Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, French Heritage monument to Albi

Foundation of the Church

The temple which I purpose to build should be large, because that black God above all gods.

The less uncertain traditions and ancient legends, saint Clair, after you convert the peoples of Gaul Narbonne, was also the Apostle and the Bishop of the Albigeois country.

The faithful of these lands, like all those of the first ages, were first forced to hide in the shadow of the night, to celebrate the Holy Mysteries of the religion. They furtively lit their torches under the porticos of the death; a tomb served as them an altar. When the peace given to the church allowed Christian worship to occur in broad daylight, of all shares of the temples stood in honour of the true God. So was built in the capital of the Albienses, a Cathedral Church under the invocation of the Holy Cross. It would be difficult to assign the exact time of its foundation; We know only that it was built on the banks of the River Tarn, at the place called Montagnac, between the Palace of the counts of Albi and the current city.

Holy Cross Church is sufficient, for several centuries, to the needs of the faithful; but their number is considerably increased, it was not a temple wider and easier access. Subsequently, this need became the general concern of the spirits. The priests and the people, the Lords, counts and barons, wanted to participate in the construction of a new building. Raymond, count of Toulouse; Malfred, Viscount of Narbonne, and his wife Adelaide. the counties of Albi; Trincavel, Viscount of Béziers; Finally, the famous Sicard of EAD, left dying of pious bequests to achieve execution.

A consideration in addition to the zeal of these fervent Christians: the new Cathedral should be placed under the invocation of Saint Cecilia, whose name was in great reverence in the southern provinces of the France, and whose cult had always been celebrated in the Church of the West. She was honored as one of the four martyrs of the Latins; found the annotation of the large office for his party in the sacramentary of the Gallican liturgy in use in France in the sixth century, especially in Aquitaine and other provinces subject to the Visigoths.

The general wish was to make the monument, erected in honour of sainte Cécile, worthy of this illustrious Patron Saint; House shrank again before this company, when the thirteenth century brought this time of real wonders, where all pumps in the France religious age seem to be met. The enthusiasm for the sacred monuments was at the highest point. everything was for the churches and by the powerful protection of the prelates; faith, raising the vaults, produced such magnificent cathedrals that are the pride of our cities and the most beautiful ornament of our homeland.

Bernard de Castanet, who then occupied the seat of Albi, had received the mission to travel to Rome, urging the canonization of saint Louis. Negotiating soon had the effect that we had to wait for his zeal active and intelligent. The Pontiff, wanting to give his marks, honored him with the title of cardinal, and granted the Secularization of his chapter, which was of the order of St. Augustine. A character of such merit was able to understand his century and to follow the momentum from all sides. Hit of the wonders that arose in all Christendom, this prelate wanted to realize the wish of his predecessors; He had the final draft of the Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, and laid in it even the first stone of the assumption day, 15 August 1282.

To ensure the performance of its work, the Bishop summoned a General Assembly of its clergy, in which he was arrested that each benefit from the diocese would contribute of the twentieth of its revenues in the construction of the Church; and to excite them by his example, he began by taxing itself, as well as members of his chapter. From there comes, said that tax several benefits remained attached to the Episcopal mense, it was still one of the most significant of France, despite the decreases that she had to suffer by the erection of the Diocese of Castres in 1317.

Bernard, by his wise measures, ensured the future of the company that would immortalize his name. Such work is not the work of a day, and several generations of men had to contribute to the implementation of this monument. Indeed, despite the zeal of his successors, it could not be spent as April 23, 1480, and was completed only in 1512, i.e. 230 years after its foundation.

It is not today that our fathers, with the only resources that provided the zeal and piety of the faithful, have been able to come to grips with these magnificent works. It is that we no longer have this faith that has stirred so many stones, this enthusiasm which produced also amazing wonders.

The same causes were printed in the work of the middle ages be solemn and religious that have item from another era. So although modern school masterpieces are far away, despite their luxury and elegance, to excite in us this unintentional sense of grandeur, that indefinable emotion, who take our soul, when we contemplate the buildings in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Considering elevation and the flexibility of their vaults, the harmony that reigns in all parts that compose it looks that these works are a kind of divine creation: it seems that the hand of man was unable to perform a work whose mind can barely grasp the whole. Everything seems worthy of the supreme Majesty; all command reverence and respect.

