1337 Episcopal City of Albi – 2010

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On the banks of the Tarn river in south-west France, the old city of Albi reflects the culmination of a medieval architectural and urban ensemble. Today the Old Bridge (Pont-Vieux), the Saint-Salvi quarter and its church are testimony to its initial development (10th -11th centuries). Following the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics (13th century) it became a powerful episcopal city. Built in a unique southern French Gothic style from local brick in characteristic red and orange colours, the lofty fortified Cathedral (late 13th century) dominates the city, demonstrating the power regained by the Roman Catholic clergy. Alongside the Cathedral is the vast bishop's Palais de la Berbie, overlooking the river and surrounded by residential quarters that date back to the Middle Ages. The forms a coherent and homogeneous ensemble of monuments and quarters that has remained largely unchanged over the centuries.

Brief synthesis

The presents a complete built ensemble representative of a type of urban development in from the Middle Ages to the present day. Its monumental and urban elements are complementary and well preserved, in subtle harmony of tones and appearance thanks to the use of local fired brick. It is testimony to a programme which was simultaneously both defensive and spiritual, and which was implemented by the Roman Catholic bishops following the suppression of the Albigensian or Cathar heresy in the 13th century. Sainte-Cécile Cathedral is the most remarkable monumental symbol, in a Gothic architectural style unique to southern France, to which systematic internal painted decoration, a choir, and late Gothic statuary were added in the 15th and 16th centuries. Finally, the outstanding value of the city is expressed by a medieval urban landscape that is both well preserved and extremely authentic.

Criterion (iv):

The historic city of Albi presents an outstanding medieval architectural and urban ensemble. It is homogeneous and is expressed through a high-quality urban landscape that possesses high visual coherence because of the generalised and enduring use of local fired brick. Sainte-Cécile Cathedral is an exceptional architectural and decorative example of the adaptation of the Gothic style to the context of Southern France.

Criterion (v):

The Albi urban site developed gradually over the centuries, and notably from the Middle Ages. The events of the Albigensian Crusade transformed it into a symbolic Episcopal city structured around its Cathedral and its Episcopal fortress-palace. This is one of the rare examples of ensembles of this kind that are to such a high degree complete and well preserved. It expresses in a very comprehensive way a type of urban settlement that was characteristic of medieval and Renaissance .

Integrity and authenticity

All the old architectural elements are included in the nominated historic zone, which corresponds exactly with the Renaissance boundaries of the city. Any exceptions from this level of integrity can mainly be attributed to redevelopment of the urban districts in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These were limited in scope and do not affect the coherent appearance of the city overall.

The conditions of authenticity of the urban structure of the property, of a number of buildings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and of most of the monuments are satisfactory thanks to appropriate conservation. The city enjoys considerable visual coherence attributable to the chromatic nuances of the local fired brick, which was in use over a lengthy historical period up to the present day.

The integrity and the authenticity of the urban landscape of the ensemble should be emphasised; they should be a priority objective for long-term preservation.

Protection and management requirements

The Episcopal city's main monuments are all under the protection of the French law of 1913. The so-called ‘Malraux Law' of 1962 on conservation areas led to an early municipal project, which was approved in 1968. A protection and enhancement plan followed and was approved in 1974. The protection arrangements are adequate and operate satisfactorily. An extension of the protection of the urban landscape has been announced for the area outside the buffer zone (broad protection procedure, known as ZPPAUP).

The management system for the property is long-standing, and involves numerous stakeholders with well defined specialist functions, which they exercise with recognised expertise. The Municipality is seen as the current coordinator of this system, notably through its consultative management with the inhabitants in the Conservation Area, which includes both the property and its buffer zone. A Property Committee has been established and is responsible in particular for monitoring conservation and protection, coordinating the various stakeholders, and relations with the inhabitants.

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