Albi's Short History
Albi is the departmental capital of Tarn. It has over 80,000 inhabitants and is visited every year by more then 2 hundred thousands tourists.
The Albi region has been inhabited since the down of human civilization as attested by the artifacts found in the area.
In the second century BC Albi is occupied by the Romans who respect the way of life of the Celts who were already living in the region.
In the middle ages, like the majority of the cities in what is now the Southwest of France, Albi becomes a quasi-independent city. It is also a time when the town surrounds itself with protective walls and also becomes the seat of a Bishopric.
After the crusade against the cathars - whom Albi give its name - the city starts a period of development. It is a time when famous bishops, belonging to the Amboise and Robert families, are elected to the head of the Albi diocese. These bishops bring the refinement of the Italian Renaissance to the city. It is also the period when the culture of pastel - the plant whose leafs can produce a unique blue shade dye - brings wealth to the region and gives it the name of "Pays de Cocagne". Such was the wealth brought by the pastel dyes that "cocagne" word is many times, as a result, used to signify abundance, "plenty", but in fact is the name of the balls made from dried pastel leaves, from which the dye was made! The affluence of the time can still be seen in the many fine houses built in the city during this time.
Among the city’s famous citizens two are truly outstanding.
The first one is Jean-Francois de Galaup de Lapérouse born in Albi on the 23rd of August 1741. This marine, who took part in the war between the French and the English on the coasts of Newfoundland and the Saint Lawrence estuary, starts in August 1785 a tour around the world with a purpose of completing the discoveries of Cook’s tour (a monument close to the lava field in Maui attests of his passage on the island).
Lapérouse will never return from this tour but he is credited with the discovery of the east coast of New Caledonia.
His expedition is declared lost in February 1791. The history reports that King Louis XVI minutes before his execution on the 21st January 1793 asked if there are news from Lapérouse.
The mystery of what had happen to La Boussole – the expedition ship – will be solved after more then 200 years.
Only in 2008 the Vanikoro Expedition found on the bottom of the ocean close to Solomon Islands (Vanikoro Island) in the South Pacific the wreck of La Boussole. The anchor is now displayed at the feet of the big statue of Lapérouse in the center of Albi.
The second is without any doubt Henri Toulouse-Lautrec born in Albi on the 14th of November 1864. His full name is Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa
From an aristocratic family descending from the medieval counts of Toulouse Henri suffers from a bone disease and after adolescence his mobility is impaired. He dedicates himself to painting and moves to Paris where his life and work center on Montmartre.
A fine observer of the human nature and tireless painter his work is remarkable: 737 paintings, 275 aquarelles, 369 prints and posters and more then 5000 drawings.