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Albi Cathedral Cathédrale Ste-Cécile
Place du Vigan Albi, Midi-Pyrénées
Albi  locality
Tarn  county
France  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
43.928530° N, 2.142699° E
Opening hours
June-Oct: daily 8:30am-6:45pm
Nov-May: daily 9am-noon and 2-6:30pm
Cathedral €2 Treasury: €4 adults, €3 ages 12-25, free for ages 11 and under

Historical Timeline of Albi Cathedral

The Albigensian Crusade, a holy war of the Catholic Church against the heretical Cathars and a political war against the count of Toulouse, is waged in southwest France.
Albi Cathedral is finally completed after more than 200 years.

Description of Albi Cathedral

Although Albi Cathedral is Gothic, it has none of the delicate stonework or wall of glass that characterize the style in northern France. Instead it is made of solid brick (a material both cheaper and faster to use than stone) with modest lancet windows. In place of delicate flying buttresses it has solid vertical buttresses, which were probably inspired by existing fortifications around the Bishop's Palace (late 1200s; still standing).

The cathedral's great mass culminates at the west end in a great tiered belfry (1355-66), which rises 78 meters into the sky. The tower is roughly square with rounded buttresses at the corners; each tier is supported by a rounded quarter-arch and decorated with a quatrefoil railing. At the top is a newer octagonal portion (1485-92). The tower is nearly as wide as the nave, which has no side aisles. Viewed from the west, the cathedral looks a bit like a great pink rocket ship.

Along the roofline on all sides of the cathedral are white stone gargoyles, which were added during 19th-century restorations. The elaborate south porch was added by Bishop Dominique de Florence (1394-1410), incorporating an earlier round tower, while the ornate, Flamboyant Gothic baldaquin over the south door dates from the 16th century.

Based on its sober, fortress-like exterior, one would expect the interior of Ste-Cecile to to be austere, plain, and practical. But the cathedral is literally covered in religious art on the inside. The walls, vault and side chapels are richly painted, the choir is enclosed inside an ornate screen, and sculptures stand on many of the pillars.

The structure itself, however, is simple - a unified space with no side aisles. The large open space inside the cathedral was interrupted in the late 15th century with the addition of a rood screen surrounding the choir and a beautiful, Flamboyant Gothic jubé (c. 1474-84) delicately carved from limestone.

The classical French organ, built by Christophe Moucherel in 1736 is considered one of the three finest in France.

There are many side chapels filling the niches beneath the buttresses, all of which are painted. One chapel has a polychrome replica of the sculpture of St. Cecilia's body from Santa Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome. Another, in the north ambulatory, is called the Chapel of the Holy Cross and once contained a relic of the True Cross (destroyed in the Revolution).

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

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