All About Albi

 Spain & France  Comments Off on All About Albi
Oct 072012

What a discovery today proved to be!! I had never heard anything about Albi until Bob started researching this trip, Albi proudly proclaims Toulouse Lautrec as their native son and has dedicated a very comprehensive and lovely museum to him. The Lautrec Museum is located in an original 10th century building next to the cathedral.Although the hour or two in the museum was wonderful, for me the Cathedral was the best yet on the trip and we have seen many. This one was built in a period of reaction to opulence and ostentation of the church hierarchy and incorporating the worshippers more directly in the service. The contrast is dramatic and powerful!

Here we are on the banks of the Tarn river in south-west France, in the old Episcopal (i.e. ruled by a bishop) city of Albi. This visit could so easily have been overlooked since Albi is described as small industrial town which it has been since woolen mills located along the river. Fortunately the ancient quarter is a superb blend of a medieval architectural and urban ensemble and other than the cars funneled through the surrounding area the best of the past has been carefully preserved. The Old Bridge (Pont-Vieux), the Saint-Salvi quarter and its church are virtually unchanged from their initial development (10th -11th centuries).

Following the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics (13th century) it became a powerful episcopal city. Built in a unique southern French Gothic style from local brick in characteristic red and orange colours, the lofty fortified Cathedral (late 13th century) dominates the city, demonstrating the power regained by the Roman Catholic clergy. Alongside the Cathedral is the vast bishop’s Palais de la Berbie, overlooking the river and surrounded by residential quarters that date back to the Middle Ages. According to the UNESCO description, “the Episcopal City of Albi forms a coherent and homogeneous ensemble of monuments and quarters that has remained largely unchanged over the centuries” and certainly this is what we were enthralled with today.