Toulouse is the capital city of the southwestern French department of Haute-Garonne, as well as of theMidi-Pyrénées region. It lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, 230 km (143 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean, and 580 km (360 mi) from Paris. With 1,250,251 inhabitants at the January 2011 census, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in France, after Paris (12.3 million), Lyon (2.2 million), and Marseille (1.7 million).
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, the Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, the Airbus Group (former EADS), ATR and the Aerospace Valley, considered as a global cluster.
The city also hosts the European headquarters of Intel and CNES'sToulouse Space Centre (CST), the largest space centre in Europe. Thales Alenia Space, and Astrium Satellites, Airbus Group's satellite system subsidiary, also have a significant presence in Toulouse. Its world renowned university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 119,000 students, is the third-largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon.
Toulouse was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom in the 5th century and the capital of the province of Languedoc in the late Middle Ages and early modern period (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution), making it the unofficial capital of the cultural region of Occitania (Southern France). It is now the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region, the largest region in metropolitan France.
A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose ("the Pink City"), Toulouse counts twoUNESCO World Heritage sites, the Canal du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, designated in 1998 because of its significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
In the 12th century, consuls took over the running of the town and these proved to be difficult years. In particular, it was a time of religious turmoil. In Toulouse, the Cathars tried to set up a community here, but were routed by Simon de Montfort's troops. The subsequent arrival of the Inquisition led to a period of religious fervour during which time the Dominican Couvent des Jacobins was founded. Governed byRaimond II and a group of city nobles, Toulouse's urban boundaries stretched beyond its walls to the north and as far south as Saint Michel.
In the Treaty of Paris of 1229, Toulouse formally submitted to the crown of France. The county's sole heiress Joan was engaged to Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, a younger brother of Louis IX of France. The marriage became legal in 1241, but it remained childless so that after Joan's death the county fell to the crown of France by inheritance. Also in 1229, University of Toulouse was established after theParisian model, intended as a means to dissolve the heretic movement. Various monastic orders, like the congregation of the order of frères prêcheurs, were started. They found home in Les Jacobins. In parallel, a long period of inquisition began inside the Toulouse walls. The fear of repression obliged the notabilities to exile, or to convert themselves. The inquisition lasted nearly 400 years, making Toulouse its capital. Count Raimond VII was convicted of heresy and died in 1249 without an heir.
The Capitole de Toulouse (mainly 18th century), houses the Hôtel de Ville, theThéâtre du Capitole (opera house), and the Donjon du Capitole (16th century). It is located on the Place du Capitole. Cité de l'espace (City of Space) is a theme park of space exploration. The Médiathèque José Cabanis is a library. The Jardin des Plantes is a botanical garden. The most significant Hôtel particulier (palace) in Toulouse is the Hôtel d'Assézat.
Toulouse Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toulouse.Saint-Sernin Basilica, part of the Way of Saint James UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Romanesque church in Europe. It contains what is widely considered the most beautiful pipe organ in France. The Daurade basilica, of the 18th–19th century, was founded as a temple to the Roman god Apollo before conversion to Christianity in 410 AD. The Church of the Jacobins (Ensemble conventuel des Jacobins) in Toulouse is the burial place ofSaint Thomas Aquinas.