Cité épiscopale d’Albi
The place de la Trébalhe recalls the name of the ancient fortified gate that stood here, to the south of the Cathedral bell tower and which passed through the ’muraille des chanoines’ (the Canons’ wall) which separated Castelviel from the rest of Albi.
A part of this wall still stands today, reinforced by a tower, at the eastern side of the square. The presence of this wall explains why it was not possible to place the entrance to the Cathedral opposite the nave. From this square we can descend to the banks of the Tarn via a sheltered ornamental footpath, and walk along the ancient tow path.
From here we can see the formidable fortifications enclosing the Berbie palace and the bridges which span the river in a magnificent urban panorama.
Along the Tarn we find ancient mills and quays, bearing witness to the active river life during the industrial revolution (up to 50,000 tonnes of coal from Carmaux sailed through Albi every year from 1835 to 1865) as well as the sites of the various industries that animated the right bank neighbourhood called the ’Bout-du-Pont:’ 19th century dye-works, weavers, brick and hat manufacturers...
These activities have disappeared today and on the banks of the Tarn between the Pont-vieux and the viaduct, we find tranquil homes, ornamented with the groves of cypresses and umbrella pines that give it such a Mediterranean feel.
Until the middle of the 18th century two roads allowed the circulation of the traffic coming from the bridge into the town and the place de la Pile, the rue de la Grand’Côte and the rue d’Engueysse.
The beautiful and solid houses along these two roads are a result of Albi’s commercial activity, these were the houses of rich merchants and bankers and of Albi’s richest citizens.
There are mediaeval houses with Romanesque bays at the end of the rue de la Grand’Côte. At the corner of rue Saint-Etienne and rue des Foissants there is a fine example of an imposing 12th century building, home to a rich banker, Guillaume Fenasse, a Cathar, then to the ’Sénéchal1’ of Toulouse, the Baron de Paulin. The house has two Romanesque windows framed by columns mounted with fine capitals.
The rue d’Engueysse, also giving onto the Pont-vieux, was named after the Gueysse family and was also inhabited by Albi’s merchants and bankers.
Terraces and beautiful façades ornament the houses facing onto the quai Choiseul, which replaced the ramparts of the little street that ran along it when the Archbishop Choiseul-Stainville developed this more convenient access to the Pont-vieux. The two previous streets used for this purpose were extremely steep.
The quai Choiseul comes to an end at the place de l’Archevêché (the square of the archdiocese), classed as part of the world heritage site, with the façades of the building at its eastern side, the most notable of which on the corner of the rue de Fargues.
There was formerly a priory here, founded in the 14th century by Bishop Béraud de Fargues, nephew of Pope Clement V. In the 16th century it was converted into the convent of the Sisters of the Annonciade.
Today there remains a truncated tower, remnant of the bell tower of the chapel. In the rue de Fargues and the rue de la Souque we find the original dependencies of the sisters’ convent and school.
The rue de la Souque and the rue de la Buade are bordered by well restored houses, alternating timber frame, bare brick and rendered brick façades in a haven of tranquillity.