HOW WOULD YOU WALK DOWN THE AISLE of a church without an aisle? The Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse is unique for its double-nave plan, separated at the center by a colonnade from door to altar. So where you are accustomed to seeing straight through from one end to the other, there's only column after column impeding your view. There's still much to see though. Each of the Jacobin's columnar piers rise up to 22 meters high, crowned by radiating ribs that resemble the branches of a palm tree. The seventh and end-most column features the most magnificent of the palms, with a height of 28 meters, and with 22 ribs radiating out over the apse.
Built between 1230 and 1385 by the Dominicans, the convent complex comprises the Jacobin church, a cloister, refectory, chapter house and the chapel of Saint-Antonin. The cloister is lovely, as most cloisters are, and the refectory today serves as an exhibition space in collaboration with contemporary art museum Les Abattoirs.
For students of philosophy and Catholic theology, the Jacobins is also notable for housing the remains of Saint Thomas Aquinas; Dominican friar, priest, philosopher and theologian whose ideas, or the negation of which, helped to shape modern philosophy. Aquinas' relics have been at the Jacobins since 1369, interrupted by a 185-year period in which it was kept at the Basilica of St. Sernin. They may be rightly home in both the cradle city of the Dominican order, as well as the church the Dominicans built, but poetic too for Aquinas' resting place to be in a church so uniquely and unconventionally constructed with visual impediments.
"Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand." Thomas Aquinas
Jacobin Convent, Toulouse. Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.