Albi Things to Do

  • huge!
    huge!
    by iaint
  • seen from north bank
    seen from north bank
    by iaint
  • view from south bank
    view from south bank
    by iaint

Most Recent Things to Do in Albi

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: There Are Other Treasures Too

    by hquittner Written Oct 6, 2009
    Presentation & Flight to Egypt
    4 more images

    The church contains a few other treasure that can be admired. There are the 14C tall stained glass windows in the apse that portray scenes from the Life of Christ. In several chapels like that of Ste.-Croix are very old frescos: one of the Resurrection of Christ and another series on Constantine and his wife's discovery of the True Cross. In another is a 14C Sienese polyptich. In the floor nearby is embedded an ancient bas-relief tom slab of an early Bishop.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Seniors
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: Finally Visit the Grand Choir

    by hquittner Written Oct 6, 2009
    The Altar
    4 more images

    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.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Arts and Culture
    • Seniors

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: Examine the Jube and Ambulatory

    by hquittner Updated Oct 6, 2009
    South Inner Wall of Ambulatory
    4 more images

    The rood screen (Jube), already illustrated, was constructed along with a choir enclosure which isolated the gated ambulatory from the nave and altar. It is a single unit of carved limestone, started around 1480 when the west wall mural painting began. The sculptors are unknown but its Burgundian character is clear. (It is possible that these craftsmen went on to Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse). Their names are unknown. The structure is a welter of Flamboyant forms: ogee arches, keystones, lace-like lattice work all carved from the soft limestone. The ambulatory is lined with poly chromed statues of the heroes of the Old Testament that prefigure Christ. Before the Revolution there were 265 statues in the church; now 178 remain. Various chapels face into the ambulatory, housing prized objects, and on the north side it connects to the Sacristy. The poly chromed statues along the inner walls are heroes of the Old Testament. On the inner side of the South ambulatory entry is a Mary and the Annunciation suggesting the symbolization of the entire complex. Particularly impressive is the area on the back of the Altar where Simeon stands with Zacharias and Jacob attended by two Angels. (The poor light did not allow our pictures to do it justice).

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Seniors
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: Enter the Nave

    by hquittner Written Oct 4, 2009
    The Nave Toward the Rood Screen
    4 more images

    Entering the nave through the elaborately carved door entry, one is reminded of most Spanish Cathedrals and a few others because by being confronted with a large Rood Screen (Jube) walling off the chancel. These are rare in old French churches having been destroyed after the Reformation (exceptions are the open one at St.-Etienne du Mont in Paris, Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse and the rood beams in Bretagne. See our Tips for each). Beside hiding a view of the chancel, the screen also walls off the ambulatory as it does at Notre Dame in Paris. To relax the religious misery of having to look at the west end, Louis I immediately had the vaulting painted with frescos(1409-12) by artists from Bologna done in elaborate detail with expensive azure and gold, covering all of the New Testament , including parables, almost unending., with a different treatment between each vault rib. Above the west end mural is a great organ with an elaborate case covered with musical cherubim from 1734, updated and still in active use.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Seniors
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: The Last Judgement

    by hquittner Updated Oct 4, 2009
    The Giant Mural (With Organ Above)
    4 more images

    When Bishop Louis I d’Amboise first decided to decorate his church (1480), he immediately realized that the west front was already finished on the outside and did not look like others. He could not use a tympanum to educate and lecture his flock. Somehow (undoubtedly with the help of Cluny) they located a group of painters who created one of the largest pictures ever made on the inner surface of the brick walls of the west end. They did not cover it with plaster and create a fresco but devised materials based upon egg-yolk as both binder and adhesive incorporating ground pigments applied directly to the brick. The mural has the layout of a magnified version of the tympanum of the Last Judgement at Conques (See our Tips there).There appears to be nothing like it elsewhere in the world, and it still is in its original state with very little attempt at repair. The largest disruption to it occurred in the late 17C when the central midsection was removed to provide an entry to the St. Clair Chapel under the belfry. This section contained Archangel Michael with his scales plus Mary and St. John. Nobody knows who the artists were but it is suspected that they were originally trained by Flemish artists in Burgundy. One or more unidentified “Flemish” masters were around such as the Master of Moulins (Jean Hey; see the Rolin Museum in our Autun Tips). Documents say they were French. At any rate the characters have a liveliness and expression very akin to the work of Bosch and van der Weyden (they were never in these parts). The blessings and sins (with details of the tortures) are delineated in the captions. The punishments for the sinners are easy to see. Above the banner on the left is Heaven with 12 white robed Apostles with a crowd of notables (big-shots who made it like Charlemagne). Just below the banner are the Saved with the Book of Life in their hands. Where did the artist(s) get the source iconography? There is nothing but speculation.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Seniors

