The Episcopal City of Albi was built around the original cathedral and episcopal group of buildings. Red brick and tiles are the main feature of most of the edifices.
Among the buildings of the town is the Sainte Cécile cathedral, a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic style, built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Built as a statement of the Christian faith after the upheavals of the Cathar heresy , this gigantic brick structure was embellished over the centuries.
The Palais de la Berbie, formerly the Bishops' Palace of Albi is one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in France. This imposing fortress was completed at the end of the 13th century.
The Old Bridge (Pont Vieux) is still in use today after almost a millennium of existence. Originally built in stone (in 1035), then clad with brick, it rests on 8 arches and is 151m long. In the 14th century, it was fortified, reinforced with a drawbridge and houses were built on the piers.
Visit April 2013
I am the first on this website to "review" this WHS - pretty remarkable as it involves a midsize city in a popular tourist region of a West European country. Maybe it has been boycotted by the regular WH visitors because of its very doubtful admission to the List in 2010. The whole story about "Filling in the Gaps" seemed to have been forgotten, the AB ICOMOS was overruled, and here we are: another European town with medieval roots and a prominent Gothic cathedral.
Albi lies just under an hour north of Toulouse, and on the way to another fairly recent French WHS - the Causses and Cevennes. I visited it on a glorious Sunday, and certainly wasn't the only tourist around. The main area of interest is the cathedral and the adjacent bishop's palace. And I have to say: these both are perfect harmonious structures, with curves featuring prominently in their architecture. And of course both are made out of the local red brick, which seems to have been the main reason why it has been allowed to be a WHS. It has even be compared to the Minaret of Jam!
The designated area also includes four historic quarters with some timber-framed buildings. And there's an old bridge. The core zone is not that large. I found it a bit similar to Strasbourg, though smaller. The best surprise I got from the cathedral's interior - behind the austere walls there's a wonderful blue glow in the exuberant gothic interior. I so wanted to be critical of Albi, but it really is worth a short detour.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
I visited this WHS in February 2014. I would definitely recommend anyone a visit and if you have the time it wouldn't be a bad idea to spend the night there. The main highlight of the city is the huge and peculiar red brick cathedral that is visible from almost every part of town. The exterior resembles that of a castle or a fort and it is said to be the largest building in the world that is almost entirely made out of bricks. However the real treat is the interior of the cathedral. The WHS list includes far too many cathedrals and churches and is especially true in France! However, the interior of this church alone to me is definitely worth the inscription. The adjacent episcopal ensemble is now an excellent museum also worth visiting. The timber houses in the city centre and the enormous bridges on the Tarn River did remind me of Strasbourg too but on a much smaller scale. There is a small cloister right in the middle of Albi with a quiet courtyard where you can sit down and relax. A few steps away then, there is an exquisite tea shop called Au Moulin A Cafe which I highly recommend. They serve an excellent lunch menu with local products and home-made goodies that are worth the trip alone (at a reasonable price too!). For those who love tasting wine, do try the Gaillac red wine! A useful tip for anyone visiting by car: once you arrive near the cathedral parking, don't let the high gradient put you off; do drive downhill beneath the bridge, as parking there is free of charge! Don't worry, you have sweat your way back uphill ... there are a few steps that lead to the rear of the cathedral in no time!
| Date posted: February 2014|
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