«Older which raised our monuments had piety and faith, said Chateaubriand, in his genius of Christianity, most these monuments have been striking the grandeur and nobility of character. The arts have always degenerated in philosophical centuries; It is that argumentative spirit, by destroying the imagination, undermines the fine arts; is believed to be more clever because it straightens some physical errors, it replaces all errors of the mind, and is retrograde, indeed, since it loses one of its finest faculties. »

External description of the Church

The general effect produced by the outside view of Albi Cathedral does nothing like most of the monuments of that time. The strength and the nakedness of the masses that make up this building, the seriousness of the style influenced by gravity, excite not a deep sense of AWE and surprise. but only this level of interest which arises from the severity of the lines and the grandiose proportions. This church is outside that few outstanding parts and point deserves its exterior construction to be placed at the forefront of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, if the order of the plan and the beauty of detail, that we will notice describing the Interior, the did look like one of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture. It is entirely built in bricks. This material, blackened by centuries, resisted at the time as the most solid stone. Its walls are smooth; It is that it could them be ornaments that cover with both grace most of the monuments of the middle ages; the only stone may lend itself to the whim of the worker and the forms that it is willing to give it. Their elevation is about 32 meters above the ground; they are flanked, distance in distance, buttresses to demi-elliptiques without pyramidal tip; a single, complete skyrocket, lies at the eastern end of the building, and it is there that the clock is placed. Mr. Prosper Mérimée, hit their circular shape, which it said to be unprecedented in France, thought that the architect, defying its materials, wanted to avoid the salient angles that are the first to deteriorate. Despite the authority of this scientist, so well known in the arts, it seems more natural to believe, according to a generally accepted tradition, the original plan was to raise all the foothills above the roof and form as many turrets similar to that of the clock, provision that would have made outside of the rich and imposing building.

At the western end, a bell tower rises, inevitable ornament of religious monuments, including the aspect contributes singularly to the Majesty of the whole. It is the mass of bricks the highest known, except in the pyramids of Northern America. It is square in shape: four galleries surround it on all sides and end its times; towers, placed in two of the corners of the square, amounted to the Summit, which ends with a symmetrical Octagon platform of 64 metres of surface. In these rounds, are built of stone stairs which has 366 degrees. Its height is 130 meters above the level of the waters of the Tarn, and 74 meters and 55 centimeters above the ground.

The exterior of the building offers still some notable beauties. We first find a portal built in 1380 by Dominique de Florence, then Bishop of Albi. It is stone, beautifully crafted and enriched by the grace of Italian sculpture. Unfortunately the devastating human hammer destroyed most of its ornaments, which consisted in reliefs and statues, which we see the empty seats. These sculptures were especially curious by their singularity. Similar to those seen on the doors of the cathedrals of Arles and Nîmes, they showed a mixture of jester and graceful. Their destruction is even more annoying, that they could have been used in the history of art.

This portal gives input to a grand staircase, which leads to a platform, on which opens the main door of the Church. There, on an area of 12 square meters, amounted to a great height of the Gothic arches, the meeting which forms a magnificent portico. The materials that compose are worked with a rare perfection, and drilled to date with a wonderful finish. This monument, began towards the end of the fifteenth century, by the care of Louis D'amboise, could not be completed during the life of this prelate. On all sides, we can see the weapons of the Cardinals of Prat and Lorraine, bishops Joffroi and Aimar Gill, who succeeded him. It was once covered with vault, whose ruins can still be seen, and on which it was through a door drilled below the upper cross of the Church; the time and the revolution have degraded this admirable work, but it keeps still of her Majesty; and the picturesque of his order, he prepares to effects which await the observer once it will have exceeded the threshold of the Church.

Internal description of the Church

This is not to have contributed little to the Majesty of the cult, that placed the imagination of the Christian prayers under the mysterious charm of this light uncertain, so favourable to contemplation, and to have somehow made him part of the wonders of the heavenly Jerusalem.

A vast nave without pillars, the disposition of which seems to double the scope; a magnificent rood screen, vaults in warheads, which extends a huge curtain of azure, print inside this temple a character of grandeur and Majesty that captures the mind the colder and more jaded about the religious beliefs and the effects of the art.

Which enters just reflected or get lost on the rich work of architecture, sculpture and painting, that it takes to turn a light or dark tint who inspired contemplation and respect. In this set there is a religious expression that touches; a suave poetry appears written on the walls by an inspired hand.

The system architecture, which presided over the interior construction of the Cathedral of Albi, is both imposing and graceful. It offers, in all of its parts, the most perfect regularity, the happiest dimensions; a purity in lines and lightness in the masses that surprise and delight the eye. Warheads high, which crowns the entrance of chapels, show that it was built at the time where the architecture, improperly called Gothic, had reached its highest degree of perfection. However there is the passage of this style to the modern genus: arches are more open, much more graceful ogive curvature, the ribs more gently graded; but the transition from one era to another form or contrast, or disparate; both styles are fused and maintain across an actual unit without monotony, which is one of the most remarkable perfections of this building.

The length of the Church, in work, without understand the depth of the chapels at both ends, is 97 meters 5 centimeters; and by adding this depth of 107 metres, 25 centimetres.

Its width, also in work, without understand the side chapels, is 19 metres 50 centimetres, and taking into account the depth of the chapels, 28 m 28 cm, the thickness of the walls, with chapels on both sides, takes 10 meters on average.

The canopy height is 30 metres above the keypad.

