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Albi Cathedral

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Albi Cathedral

Cathedral of Saint Cecilia of Albi
Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi
View of Albi Cathedral
Basic information
Location Place Sainte-Cécile, Albi, France
Geographic coordinates
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Region Midi-Pyrénées
Province Archdiocese of Albi
Status Active
Leadership Jean Legrez
Architectural description
Architectural type Fortified church
Architectural style Southern French Gothic
Groundbreaking 1282
Completed 1480
Length 113,5 m (372,4 ft)
Width 35 m (114,8 ft)
Height (max) 78 m (255,9 ft)
Materials red brick

Albi Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia (French: Basilique Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi), is the most important religious building in Albi, southern France, and the seat of the Archbishop of Albi (in full, Albi-Castres-Lavaur). First built as a fortress begun in 1287 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.[1]

In 2010 the cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


  • History 1
  • Features 2
  • Gallery 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6


The present cathedral was preceded by other buildings. The first dated from the fourth century and in 666 was destroyed by fire. The second is recorded in 920 by the name of Saint Cecilia, the present-day patroness of musicians. It was replaced in the thirteenth century by a Romanesque cathedral in stone.[2]

The Brick Gothic cathedral was constructed in brick between 1287 to 1480 in the wake of the Albigensian heresy in the area. The government mounted a brutal crusade to suppress the Cathar rebellion, with great loss of life to area residents. In the aftermath of the bloodshed, the cathedral's dominant presence and fortress-like exterior were intended to convey the power and authority of the Christian faith. The instigator of the cathedral's construction was Bernard de Castanet, Bishop of Albi and Inquisitor of Languedoc. Work on the nave was completed about 1330.[3]


The cathedral is built in the Southern Gothic Style. As suitable building stone is not found locally, the structure is built almost entirely of brick. Notable architectural features include the bell-tower (added in 1492), which stands 78 metres (256 ft) tall, and the doorway by Dominique de Florence (added circa 1392). The nave is the widest Gothic example in France at 60 feet (18 m). The interior lacks aisles which are replaced by rows of small chapels between brick internal buttresses, making Albi a hall church. Compared with regular Gothic, the buttreses are almost entirely submerged in the mass of the church. The principal entry is on the south side through an elaborate porch entered by a fortified stair, rather than through the west front, as is traditional in France.[4]

The side chapels in the nave received overhead galleries in the 15th century, diminishing their impact.[3]

The elaborate interior stands in stark contrast to the cathedral's military exterior. The central fresco of the Last Judgement, attributed to unknown Flemish painters, originally covered nearly 200 m² (the central area was later removed). The frescoes on the enormous vaulted ceiling comprise the largest and oldest ensemble of Italian Renaissance painting in France.

The cathedral organ, the work of Christophe Moucherel, dates from the 18th century.



See also


  1. ^ Holly Haynes, "Albi Cathedral", Sacred Destinations
  2. ^ The municipal park in Rochegude has some remains of its cloister arcade.
  3. ^ a b Kurmann, Peter (2010). "Late Gothic Architecture in France and the Netherlands". In Toman, Rolf. Gothic Architecture, Sculpture, Painting. Potsdam: H.F. Ullmann. pp. 162–163.  
  4. ^ Cruickshank, Dan, ed. (1996). Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture (20th edition ed.). Architectural Press. pp. 432, 443.  

External links

  • Location
  • Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d'Albi, Tourist Office site
  • Panoramic virtual tour inside the cathedral
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