Découvrir Toul

Toul, a Gothic town

Toul has a lot to please the visitor. Of its architectural heritage, you’ll visit of course its two Gothic monuments : the Saint Etienne Cathedral and the Saint Gengoult Collegial, but that is not all ! Walk through the streets of the town and raise your eyes : numerous witnesses of the past remain.

Saint Etienne Cathedral (Saint Stephen)

Built started in 1221 and was completed towards 1500, on a Roman plan and a Gothic structure, the Saint Etienne Cathedral is the symbol of the rich episcopal past of Toul. The first Gothic cathedral in the Holy Roman Germanic Empire, the cathedral is a successful and unique mixture of Ottonian, Gothic and Reims styles. An innovation in the history of architecture !

Cathédrale vue du jardin de l'hôtel de ville

The Gothic Flamboyant facade, that is the richest part of the building, is in contrast with the austerity of the Gothic Rayonnant style present in the rest of the building.
During the French Revolution the cathedral has been stripped of its statues but the ornaments that are left make a remarkable and noticeable monument !

The visitor cannot remain insensitive when he enters the building : the slenderness of the vaults, the polychromies of the interior and the exceptional dimensions make a powerful impression.

Restored after a fire that destroyed the roof and the South tower in June 1940, the Saint Etienne Cathedral in Toul got back its medieval colors : a courageous restoration with an amazing result !

Admire the large Schwenkedel organ in the Cathedral : inaugurated in June 1963 and supported by an 18th century Baroque organ loft, the organ counts 64 stops and nearly 4800 pipes. A magnificent instrument that is the centerpiece of the summer Bach Festival in Toul.

Don’t miss the two Renaissance chapels : the Bishops’ Chapel (1537) actually closed and awaiting restoration and the Jean Forget Chapel (1549) where the dome structure used rings of coffers, each of diminishing size, which imparts a dramatic forced perspective. It is the work of a canon Jean Pèlerin (called “le Viator”) and a fine connoisseur of the Arts in the Renaissance. Further forward, you’ll find the tomb and the relics of Saint Mansuy, (first known Bishop of Toul in the 4th century), the 17th and 18th century classical chancel and the altars and paintings and in particular a painting of the Sacred Heart, which is made by Girardet and a present of King Stanislas, his daughter Maria Leszczinska and the Dauphin.

The dimensions of the cloister of the cathedral are amazing : 54 m by 42, one of the largest Gothic cloisters in France. A famous character, Pierre Perrat worked here, before he worked on the construction site of the Cathedral in Metz (where he is supposed to have sold his soul to the devil).
The cloister dates back to the 13th and 14th century and is decorated with a series of remarkable gargoyles : familiar and fantasy animals and human characters.

In summer the South tower is open to the public and from the top one has a 360° view on the town, the surrounding villages and the Moselle river. The “Casse-croûte de Quasimodo” –(guided tours and a meal made of local products) are organized in between the two towers, as well as the “Sound and light show” and the famous Festival Bach, during the summer season.

Saint Gengoult Collegial

Built in a Gothic style inspired by the Cathedral of Reims, the construction of Saint Gengoult starts around 1240 when the work on the Saint Etienne Cathedral is already well advanced. The main work is finished in 1510 with the main facade and the rose window. The façade will never be finished because of the difficult economic situation in the beginning of the 16th century : famine and then the plague. Partially financed by the upper middle class in Toul, the Collegial symbolizes a certain independence of the bishop.

Collègiale Saint-Gengoult

We don’t have much documentation about Saint Gengoult, but it could possibly be a noble man, Gengoulf in the entourage of Pépin le Bref. He was a landowner in the region of Langres, south of Toul. Being a great hunter he was well known for his sense of justice, his devotion and his generosity. He retired in his property after the infidelity of this wife and was murdered by the lover of his wife.
This martyrdom makes him the patron saint of couples in difficulty. He is the patron saint as well of the hunters and the falconers.
The architecture of the Collegial is accentuated by the wealth of its stained-glass windows. The windows of the apses date back to the time of the building of the choir in the 13th century and were at that time the largest glass windows in Lorraine. What an achievement ! The rest of the fenestrations of the church are from the 14th and 19th centuries.

In Saint Gengoult, something intrigues the visitor : a door that is built askew. Its decoration is Flamboyant Gothic and the frame in Renaissance style. The structure is deliberately unbalanced viewed face-on : it is built so as to be seen from the entrance portal and then it looks symmetrical. It is the work of Jean Pélerin (so called “Le Viator”), a canon of the cathedral and well-informed about the Renaissance Arts.

Smaller than the Cathedral, the Collegial Saint Gengoult houses a real architectural treasure : its cloister. The construction started around 1510 and was suddenly ended towards 1522. It is a preserved treasure, skillfully mixing the Flamboyant Gothic and the Renaissance styles. The decoration of the galleries consists of the 78 keystones in the vaults of the arches, each keystone having its own design.
The openings are finely decorated : monsters, dragons, allegories are sculpted on the capitals and gables.
If you enter Saint Gengoult, open your eyes to notice these treasures : even the regular visitors still manage to discover small amazing details not seen before.

Hôtel de Ville (City Council)

The former episcopal palace in Toul that was built in the middle of the 18th century, burned down in December 1939 and was rebuilt in the beginning of the seventies, preserving the classicism of its facades.

Museum of Arts and History of Toul
The museum is located in the former Maison Dieu (House of God : a hostel and monastery) with the “Salle lapidaire” dating back to the 13th century. The museum exhibits rich collections of the historic past of Toul.

There are more than 28 rooms in chronological order.

From Prehistory through the Middle Ages into modern times, the museum surprises by the wealth of its collections (antiques, paintings, sculptures, popular arts and traditions, religious and military arts, tapestries, ceramics of the Toul Bellevue factory).

The Cloisters

Toul is one of the rare French towns to have preserved its two Gothic cloisters.

The Cloister of the Cathedral St Etienne. built in the 13th and 14th centuries. 54 m long and 42 wide, it is one of the largest Gothic cloisters in France. It has interesting gargoyles.

The Cloister of the Collegial Saint Gengoult. This superb cloister in Flamboyant Gothic style was built in the beginning of the 16th century. It has a pleasant medieval garden on site.

Good to know :

Cathedral :
From The Heritage Days until the 1st of July : opening hours according to the Maison du tourisme.
From the 1st of July to the Heritage Days : 9.30 - 6.30 PM . Possibility to climb the South Tower (children over 6 years old, proper shoes), Casse-croûtes of Quasimodo, sound and light show.

St Gengoult :
Open from the 1st of July until the Heritage Days : July and August from 10 - 12 AM and from 2 - 5.30 PM