Albi “La Rouge“, one of the capitals of Languedoc brickwork, like its neighbours, Toulouse and Montauban, will delight photo enthusiasts.
Albi : A great heritage
The districts of Albi reveal their heritage, their history, their particularities during the visit : emblematic monuments, half-timbered houses, Renaissance mansions, interior courtyards, picturesque streets…
La Roue SAINT-SALVI
The historic loop in the heart of the old center of Albi begins a few meters from Sainte-Cécile Cathedral. The Saint-Salvi district here is organized around the collegiate church of the same name, dedicated to the first bishop of the city. It adopts a circular shape all around the flagship monument, which earned it the name of Roue Saint-Salvi or more precisely the “Roda de la plassa“. An aerial view reveals this urban scheme. It developed in the 11th and 12th centuries. Its commercial and artisanal vocation is still very marked through the names of its streets: cobblers for rue Saint Julien, boilermakers for rue Peyrolière…
Cultural district of the Cordeliers
On either side of the collegiate church and its cloister, two main axes, today two pedestrian and shopping streets, join the Place du Vigan, the urban center of the city, the Place Lapérouse, the cultural district of the Cordeliers. Not far away is the Baltard-type covered market hall, the right place to buy local products and specialities. Place Saint-Salvi is one of the open-air stages of the “Place(s) aux artistes” festival, which enchants the historic center during the summer. Mariès, a great urban planner of the 19th century, opened up major arteries and brought to light this beautiful breakthrough which goes up from the cathedral, of which we can see in the axis the canopy which surmounts the main entrance, towards the lively Place du Vigan.
The Vigan district
The Vigan district represents the limit of the medieval core and the development of the modern city. The lists, or circular boulevards, delimit the site of the old ramparts of the city. The mansions mark the prosperous period that Albi experienced in the 15th and 16th centuries when merchants and bourgeois grew rich thanks to the pastel trade. All these architectural riches are often hidden by simple brick walls and imposing and sumptuous gates. Along the way, you will admire the town hall and the coat of arms of the town adorning the central courtyard, or even the Enjalbert house and its half-timbered facade and skilfully arranged brick facing, or the Reynes hotel with one of of the most beautiful interior courtyards. On the Place du Vigan, a gathering place, sporting events and shows, a fountain with 81 water jets oscillates in rhythm to the delight of children in summer who cool off there. Right next door, the national garden with its flowerbeds around the bandstand and the Carrousel d’Albi and its wooden horses, offer pleasant moments of relaxation and sharing.
The historic cradle of Albi is in the district facing the mighty bell tower of Sainte-Cécile Cathedral. It is an old fortified town, owned by the Montfort family in the Middle Ages. You can still see the remains of the ramparts. The detour is essential by the Place Savene and its appearance of a small village in the city. The half-timbered houses, colorful and flowery, are organized in a circle all around the square, the roofs are dominated by the imposing cathedral in the background. Place Savene and Place Saint-Loup are the scene of open-air performances offered in July and August during the free festival, Place(s) aux artistes. It is by taking the Pont de la République that you can reach the Halle du Castelvieil in a few minutes. Every Saturday, it hosts a flea market, a veritable Albigensian institution where people come to hunt around, look for rare pieces, exchange. The Castelvieil district will soon be the starting point of a footbridge which will cross the Tarn towards the Pratgraussals leisure centre: promenade, panoramic viewpoints, gentle travel.
THE CASTELNAU DISTRICT
Le Castelnau, in other words the “new” district, corresponds to the 12th and 13th centuries. Along the way, the narrow streets lined with half-timbered and corbelled medieval houses, and shops occupying old stalls are the charm of this district. From the street of the priests, an impressive low-angle photo of the cathedral is to be seized. A little further on is an emblematic house in the historic centre : the Maison du Vieil Alby. It is today a place of exhibition and memory of Albigensian history. Perhaps you have already visited the Toulouse-Lautrec museum housed in the Berbie Palace and discovered the largest public collection of the painter in the world. It is in the street that bears the name of the painter that you will find his birthplace : the Hôtel du Bosc. The neighboring house belonged to another famous Albigensian: the navigator Jean François Galaup de Lapérouse. These houses cannot be visited.
The Enjalbert house
The Enjalbert house, at the corner of rue des Pénitents and rue Timbal is the most successful example of half-timbered houses in Viel Albi. It is a short walk from the Reynes Hotel. The whole panoply of Renaissance decorations : double corner windows with pilasters surmounted by Ionic or Corinthian capitals, triangular pediments, consoles with decorations bearing masks, diamonds, etc. are taken up again. Observe the facade carefully in search of the “small Albigensian pisseur, enigmatic sculpture located above the magnificent entrance gate, on the 1st floor The Saunal Hotel, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, is the residence of Simon Saunal, one of the richest merchants at the end of the 15th century. It has an elegant courtyard, a beautiful spiral staircase with a carved handrail and a beautiful round tower which affirms the power drawn from the pastel trade. It is now a place of exhibition: the museum for All by Raphael Cordoba, Albigensian hinge.
THE CHURCH OF LA MADELEINE
The old Church of the Madeleine was located on the left at the mouth of the Pont-Vieux, right bank. The current church was built during the Second Empire (1848/1851) on the site of the disused Capuchin convent, and partly resembles the architecture of the Eglise de la Madeleine in Paris. It is a privileged place to listen to the many organ concerts offered by the Association Christophe Moucherel, which takes advantage of the beautiful instrument installed in 1887 by Eugène Puget.