Stage 7: Montpellier to Albi
ALBI TODAY – OPENING TO THE WORLD
Albi is one of France’s most emblematic tourist towns thanks to the listing of the Episcopal City as a World Heritage Site and to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, inaugurated in April, 2012 after 11 years of works. The opening of the Cordeliers venue in 2014 is another step towards international recognition. The project, conceived by architect Dominique Perrault, comprises two concert halls, eight cinema theatres, a panoramic restaurant and is part of a global scheme by the Albi municipality to favour culture, heritage, university, research and innovation. In the same time, the city of Albi and the local professionals of tourism are launching a new campaign for business tourism: “Albi, congress and business destination”.The Cordeliers Grand Theatre, with its modern architecture, will be dedicated to this new approach and become another key element of Albi’s tourism offer. Albi has already opened globally thanks to cooperations with Benin historical capital Abomey, whose royal palaces are also World Heritage sites. Japan has also become a major partner tha ks to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum while links have been established with the Chinese sicty of Lijiang.
ALBI AND CYCLING
Voted the most sporting city in France in 2012 by L’Equipe, Albi confirms the claim by hosting the Tour de France for the 12th time. The cathedral, a World Heritage site, was the finish of a stage of the Route du Sud in 2012, won by local rider Stpehane Poulhies. Albi is also the hometown of a great lover of the sport, Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted several posters for bicycle brands in his time. Some of the biggest names in the history of the sport were crowned in Albi, like the greatest of all, Eddy Merckx, who won a time trial in 1971. In 2007, another TT saw the victory of Cadel Evans. Another Tour winner, Roger Pingeon, won a stage from Font-Romeu in 1968.
PLACES TO SEE
The cathedral of Albi, built from 1282, is the largest cathedral made of brick in the world. It is 113 metres long and 35 metres wide. Alone of its kind, it is monumental thanks to a style typical of south-western France known as southern gothic. Set on one of the hills of the city, it bears witness to the strength of the Catholic faith after the Cathar heresy. Its originality is reinforce by the interior decoration, a true museum of Christian art. It is the only cathedral in Europe whose walls and vaults are entirely painted on a surface of about 18,500 m2. Especially remarkable are: - the oldest painting of Judgment Day dating from the Middle-Ages and covering 200 m2.- the rood screen decorated with more than 270 chiselled by Burgundy masters.- the vault in Italian Renaissance style built between 1509 and 1512.- the organ built by Christophe Moucherel and dating from the 18th century.
Berbie palace and Toulouse-Lautrec museum:
The former Episcopal Palace, built in the 13th century, is the unexpected showcase of Alibi painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The imposing fortress vowed to demonstrate the temporal and spiritual power of the bishops who built it. The thick walls confirm its defensive role. In the course of time, several transformations turned it into a comfortable palace. The defensive aspect is reinforce by the fortifications and the Mage Tower, an enormous keep, 50 metres high, flanked by four corner towers. The fortifications were destroyed in the 17th century while galleries, lounges, halls, a library and terraces were built to make the place a little cosier. A garden also replaced the old Place-d’Armes.The Toulouse-Lautrec museum displays more than 1,000 works. Early works, major portraits, brothel paintings, posters and lithographs form an exceptional collection.
Saint-Salvi collegial and cloister:
The St Salvi collegial church, named after the first bishop of Albi between 474 and 584, was refurbished through the years and is a patchwork of several styles combining Romanesque, gothic, stone and bricks. It is one of the largest churches in the region while the houses surrounding it were the lodgings of the canons. Turned into a barn during the Revolution, it became a church again in the 19th century. The cloister, built in 1270 by Vidal Malvezi, was also crippled during the Revolution but still shelters a discreet and peaceful garden in the heart of the old town.