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Toul Travel Guide
Renaissance-era stained glass windows inside Toul Cathedral (© Claudio Giovanni Colombo - iStockphoto.com)
Renaissance-era stained glass windows inside Toul Cathedral.

Introduction

Toul (Tull in German; pop. 17,000) was the seat of one of France's oldest bishopric, and is rightly renowned for its graceful Gothic cathedral. Toul was one of the Three Bishoprics (along with Metz and Verdun) disputed between Germany and France in the 16th and 17th century. The town was fortified by Vauban around 1700.

The Bach Festival of Toul, honouring the great German composer, is held every summer from mid-June to mid-September. Events take place on Sundays from 4:00 pm at one of three locations: Toul Cathedral, the Saint-Gengoult Collegiate Church or the Museum of Toul.


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History

Toul started its existence as the Roman town of Tullum Leucorum, capital of the Gaulish tribe of the Leuci. Scant remains of the 3rd-century Roman city walls can still be seen today.

The diocese of Toul was founded around 365 and existed independently until 1824, when it was merged with the diocese of Nancy. Toul Cathedral is still one of the two seats of the Nancy-Toul diocese today.

By the Treaty of Meerssen of 870, Toul became part of East Francia, which would become the Holy Roman Empire. It obtains the privileges of a Free Imperial City in 1367.

Toul was de facto annexed to France by King Henry II in 1552, although the annexation was not recognized by the Holy Roman Empire until the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

Toul Cathedral

There would be little reason to visit Toul were it not for itscathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toul), a masterpiece of Flamboyant Gothic architecture. Its Gothic cloister is the second largest in France in this style.

There has been a cathedral in Toul since the 5th century, but the present edifice was started in 1221 and was only completed in 1561. The previous Romanesque cathedral was demolished little by little as the construction of the new Gothic cathedral progressed.

In the 1530's, during the last construction phase, a Renaissance-style dome was added above the junction of the transepts.

The cathedral is 89.8 metres long (including 52.5 metres for the nave). The towers rise to 62 metres, while the choir and the nave reach 29 metres in height.

Inside are some first-rate Renaissance-era stained glass windows.

Toul Cathedral (photo by François Bernardin - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license)

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