Toulouse (tōlōzˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 365,933), capital of Haute-Garonne dept., S France, on the Garonne River. France's fastest growing region, it is one of France's great cultural and commercial centers. It is also the center of Europe's aerospace industry, with research, production, and training facilities. Hydropower from the Pyrenees and natural gas from Lacq helped Toulouse become a manufacturing and high technology center.
Originally part of Roman Gaul, Toulouse became an episcopal see in the 4th cent. It was the capital of the Visigoths from 419 until the conquest by Clovis I in 508 and was capital of the Carolingian kingdom of Aquitaine from 781 until 843. In 843, Toulouse and the surrounding area became a separate county. Toulouse was an artistic and literary center of medieval Europe. In the late 12th cent. the counts of Toulouse were suzerains of practically the entire region of Languedoc; their vassals included the lords of Foix, Quercy, and Rouergue. Ruling with great wisdom and tolerance (particularly toward the Jews, many of whom settled in Languedoc), the counts held a brilliant court that attracted the best troubadours and was the center of southern French literature.
Although rival dynastic claims to Aquitaine brought recurrent warfare with England, the region itself was barely affected. However, between 1208 and 1229 the area was laid waste when northern lords, under the guise of stamping out the Albigensian heresy (see under Albigenses), plundered Toulouse. The counts fell from power, and in 1271 the county passed to the French crown and from that time on formed much of Languedoc prov. After the annexation, the province retained much autonomy in government until the French Revolution. After the suppression of Albigensianism, Toulouse experienced a cultural rebirth.
The Univ. of Toulouse was established in 1230 and the Académie des Jeaux Floraux c.1323. Among the many outstanding buildings are the Romanesque Basilica of St. Sernin (11th–12th cent.), the Cathedral of St. Étienne (12th–15th cent.), the capitole [town hall] (18th cent.), several excellent museums, including one in the Assézat mansion (16th cent.) and an air and space museum, and an old quarter left almost intact since the 18th cent.
More on Toulouse from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: French Political Geography