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Ville de Toulouse - Patrice Nin

The Mansion HousesA little palace in town

During the Renaissance, the city, enriched by the trade in pastel, witnessed the construction of sumptuous residences. The Classical period also left a profound imprint on the mansion houses, which were often built by parliamentarians.

Nowadays, we can still see nearly one hundred of these, whose façades reveal themselves to visitors as they stroll through town.

Mansion Houses of pastel merchants and parliamentarians

In the XV and XVI Centuries, the growing demand for blue dye and the success of the pastel trade encouraged a number of local merchants to develop this activity further. The merchants of Toulouse drove the transportation of Coques (balls of dried and ground pastel petals) via the Pastel Routes, established trading points throughout the West and created a pastel market in Toulouse itself.

Toulouse therefore became the focal point for this trade. This Golden Age of pastel lasted up until the middle of the XVI Century. It allowed rich merchants from Toulouse to construct sumptuous mansion houses and embellish the city. The parliamentary nobles naturally continued with the construction of these little palaces.

These mansion houses can be discovered by raising your eyes to the sky. In fact, just a short stroll is enough to explore these buildings. Their owners made them the symbols of their social status and wealth.
Many of these mansion houses are still private homes to this day. Often they operate an open-door policy, but otherwise they provide visits accompanied by a guide.

The Tourist Office also offers a range of guided visits that allow you to step inside the courtyards of these mansion houses: "Saint-Rome and the mansion houses" (tour in French) and "A little tour of the courtyards" (tour in French).

Atelier teinture de pastel
Gilles Martin

The Land of Cocagne

Toulouse experienced its Golden Age between 1463 and 1560. This period of the Renaissance enriched the city and transformed it into a veritable pastel trading hub.

The pastel plant had been grown in the West for a great many years. The leaves were harvested, crushed and ground to form balls known as Coques, or Cocagnes, from which a blue dye was extracted to colour textiles. The climate and soil of the Toulouse area were particularly favourable for its cultivation.  A Pastel Triangle stretched between the towns of Albi, Toulouse and Carcassonne, giving this area its nickname of Land of Cocagne.

The decline in the use of pastel began with the arrival of indigo in the West. It provided an alternative to pastel and heralded its disappearance.

Ideas for awalking route

Hôtel d'Assézat - Place d'Assézat
Hôtel des chevaliers de Saint-Jean-de-Jérusalem - 32 rue de la Dalbade
Hôtel de Clary – known as "de Pierre" - 25 rue de la Dalbade
Hôtel du Vieux-Raisin - 36 rue du Languedoc
Hôtel Dahus - 9 rue Ozenne

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Hôtel du Vieux-Raisin
Chloé Sabatier - Office de tourisme de Toulouse

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