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: Climb and Enter via the Canopy

    by hquittner Written Oct 3, 2009
    The Canopy
    4 more images

    By 1500 Albi had become wealthy due to the growing of woad, a yellow-flowered plant from which a modest amount of the valuable indigo dye could be extracted. Many rich merchants were building fancy abodes and Bishop Louis I embarked upon the beautification of his church starting with the Last Judgement mural on the west wall of the nave in 1480. His last work, started in 1520, was an entry door and porch covered by a canopy, all in carved stone, completed by successors, Bps. Gouffier and Duprat. in 1535. (Their coats of arms are above the door). The stone work has strong Burgundian styling; the choir statues were provided Cluniac workers; my sources are otherwise mute. It is of course Flamboyant Gothic. The roof of the canopy is an intricate design of ribbing. This carries down onto the pseudo-tympanum whose horseshoe arching is studded with Angel statues and swirling columns. The Virgin and Child are at the center. The porch on which all this stands is reached by a long set of stairs that stretches from the older entry gate through which one climbs to enter

    Related to:
    • Seniors
    • Arts and Culture
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: The Bell-Tower is the West Front

    by hquittner Written Oct 2, 2009
    Bell Tower from the West
    2 more images

    The west front of the cathedral is like no other, especially of that time. Instead of portals and an elaborate tympanum, it was tightly closed by a large 15+ m square donjon-like structure which rose only three levels to the roof line. The inner walls are anchored to the rounded buttresses with two more on the outer edges. It was sealed from the nave by a large wall which formed thed the ground for the Last Judgement Mural. In 1485-92 Bishop Louis I d'Amboise, at the time he was ordering the Last Judgement, also had the tower heightened to 78m , by adding another square level plus two octagonal ones. The inner buttress towers were extend whilr small flying buttresses were attached laterally. In oder to get a good view of this, we went around to the west of the church to the r. du Castelviel, but to our dismay the lower levels were covered by scaffolding. For a good picture of this side see the kokoryko Things Tip of 3/8/09.

    Related to:
    • Seniors
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • hquittner's Profile Photo

    Ste.-Cecile: Look At the Fortress-Church Exterior

    by hquittner Updated Oct 2, 2009
    A Fortress On a Hill
    4 more images

    In 1265 Bishop Bernard de Castanet, who was the Inquisitor for the region (and the number 2 Inquisitor of France) believed that the Cathar heresy was still smouldering. in spite of the incineration of 1244. Accordingly, he modified the Episcopal Palace in construction to a fortress-type of dwelling including a Donjon (today’s Palace de la Berbie). In 1271 he reinstituted the Inquisition; the adjacent 12C church was demolished and the new Cathedral was started in 1282, built to be both protective and demonstrate the unassailability of the church. Much of the money was extorted from “suspects” as proof of their innocence. (Incidentally the architects of this unique church are unknown). It took just over 100 years to finish the basic building. The West Facade was a square Donjon, 3 levels high with no Portal (the present portal covered in another Tip). The structure inside is one vast single aisled nave. The supporting buttresses run through the wall and appear on the outside as rounded columns, while on the inside they extend as partitions between the chapels. Their bases slope outward just as they would in a true fortress. Tall narrow windows appear between them starting 20 m above the ground running up to the (original) roof line. (In the mid-19C the Cathedral was heightened by another 7m when a new roof and reinforcing of the vaulting were done, plus adding a parapet and decorative gargoyles. This can be seen in the lighter color of the newer brick). The church is of completely of red brick like most of the structures built in Albi. This is because stone quarries are quite distant from the town and it was considered too dangerous in the 13-14C to transport such materials for this purpose. The apse is rounded and like the sides. This made the interior quite dark and in the 14C , when dangers had evaporated, a set of lower windows were cut into the walls to help. On the south side to the east of the canopy there is a red brick crenellated tower and a stone portal above a short flight of stairs. This was the first decoration of the original doorway added between 1392-1410 by Bishop Dominique de Florence who is seen in this tympanum being presented to Ste.-Cecile by his patron saint. Below the embrasures were filled with statues but the Revolution has left only one of St. John.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Seniors

