The church of Saint Salvy Collegial
After having had a general view of the church from the Place du Cloître you have to return to rue Mariès to enter the church under a double roman arch where an ugly square door frame has been added (picture 1).
The building of St Salvy began in Carolingian times (8th century) for monks established here; the tower has been elevated end 11th century, and the main roman church in the 12th century; the cloister we will visit soon has been built in the 13th century;
The church has been fully re-built in the 15th century, in flamboyant gothic style using the stones of the old roman church stones (at that time, brick was already the usual construction material), and the nave and choir are gothic now (picture3). A baroque marble and gold altar is now in the gothic choir picture 4). Other modifications have been done with time, and from the old roman building, only a part of the nave, the main doors, and a small side chapel are left.
St Salvy! Who was this saint? He is not very well known outside Albi; he was a monk, then bishop, born in the area in the 6th century, and is mainly known as an advisor to Merovingian king Chilperic, grandson of Clovis; he advised the king to take care of his kingdom, make politics, and leave the theological problems to the priests (him!); he has a nice face on the statue at the entrance of the church (picture 2)
Place du Cloître St Salvy; Entrance of the church: rue Mariès
Rue Mariès or Sainte-Cécile, 81000 Albi
Ste.-Cecile: Finally Visit the Grand Choir
The choir, its screen and the chancel take up 6 of the 12 bays of the church. It was finished in 1500 at the same time as the bell tower. The same fine stonework and statuary are present inside, only this time the subject is the Life of Jesus with a Mary and Child standing behind the Altar with St. Paul to her right and John the Baptist left. Around the apse curve are the great people of the New Testament. Ranks of plain carved oak stalls (120 in all) stretch on each side beyond that point. The bejeweled original altar was confiscated during the Revolution and melted down. Although the stalls are not carved, their backings are arabesque decorated stone slabs separated by cherubim of carved stone. The lateral doorways into the Ambulatory are topped with pinnacles and the left one has a statue of Charlemagne and the right one a similar figure representing Constantine.
Albi, la ville rouge.
"The view of the cathedral is just. . . ."
I travel by car through central France at least twice a year, between Pau and my hidden den in the Forez and I like to change itineraries, to look at the beautiful countryside of Midi Pyrenees and Auvergne regions. Sometimes I drive at night, and, not having the landscapes, I stop in some city and enjoy the enlightened buildings. The view of the cathedral of Albi at night, dominating the old bridge over the Tarn River convinced me to make a longer stop, one day, and not just keep driving the 500 km winding roads between Pau and the Forez.
Well, it is literary licence: the roads are winding, really, but only in the Central Massif part of the journey. . . , I made a few stops in Albi, and, as I like that city a lot I share a bit here, with mainly street walks and visits to two wonderful religious buildings, one you see from very far, the other one you have to go of the beaten paths to discover it.
Update September 5th 2009 : on my last trip between Pau and Forez, I made a short stop for food in this beautiful city; that came out into 2 restaurant tips, a very “minty” tip and a very (!! I think!) useful “latrines” tip.
Albi, old city of Occitania, is, with Toulouse, a symbol of the south of France which had been invaded and subdued by the kings of France (France was only the north, Île de France at the time, Paris and surroundings) in the Middle Age, during the crusades against the Cathar heretics, a good pretext, with support of the Holy Catholic Church to subdue this territory; the crusades were named Albigeois crusades . . . . So, in the past, a symbol of resistance against the North and standardisation (official language, religion, vassalage to Paris. . . ), Albi is today a very pretty city, with its personality expressed mainly by the red colour of the bricks with which it has been built since the Middle Age, and the charming streets of the old city centre where you can see traces of history at every corner. Once you begin to stroll in the streets, you forget about the time going, forget about the rest of the world; you are very easily immersed in that city.
"Not only the bricks are red!"
Albi, la ville rouge (Albi, the red city) is famous for its cathedral, the Episcopal Palace, as the birthplace of famous painter Toulouse Lautrec (and the Toulouse Lautrec Museum), for its red colour in general. Red colour, but not only for the bricks of the houses and monuments, but also for political reasons, as the locals, since ages, are “left” oriented, and the small coal mines towns of the area are the cradle of the French Socialist movement with among others, Decazeville and Carmaux (birth place of Jean Jaures, greatest French socialist and pacifist figure of the beginning of the twentieth century). So, also a political red city!
Let us go to some beautiful places of this city, walk in the old streets during a rainy day (Exceptional! I mean the rain!. . . :-)) and see some architectural jewels, meet local celebrities, have a taste of deep southern central France.
Next time I pass through Albi, if it is day time, and the weather is good, I will make a few better photographs and take some time to walk along the Tarn River. . . :)