Cité épiscopale d’Albi
The concept of the Episcopal city is particularly meaningful at Albi and the comparative analysis with other Epsicopal towns allows us to appreciate Albi’s specificity.
There is a strong contrast between the form and history of Albi’s Episcopal city and those of Europe’s other mediaeval towns.
Comparison with the Germanic towns of the Holy Roman Empire (Mainz, Cologne) demonstrates that the history of the towns of the Prince-Bishops under Imperial rule inspired a layout and an architecture very different from what we see at Albi where the Bishop played a most unusual role.
Historically the Bishop of Albi was a true lord of the town while the town council had a very modest remit. Independent of both royalty and the local bourgeoisie, Albi’s Bishops left their mark on the town right up until the 18th century, consider for example the hospital of the Castelnau district.
Unlike in many of France’s famous Cathedral cities such as Laon, Noyon, Bourges or Beauvais, the Bishops of Albi did not look to the King for their authority but considered themselves subjects of the Pope and felt unconstrained by the architectural codes of northern France. They opted therefore, for the distinctive architectural style seen in the Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile and the Berbie palace, bearing witness to a distinctly southern style.