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    Fontaine Verdusse

    by kokoryko Written Sep 5, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The fountain is dry today
    4 more images

    Dare to have a . . . . . rest in Roman toilets! Gentlemen have a rest, go in restrooms, toilets, and ladies go to powder their nose in restrooms, check their appearance or do what they have to do. Roman toilets were latrines, there was no mixing of sexes, as they were common rooms, seats next one to the other, and we do not know if the original Roman here were for male or female. . . . .
    In fact the Fontaine Verdusse is an old fountain known here since antique times, and the Roman laid it out, but despite my words above, nothing gives hints there were latrines; it is today a public toilet, and that made me think of roman latrines! So, have a rest in a roman fountain would be more suitable.
    This fountain has been built and re-built several times and when you go down the steps inside, it appears to you as it was in the beginning 20th century; at that time it was still used by washerwomen who worked next to big basins fitted with washboards (picture 2); now they are decorated with some plants (picture 3) . The water is not anymore flowing from the lions’ heads (picture 1) as it was in the past as this drawing shows (picture 4).
    Well, serious tip: if, in emergency, whilst visiting the old city, you do not want to step in a café or waste time looking for a public toilet, you can run to the Fontaine Verdusse!
    Fontaine Verdusse is located at the crossing of Rue Verdusse and Rue du Général Sybille, North west corner of Place La Pérouse, next to the fountain where you will see this modern Siren (picture 5); a small sign indicates “Toilettes publiques”.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Castles and Palaces
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    See the cathedral from every street!

    by kokoryko Updated Mar 2, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Impressive, massive from the west
    4 more images

    Bishop Bernard de Castanet knew exactly what he wanted when he ordered the construction of the cathedral and how it should be built: size and style! The construction of Ste Cecile began in 1282 and the main building was achieved in 1383.
    Bernard de Castanet wanted a symbol of strength and power of faith and Roman Catholic religion; Catholicism was the truth, the real faith, it was hell and paradise, and after subduing the local lords and people a strong and spectacular symbol was needed! In some way he more than succeeded in building this cathedral; not only is it impressive by its size, shape, style, using brick for making a massive and very fine gothic (if that is possible, massive and gothic!) style, but it is a real jewel of gothic architecture, with the very high windows, the elegant belfry, and the walls with the half round towers. . . .
    What Bernard de Castanet wanted is that the former Cathars (I am “preparing” something about a Cathar tour in southern France), who did not have churches or official priests, could see the cathedral from everywhere in the city, feel that the Catholic Church was watching them, a bit like a “Big Brother”. Let us walk in the streets. . . . We have seen that the cathedral dominates the city, and can see it from far; but in the narrow streets, you cannot escape the cathedral, “she” is everywhere. . . . On the main picture, from the gardens on the west slope of the city, in the narrow streets (picture 2), from the backyards or gardens of the houses of the old city (picture 3, picture 4), you cannot escape her.
    From the other side of the city (South East on picture 5), in more modern surroundings, the belfry is watching you; most cathedrals, of course dominate their city, but I wrote the lines above, as it is the first time I had that feeling of “domination” next to a cathedral, probably caused by its “military” style; this being said (written!), walking in the streets of Albi is very enjoyable, and after some time it is even fun or nice to see the cathedral again and again, and in some streets, if you do not see it you will miss it. . . . really! And amazingly, looking that big and massive, it is not a big building finally, compared to many cathedrals of Northern France, with its 113 metres length, 35 metres width and 40 metre high walls; well, the walls are 2.5 metres thick. . . .

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    And also a bit modern art!

    by kokoryko Written Jan 17, 2009

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Sir��ne albigeoise
    2 more images

    Near the southern entrance of the old city, between Place La Pérouse , rue de la Berchede and boulevard du general Sibille, is an open area, at the entrance of which is a fountain with a bronze statue (picture 1); nothing exceptional, just a change from the medieval art we have seen all day; good is to walk to west, under the trees, and soon you will be in front of the war memorial (picture 2); it is always a sad view for me, and here too; note just that this big arch is mainly built with bricks, just a bit white stone to give some relief and the plaques where the names are engraved are also white limestone. Not really art, just red bricks, and to finish the visit today, a look at some tropical plants on the massifs between the streets; laying out gardens and parks is also art, so banana trees and bamboos (picture 3). Albi is located in southern France and the climate allows to grow some plants with tropical origins. . . .

