Albi Cathedral

Albi, France

Albi Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Albi a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built as a fortress in the aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade. Begun in 1287 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.

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.

The Brick Gothic cathedral was constructed in brick between 1287 and 1480 in the wake of the Cathar Church, a Christian non-trinitarian dualist movement with an episcopal see at Albi around 1165 AD. Pope Innocent III initiated a brutal crusade (1209–1229) to extinguish Catharism in southern France, 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 trinitarian Roman Catholic Church. The instigator of the cathedral's construction was Bernard de Castanet, Roman Catholic Bishop of Albi and Inquisitor of Languedoc. Work on the nave was completed about 1330.

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 tall, and the doorway by Dominique de Florence (added circa 1392). The nave is the widest Gothic example in France at 18m. 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.

The elaborate interior stands in stark contrast to the cathedral's military exterior. The central choir, reserved for members of the religious order, is surrounded by a roodscreen with detailed filigree stone work and a group of polychrome statues. Below the organ, a 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.


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Founded: 1287-1480
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bob Plunkett (2 years ago)
So insanely huge I couldn’t get a good shot because it wouldn’t fit in the lens. But no matter it fills your eyes and brain with magnificence. The ticket price includes a superb audio guide which will keep you there for hours. You have to use the public WC outside but they will hold your audio guide and let you back in so don’t suffer.
Val Girling (2 years ago)
This was amazing both from the outside and the inside! Gigantic! Such a beautiful interior with 500 year old ceilings that look so freshly painted. Glorious!
Gabriella (2 years ago)
Really stunning cathedral! It’s incredibly huge and the inside is beautiful, with blue ceilings! A must-see in Albi ✨⛪️
Jane Murphy (2 years ago)
One of the most extraordinary churches I have ever been in. The hand painted murals (and you are told there are 18,500 sq metres of them) are just wonderful - so detailed and so colourful - and so vast! I found the geometric one's fascinating - so precise and clever - given the tools available when they were painted. Do pay the 5 Euros for the audio tour - and click through all the suggestions - enough of what they say is interesting to make it worthwhile. The cathedral was also an oasis of cool and calm in the very hot spell we had earlier this month. Do visit - you will not be disappointed!!!!! (I've added a few photos but you need to visit to get the full grandeur!
NGUYEN Thanh Van (2 years ago)
Wow, so magnificent. It’s the most beautiful Cathedral I’ve ever seen. Take a close look to 3D decorations in different angles. They are really special for that time.
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