Officially born on September 28, 2016, the Occitanie region redraws the contours of what is now the third largest territory in France. For this new edition of your guide, we propose you the panorama of a tightened tourist territory around the "Midi toulousain". This coherent ensemble around the city of Toulouse represents :

six departments: Ariège (09), Haute-Garonne (31), Gers (32), Hautes-Pyrénées (65), Tarn (81) and Tarn-et-Garonne (82) ;

a population of more than two and a half million;

a rapidly growing but unevenly distributed population, since even though the area is highly rural, three out of four inhabitants live in a high-density urban environment;

a set of 2,364 communes, very unevenly distributed across the departments;

a 3,298-metre-high peak in the Hautes-Pyrénées, le Vignemale ;

a main river, the Garonne, fed by five tributaries (the Gers, the Ariège, the Lot, the Save and the Tarn).

The Occitan cross

The cross of Toulouse, or cross of Languedoc or Occitan cross, is a Greek cross with straight equal branches, clecheted (its ends are in the form of key rings) and golden pommetée, whose ends of the branches are triple spherical and beaded.

It appears with the royal seal of Raymond VI in 1211 and will then always be used by the counts of Toulouse. It will impose itself in all the Toulouse area at the beginning of the XIIIth century and will appear, from then on, on the arms of the city of Toulouse, then on those of Languedoc from the XIVth to the XVIIIth centuries.

Several hypotheses exist about its origin and its symbolism. This twelve-pointed cross was, perhaps, one of the symbols of a Gallic people settled in southern Gaul around the 2nd century BC, the Volques. At the beginning, a simple solar wheel with twelve spokes, each ball-shaped at its end, symbolizing the twelve houses of the zodiac or the four branches representing the four seasons of the solar year and each point representing one of the solar months of each of these seasons. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, clerics saw in this configuration the crucified Christ surrounded by his twelve apostles. It was also called the Cathar cross because it was opposed to the Latin cross, which was rejected by the Cathars. Finally, it seems to materialize the itinerary of the Visigoths, from the shores of the Black Sea to Toulouse, through the Balkans, Italy and Spain...

There are similar ones in Provence, Spanish Catalonia and Northern Italy. Reminiscences can also be found in the discoid stelae of Languedoc. It's unlikely the Cathars carried any kind of cross... Indeed, they rejected all symbolism for not worshipping an image in the place of the true God. In the same way, no church could become a holy place. Only inner recollection could claim to be a prayer. Anne Brenon, in her " Petit Précis de Catharisme " (Editions Loubatières, 1996) even presents the Cathar religion as a Christianity without a cross, the latter being reduced to an instrument of torture.

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