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    The Occitan cross

    by kokoryko Written Jan 17, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    To remind we are in Cathar country
    1 more image

    Ah I wrote a few words about the Cathars in the intro ; almost nothing from that period is left in Albi, except some names and it is now more a commercial argument rather than any other thing; if you are looking for a summer house, even cathar estate agents offer their services (picture 1); but Cathars had no external artefacts or signs like crosses, so the crosses above the window have no meaning, despite their original shape.
    To the contrary, you will see in Occitania many crosses like the one on the sign on picture 2, and generally red coloured; this is the Occitan cross.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    A few street views

    by kokoryko Written Jan 17, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    You can't escape the cathedral
    4 more images

    I wrote: you cannot escape the cathedral; even turning your back, you will see “her”, like here in the windows of the half timbered brick houses in some small narrow street (first picture).
    Many houses are half timbered brick houses, but some are rendered and painted with more or less pastel colours; another characteristic of local architecture is the small size of the individual houses, and to win a bit space, the first floor is advancing on the street for half a metre or so (picture 2); and in the quiet street the inhabitants do not hesitate to put plants in pots, giving some rural charm.
    In more central areas, the houses are bigger, higher, the closed balconies (corbels) advance more on the streets (picture3).
    Walking in red streets, is just nice, there is a particular light, even when the sun is not with you; and see little towers, like in rue St Loup (Saint Wolf!) (picture 4) and enjoy the arcades of Place du Cloître St Salvy (picture 5). Ah, just walk, and see the little details here or there, you will always have something to see, and you camera will be busy!

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    Brick arches.

    by kokoryko Written Jan 17, 2009

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Belfry under the arch.. .
    4 more images

    If you come to visit Albi with a car, you will need to find a parking place, and I can recommend this one, as it is close to the old city centre and, getting out of the car you will discover the first interesting vistas and perspectives. . . Here, arches, straight lines, bricks. . . .
    On the first picture is the belfry, a bit modest this time, beneath an arch of the railway bridge; on the second picture, from the parking area, you see in the foreground the railway bridge and in background the rue du Castelviel bridge which reaches the area north of the cathedral; I recommend to walk down a bit and walk up along the arcades de Bondidou located just right of the picture; there (picture 3), you have now arches in three directions, and you see the street you will walk up to the old city. You still can have a look at the belfry (picture 4), and when you will walk up the small street, you will not loose its view, and you still will walk in a red brick ambiance, but the arches now are vegetal (picture 5). . . . .

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo

    And the entrance, in case you missed. . . .

    by kokoryko Written Jan 17, 2009

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Flamboyant gothic baldaquin
    4 more images

    Flamboyant gothic . . . . in fact at the southern entrance of the cathedral you can have an introduction of what is awaiting you when you will enter the cathedral; there is a baldaquin (in French!), a four poster arch, which is a contrast to the austere brick building. The carved arches and vaults (picture 1) are just an exquisite example of flamboyant Gothic architecture, so light, aerial. . .
    Angels and apostles stand next the pillars, and you notice (picture 2) the rich detailed carvings, the helical pillar, and the window, on the left with the Virgin in front. Experts may identify easily each apostle or angel, as they are in very good conservation condition (picture 3).
    An interesting sundial is on the western side of the entrance (picture 4); this sundial gives only the hours of the afternoon, and not as usual, with the shade of the stick, but with the shade of the lower branch of the star at the end of the stick; but it gives also the inclination of the earth vis a vis the ecliptic, the seasons, the months. . . . To see the morning hours, go to see the sundial on the eastern side. . . . and. . . promised, I will make a picture on a sunny day next time. . . . ! :-) !
    At night (picture 5), the baldaquin looks very nice too, and the plays of light and shade give another dimension to Gothic architecture. . . . .

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Albi

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

97 travelers online now

Comments

Albi Things to Do

Reviews and photos of Albi things to do posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Albi sightseeing.

View all Albi hotels