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Arthur Prelle | Travels in Toulouse

The pillars and cathedrals in the cloister are gorgeous works of craftsmanship.

In Arthur Prelle’s travels in Europe, he visited Toulouse, France for two days. Toulouse is a medieval walled city full of history. One beautiful site is the Church of Les Jacobins. This church is the resting place (reliquary) for St. Thomas Aquinas. A large hall can be visited where his remains are reverently kept along with interesting artifacts and papers.

Thomas Aquinas, author of the Summa Theologiae and canonized in 1323, was a member of the Dominican order. In 1368 Pope Urban V decreed that his remains be transferred from Italy where he died to the Jacobins, the mother church of the order. When they arrived in 1369, they were placed in a stone reliquary beside the altar. After being moved to Saint Sernin at the time of the Revolution, they were returned to the Jacobins in 1974 when the restoration of the church was complete.

Arthur Prelle | Travels in Toulouse

The crushed guy is at the bottom of the pillar behind the St. Thomas Aquinas reliquary.

The Church of the Jacobins is a Gothic mass of brick and stone, decorated inside with elaborate trompe l’oeil walls and soaring pillars. Most famously, it houses the remains of St. Thomas Aquinas. Arthur found a strange little carving of a person seemingly crushed by a pillar near the golden reliquary where the saintly remains are entombed.

Just behind the altar is a double column that sits on a square base. Look down towards the floor and you’ll see, sticking out, a peculiar pair of bony hands and chubby crossed feet, their meaning and origin unknown. It is all too easy to miss to the casual passer-by. Some of the church tour guides don’t even know the crushed little man is there.