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Fodor's France 2014
Capitole/Hôtel de Ville (Capitol/Town Hall)
Capitole/Hôtel de Ville (Capitol/Town Hall) Review
The 18th-century Capitole is home to the Hôtel de Ville and the city's highly regarded opera company; the reception rooms are open to the public when not in use for official functions or weddings. Halfway up the Grand Escalier (Grand Staircase) hangs a large painting of the Jeux Floraux, the "floral games" organized by a literary society created in 1324 to promote the local Occitanian language, Langue d'Oc. The festival continues to this day: poets give public readings here each May, and the best are awarded silver- and gold-plated violets, one of the emblems of Toulouse. At the top of the stairs is the Salle Gervaise, a hall adorned with a series of paintings inspired by the themes of love and marriage. The mural at the far end of the room portrays the Isle of Cythères, where Venus received her lovers, alluding to a French euphemism for getting married: embarquer pour Cythères (to embark for Cythères). More giant paintings in the Salle Henri-Martin, named for the artist (1860–1943), show the passing seasons set against the eternal Garonne. Look for Jean Jaurès (1859–1914), one of France's greatest socialist martyrs, in Les Rêveurs (The Dreamers); he's wearing a boater-style hat and a beige coat. At the far left end of the elegant Salle des Illustres (Hall of the Illustrious) is a large painting of a fortress under siege, portraying the women of Toulouse slaying Simon de Montfort, leader of the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars, during the siege of Toulouse in 1218.
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