As all the major Churches of the middle ages, the Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile offered three entrance doors, which each had a particular destination: one was reserved for the clergy, princes and the great; the second was for men, and the third for the women. Two of these gates still; the third, closed since the revolution, was placed opposite the main entrance, in the chapel of Christ: you can still see the tracks outside of the Church. It is not easy to understand why architects, who themselves are stitched to put in their book so much regularity, have not opened the main gate below the organ. This was, it seems, its true position, and from the outset the eye had embraced the whole of the building. The Chronicles of the country publicize the reason for this provision: the point where the Bell-Tower is built once formed the boundary of two different communities: the city and the Castelviel. Placed at the end of the monument, the door would be opened outside the territory on which the Church itself was built.

The nave

The Church is divided by the rood screen into two almost equal parts; all around are performed twenty-nine chapels, above which reign of spacious galleries, placed half the height of the building. Nine of them are open in the nave. In this number are not included the entrance to the Bell Tower, the organ, nor the chapel of Saint-Clair, ending the nave in a manner so imposing.

This last was not part of the original plan. It was opened in 1693 by Bishop Legoux de la Berchère, who dedicated it to saint Clair, first bishop of Albi. A generally widespread tradition has it that this chapel was carved, as a whole, in the massif of the base of the steeple but scrutiny just destroy this opinion: the vault and openings obviously back at the time of the General construction; brick which are composed is smooth in his face, and the sol offers inside a former carrellement at the level of the pavement of the Church, while in the part which serves as input to the Chapel, and that alone was carved in the bright, the soil is formed by a massive masonry, and the mortar that covers its wallsIt recognizes the trace of the chisel. The induction to be drawn from these facts is confirmed, moreover, by a written monument. We read in detail the translation of the relics of saint Clair, written by order of Mgr de la Berchère, that these relics were placed in a chapel opened by the construction of the wall, perfosso parie te.

The baptismal chapel contains a group in stucco, which represents the baptism of Jesus Christ. LL is due to the generosity of Mr. Abbot of Vezian, Canon of the Cathedral.

Chair, placed in the middle of the nave, is also in stucco and marble. It is one of the objects which sets the most attention for its majestic forms. It is not in harmony with the kind of Church, but this is a nice appetizer.

The decorations in the chapel of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, which are due to Mr. l ' Abbé Breuil, Archdeacon of the chapter, belong at the same time.

The three books which we have just discussed were executed in 1776, by two Italian artists, Mazetti and Maderni, whose names are known in the arts.

"These constructions, said M. Mège, some merit that they have indeed, date back to a time when artists had abandoned the true principles, and substituted the magnificent imitation of nature and beauty. Bad taste had invaded the fine arts as false philosophy had invaded the literature; they despised, it disdained the antique; the kind adopted during the middle ages, stigmatized the epithet of Gothic, was repulsed; It was for him a species of horror. »

Should therefore not be surprised that the artists of this time are not worked to harmonize their designs with the kind of Church. on the contrary, they wanted to submit to eye a contrast they believed to be to the advantage of their works.

Source: Monograph of the Cathedral of Albi by Hippolyte Crozes 1861.

Sainte-Cécile Cathedral
(Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, albi)

Heritage listed, historical monument, or having been under investigation

Structural information

Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, « Sainte-Cécile Cathedral » is a construction of the city of Albi (France, Tarn). Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, French Heritage monument to Albi albi, tarn

Location and general information

  • identifier : 132668
  • item : Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile
  • Location of the building :
    • Midi-Pyrénées
    • Albi
  • INSEE code of the municipality : 81004
  • Zip code of the municipality : 81000
  • Order in the communal list : 1
  • Name of the building :
    • The building is designated as follows : cathedral
  • State :
    • the current state of the monument is not known.

Dates and times

  • Period of construction :
    • We have no information on the time of construction of this monument.
  • Date of protection : 1862 : classé MH
  • Date taken into account : 1993/08/30

Construction, architecture and style

  • Materials:
    • We do not have this information.
  • Roofing :
    • We do not have this information.
  • Materials (roofing) :
    • We do not have this information.
  • Other about the composition roofs :
    • No information on the coverage of the place.
  • Floors :
    • any information about this construction.
  • Stairs :
    • No stairs mentioned on this construction.
  • Decoration of the building :
    • No information about decoration.
  • Representation :
    • No information on the ornamentation of the place.
  • Typology :
    • No information about typology.
  • Plan :
    • We do not know the type of plan for this building.

Monument and history of the place

  • Interest of the building : 18 04 1914 (J.O.)
  • Elements protected MH (historical monument) :
    • Any particular element of the building is subject to protection in our database.
  • Constituent areas :
    • no information.
  • Parties constituantes étudiées :
    • no information.
  • Use :
    • We do not know the different uses that have been made of this construction.


  • Other :
    • other Information : the 1992 State property
  • Picture : 16aa086c441164f90b552875299c7283.jpg
  • Details : Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile : classement par liste de 1862
  • Mérimée reference : PA00095453

Contributions documentaries made by visitors

Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, French Heritage monument to Albi. Picture of Lomyre
Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, albi
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Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, French Heritage monument to Albi. Picture of Lomyre
Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, albi
Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, French Heritage monument to Albi. Picture of Lomyre
Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile, albi

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