via the Rhone Canal with the rest of the France.
The history of Toulouse is also linked with the history of aviation.
In 1917 the French engineer Pierre-Georges Latécoère establishes in Toulouse a plane building company. With the end of the First World War the company adds to its objectives the opening of an aero line linking France to North Africa and further….. The new company is called “Société des lignes Latécoère“ or simply “The Line “. The first flight took place in March 1919 from Toulouse to Morocco.
Arguably the most famous pilot of the line was Antoine de Saint Exupery who wrote about his experiences in “Vol de Nuit” (Night Flight).
In 1927 Latécoère renamed his company as “ l’Aéropostale” and sold it to a franco-brasilian businessman. In time Aéropostale became a part of Air France.
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