Sunday, October 7, 2012



Albi is in the Département du Tarn of the Midi Pyrénees. 

Traces of settlements from the Bronze Age have been found here. That would be 3,000 to 600 BC.

Today Albi is a fairly large centre with 52,000 inhabitants. As we approached the city on the autoroute, I had images of driving through the industrial, big box commercial outskirts of a North American burrough. The entrance to Albi from the freeway is not pretty. No worries. Centre Ville still takes one back in time.

Historically, Albi was a major theatre in the 13th C where the great Christian schisms took place.

For some of us medieval history was in high school except, perhaps,  for all those castles and knights; then the Middle Ages; then the Reformation. I managed get through all that in school but it was all a bit dusty and ashen; rather obscure stuff.

Now I am much older and a tourist here who has an education, who is awed by all the old architecture, and I enjoy the food and the wine, and the quirks of the French, and the romance of it all.  I really want to make some sense of what I am seeing. I want to make some connections. Unless one is a student of the Classics, a writer with a research staff, or a professor with academic grants, a lot of these antiquities can run together and it all gets rather confusing. But now I am taking a little time to do some reading, to learn enough to connect some dots. 

The Albigensians in the 13th Century lived in a region that was independent of the French Crown and the Cathars practised their own version of Christianity, e.g., different interpretations of God Almighty and the Holy Spirit than was espoused and laid on by the powerful Catholics around them. 

In 1208, the crunch came and the neighbouring status quo clergy climaxed the persecution and repression with warfare; or perhaps, genocide would be more descriptive of the onslaught.

Cathars were burned at the stake. The French Crown annexed the region and the Pope and his brigands of Bishops bullied their way in and around here. They soon became the new status quo.

Bricks were laid for the Cathedrale de Sainte-Cecile  in 1282. It is the tallest brick structure in the world.

Regrettably, my camera has not captured the utterly amazing architecture, engineering and beauty of these buildings.

We are always asking ourselves, "How did they do it?"

Above right of the gargoyle is part of the ceiling in the transept of the cathedral. A close look reveals coats of arms of the local nobility. The Red and the Black ruled. (read Stendahl)

Us - with the gardens at the Palais de Berbie behind.

There is a funny story about this photo: 

A French couple asked if we'd take their picture and I requested that they reciprocate. To get smiles in our picture I committed a faux pas. I said, "La vache qui rit". The French laughed, sort of tentatively. I giggled  with a gulp (which means, maybe this was droll self-mockery). As can be seen by Joanne's face, she was wondering if I thought there was humour in this. 

Many of us have eaten La Vache Qui Rit. It's a processed cheese that's available everywhere in France - internationally, actually. I don't recommend it. It's France's version of Kraft. 

If I may say, I should have stuck with the old saw, "say cheese". Even the French will say that to get a smile for the camera. Needless to say, referring to my wife as a laughing cow got me no cheese for lunch on this day.

The Palais de Berbie was completed in the late 13th C by the new Bishop, murderer of Cathars. He lived in the palace, and he presided in the cathedral right beside it. Locally, he was God incarnate, the head honcho. Those were the good old days for the Catholic Church. Today, if one rolled an old cannon into any French church and the rusty old ball was fired, it probably would not hit anybody else in the building. Well, maybe a few tourists who would probably capture it on video.

The Palais de Berbie and the Cathédrale de Sainte-Cécile among the most recent inductees of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Do the gardens look familiar to tourists of France? They should. They were designed by Ms. Notre, the horticultural landscape designer who did the Versailles gardens.

Q:  What are these balls?

A:  No parking!

Pont Vieux was constructed in 1040!

These bridges cross the River Tarn, as do the bridges downstream in Mantauban and Moissac.

Below is the Pont du 22 Aout 1944. What a strange name for a bridge. 

Most of us are familiar with the magnificent works of Toulouse- Lautrec, right?

A great tribute to this little man who left the world with a large legacy of art is  Le Musée de Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi.

I love this painting, a small piece of which  I have photographed for the collection of old images, personal favourites that I stumble upon while in France.

For more travel photography with local information visit my website.

No comments:

Post a Comment