Episcopal City of Albi
UNESCO Heritage List
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The Cité épiscopale d’Albi - The Episcopal City - with its crown jewel Sainte Cecile Cathedral is listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2010.
The complex includes the Cathedral, the Berbie Palace, the Saint Salvi Church, the Old Bridge and the old residential area of downtown Albi and covers a surface of 63 hectares.
Sainte Cecile Cathedral - 113 meters long, 35 meters wide and with a 78 meters high bell tower - is the biggest brick made Cathedral in the world.
Built between 1282 and 1480 and consecrated on the 23rd of April 1480 - the cathedral’s magnificent size stands for the triumph of the Catholic faith over the cathar heresy. It is a superb example of the "gothic meridional" architectural style.
The outside severe look contrasts with the abundantly decorated interior that features outstanding sculptures and mural paintings.
The cathedral’s interior features outstanding mural paintings. "The Last Judgment" painted between 1474 and 1484, covers a surface of around 300 square meters is recognized as the biggest fresco in the world. In the painting the daemons are represented as women as a mean of condemnation of the fertility cult of the pagans! The other murals were created between 1509 and 1512 by Italian Renaissance painters and form the biggest Italian fresco ensemble in France. The total painted surface of the cathedral interior is about 20,000 square meters of murals!
The Cathedral is also the home of the biggest classical pipe organ in France.
The Berbie Palace (Berbie comes from the Occitan Bisbia that means bishop), the residence of Albi bishops, was built mainly between 1250 and 1260, but it is Bishop Bernard de Castanet - Vice-Inquisitor of France and bishop of Albi starting in 1276 - that gave it its imposing look. He is also the bishop that decides to build a new cathedral close by, Sainte Cecile Cathedral!
Nowadays Berbie Palace hosts the Toulouse-Lautrec museum.
The Saint Salvi church was in the 10th century and combines the Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.
The old bridge "Le Pont Vieux" was built in 1040 and contributed significantly to Albi’s wealth in the Middle Ages.
Other architectural gems reminiscent of Albi's pastel golden era and situated in the Episcopal City perimeter are the Enjalbert and the Reynes Houses.
Built in the same 16th century the houses illustrate however different architectural styles.
The Enjalbert residence is a half -timbered house, decked out with many typical of the Renaissance sculpted adornments on its wooden pilasters, pediments and the doorway.
The Reynès House - a brick and stone structure - was built by a rich pastel merchant Roger Reynes. Its beautiful interior courtyard is bordered on one side by an Italian style loggia-gallery and on the other by busts of King Francois I and of his wife Eleanor of Austria.
Very impresive cathedral. From outside the steep brick walls are a mighty image!
It is quite something to hear the big pipe organ music in Sainte Cecile cathedral. Felicitation Frédéric Ceschamps maître orgue!
Nice place to visit during 1 day
The toulouse-lautrec museum : very interesting for art lovers