The cloister of Saint-Salvi
Cité épiscopale d’Albi
The cloister, a protected verdant isle, is found on the southern flank of the collegiate church. It was mutilated during the French Revolution which sold its various wings as national property. Today only the southern wing remains.
The cloister is the work of Vidal de Malvési, it was begun in 1270 and completed 18 months later. Alas the Revolution left only the eastern gallery and the artist’s mausoleum. The columns and capitals are admirable, mixing Romanesque and Gothic influences, some featuring a foliar motif, others depicting faces or even stories such as the depiction of a demon dragging men and women towards a cauldron in hell.
The sculpted capitals, the arcades and the colonnades demonstrate Romanesque features (semi-circular arches) as well as Gothic elements (the pointed gables on the corner pillars and on certain arcades). Finally, the prominent decoration of the capitals is unreservedly Gothic.
In recognition of a job well done Malvési was authorised to build a tomb for himself and his brother against the side of the church. It was built in purely Gothic style. The statues above that of the Virgin with the infant Jesus represent the Malvési brothers.
In the northern face of the church, clearly visible from the cloister, one can distinguish the many stages of the construction. The fine stone work of the Romanesque, the courser stone work and the bricks of the Gothic age, and the symmetrical tower of the ‘tour Lavit’ which was part of the ancient monastery.
From the cloister, a covered passage gives onto a square situated against the apse of the church. This was the heart of what was known as the “canorgue,” the residences of the canons after they abandoned communal life in the 15th century.
Each year the garden of the cloister, a verdant sanctuary of peace and rest, dresses itself in white and adorns itself with delicate touches or extravagant flashes of white blossom, punctuated by fine, light green foliage which brings a note of serenity.