Musée Saint-Raymond, musée d'archéologie de Toulouse
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Place Saint-Sernin. Tél : 05 61 22 31 44. Ouvert du mardi au dimanche, de 10 h à 18 h. Entrée gratuite pour tous jusqu'au 21 octobre
 

Necropolis


© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
A necropolis from Late Antiquity

In the basement of the museum, the visitor enters one of the necropolises of Toulouse. This one, to the north of the city, was considerably developed beginning with the burial of the body of Saturninus, Toulouse’s first bishop martyred in 250 CE. Between 1994 and 1996, several archeological excavations resulted in the unearthing of ninety-five graves and the remains of seventy-nine individuals, all in the area of the basement.
The objects found inside of certain graves—small glass bottles, parts of a jewelry set, coins—are interesting for archeologists because they facilitate the dating of the tombs.  Several belonged to the fourth and fifth centuries. Many were simply wood coffins, sometimes supported by bricks or pebbles, in which they buried children as well as adults.
During the fifth and sixth centuries, the sepulchers seem less anarchic and a little more organized. Children’s and infants’ tombs are very modest; they were buried in amphorae after the vases’ necks had been broken. Many objects show historic events and economic relations maintained by the people of this epic.

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
A lime kiln  

The remains of the large oven found in this room are considered an unexpected discovery. Its purpose was to produce lime used to create mortar.
Lime mortar, extremely resistant and effective, comes into use during Early Antiquity. To make lime, one transforms the chemical proprieties of calcareous stones or marble by heating them.

Marble gives the lime a higher quality than limestone, but the heating temperature must be higher.
At the time of its discovery, the oven was full of remains of sarcophaguses and architectural elements.

These fragments illustrate the recovery of a magnificent monument built a few decades after the installation of the oven.
The oven, built and used between the mid-fifth century and mid-sixth century, shows the dynamism of the area at the end of Antiquity; the lime was necessary to construct the buildings.

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
An extraordinary collection of sarcophaguses of the end of the Antique

In accordance with their form and the style of their carving, the majority of the sarcophaguses on display belong to the style popular in the geographical area that extends from the region of Bezier to Bordeaux and some of the Central Pyrenees. This area is known as “the Southwest of France.”

Due to the absence of inscriptions, it is difficult to date the sarcophaguses precisely.
From the Middle Ages until perhaps the 18th century, certain ones were reused for the bodies of several large families.
The counts of Toulouse used these monuments in such fashion. During this occasion, the large marble sarcophaguses were arranged in the medieval cloister in the Basilica of Saint-Sernin. The basilica and its relics always represented a privileged location. But other sarcophaguses met a less glamorous fate and were transformed into useful objects such as troughs for livestock, which explains the simple perforations that single out the interiors of certain sarcophaguses and allow the water to evacuate.
 

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
Throughout Antiquity, people favored the ritual of incineration which consisted in burning the body of the deceased and disposing its ashes in an urn placed in a tomb. Beginning in the second century, burial is adopted by numerous pagans who had their sarcophaguses decorated with large mythological representations or hunting scenes, in relation with death and the soul’s destiny. Christians put a definitive end to incineration rituals and continue the tradition of sculpted sarcophaguses. Thus the images represent the new religion.
The displayed sarcophaguses testify to the diffusion of Christianity in the Southwest of Gaul.

Only the wealthiest people could be buried in such tombs. They often have representations of people standing up, under triangular arcs, and separated from one and other by columns. These are the apostles surrounding the Christ figure, a central character in these representations. They often hold in their hand a volumen, a parchment scroll precursor to the book, which now becomes the symbol of divine law and its diffusion. Some scenes, notably those inspired by the Gospels, are more frequent but indicate Roman models. They represent the miracles of Christ such as the miracle of changing water into wine during the Marriage at Cana, which is the first miracle of Christ, or the Feeding the 5,000. Other sarcophaguses, the most numerous, favor stylized floral decorations in which the relief is lower and have vine tendril bases which encircle the symbols of Christ on the high four-sided lids. However, we can also see abstract and geometric chevron-shaped patterns.

All these sarcophaguses sculptured in the big Southwest of the Gaul are recognizable to their taste for the graphics of the forms and a sculpture more flat, less striking than on the works conceived in Rome or in Provence. Other sarcophaguses, in the same room, are moreover characteristic of the style of Rome or Arles in the IVth century. It is about the front of tank hung on on the right wall, at once after the front door, after the small sarcophagus exposed in the center of the room and of the fragment of another grave, representing one of the most ancient images of the Virgo holding the Child Jesus Christ in the arms. These sarcophaguses, contrary to those who were elaborated in the Southwest of the Gaul, are characterized by a sculpture in strong relief.

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
A gallery of epitaphs

This gallery includes Latin funeral inscriptions engraved on plates originally intended to be inserted in funeral monuments or fixed in the ground to indicate the tomb’s location. This type of inscription could also be engraved on urns or chests.

All of the inscriptions mention the name of the deceased as well as family members’ names and sometimes a few details such as the deceased’s age, juridical status or even the name of the monument’s sponsor. For example, the inscription engraved on Marcus Cartimus Dextrus’s urn indicates that he died at the age of thirty-two years, six months, and twenty-four days. His wife, Varia Clymen, who had the urn made, lived with him for twenty years. Therefore, they married at the age of twelve.

The inscriptions were often made while the person was living.
The sponsor thus had the text preceded by the letters VIV for vivos (“living from … to …).
When the person was already deceased at the time of the engraving, they engraved in front of his name the sign for tha (a crossed-out 0), an abbreviation for the Greek word thanatos, “death.”

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