Cité épiscopale d’Albi
This dazzling upper chapel of the sacristy shelters an array of sacred objects of the highest quality from the 13th to 19th centuries.
Renovation works revealed that hidden beneath the 19th century decoration was a second, vaulted 14th century chamber which had previously housed the treasury and the archives. The room has been restored to its original layout.
The alcoves contained showcases destined to exhibit the most precious sacred objects.
The treasury includes mediaeval objects such as a 13th century Bishop’s crosier (staff) from Limoges, a gold and sapphire ecclesiastical ring and a reliquary of Saint Ursula from the 14th century. There are also pieces from the 18th century, notably some reliquaries and the pontifical vestments of Monsignor Le Goux de la Berchère. Finally, there are additional items produced in the 19th century to reconstitute the treasury: monstrances (a vessel of precious metal for holding the Eucharistic host), crucifixes, thuribles (suspended incense burners), chalices, pyx (a container for holding the Eucharistic host), the reliquary of Sainte-Cécile and a crosier, are displayed.
Another notable item is an Italian polyptych (multiple panelled painting) from 1345, attributed to the Master of Lavagnola and given to the Cathedral by the family of Charles Boriés who acquired it in the 19th century.
The final piece of this extraordinarily valuable work was added to the collection in 2001. Its upper panel was bought at auction for Albi Cathedral by the French state, permanently enriching the treasury. The second treasury room was opened to the public the 1st July 2010 before its official inauguration in autumn 2010.
What constitutes a treasury?
Inaccessible to the public for many years, thus offering a secure place of storage for the archives and precious objects belonging to the Cathedral, the treasury today allows the general public access to an array of sacred objects, a privilege previously reserved to a handful of members of the clergy charged with the maintenance of the treasury.
Intended for the exercise or the ornamentation of the faith (crucibles, crosses, ornaments...), and for the veneration of relics (statues, reliquaries...), these objects remain for some, inextricably linked to their faith.
The renovation of existing treasuries and the construction of new treasuries is a priority for the French state under the office of the Ministry of Culture and Communication. As owner of the regions’ eight Cathedrals and of a large part of their collections of sacred objects, the state has undertaken to open treasuries at the Cathedrals of Montauban (Tarn-et-Garonne), Auch (Gers) and Cahors (Lot).
These prestigious collections contain, for the most part, objects considered to be historical monuments, and to be protected as such.
Which objects do we find in the treasury?
While the objects conserved in the first room of the treasury are directly linked to the history and culture of the Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile, the second room houses precious objects of various origins, contributed by surrounding communes for reasons of security, preservation or for presentation to the public.
All the items present have benefited from a certain maintenance (cleaning and stabilisation), and in some cases, from a more complete restoration.
Some 55 objects are exhibited including decorative religious items in gold, reliquaries dating from the 12th to 19th centuries, 17th century paintings (including portraits of Albi’s Bishops), a beautiful collection of mediaeval sculptures, including some lent by the neighbouring Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and a collection of items (copes, chasubles and other religious vestments) from the Cathedral’s vestiary.