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Comparison with other world heritage sites

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

The uniqueness of Albi’s Episcopal city distinguishes it from other cities on the list of world heritage sites.

Rising up over the Tarn river, Albi presents one of the best preserved and most beautiful urban landscapes in Europe. Many of its districts grew up in the Middle Ages and have conserved their web of sinuous streets, defining a highly complex layout which contrasts with the more orderly streets of Split in Croatia, or Florence in Italy, where the streets have followed the rectilinear paths of the ancient Roman roads.

Comparable with Sienna in Italy through its use of brick, the spatial organisation of the two towns is however markedly different. Civic architecture dominates in Sienna, the major monuments residing in the piazza del Campo and the palazzo pubblico where stands the Torre del Mangia, while the Cathedral, unfinished, sits far from the centre of urban power.

Florence is characterised by its multi-polarity. In addition to the clearly defined duality of the Palazzo Vecchio, extended in modern times by the Uffizi and Santa Maria dei Fiori with its lofty tower, we find a multiplicity of churches and palaces that sprang up as the town advanced and create other monumental centres on both sides of the river Arno.

In Salamanca the Cathedral towers over the town. It is flanked by the rather modest Epsicopal palace and the ensemble is built in white stone. The civic centre is found at the end of the main street with the Plaza Mayor and its town hall. The unity of the mediaeval constructions is disrupted by the many colleges built since the 16th century and the reconstruction of many churches since Spain’s Golden Age.

Poreç Cathedral in Croatia is profoundly different to Albi Cathedral. There remain vestiges of sacred buildings from the 4th and 5th centuries upon which new edifices were built under the rule of Bishop Euphrasius in the 6th century. The basilisc, preceded by a baptistery, an atrium and a narthex, evoke the churches of Ravenna, built in the same period.

With its remarkable capitals, mosaics, and stuccos it belongs to a period and a style radically different to those of Albi.

Albi’s Episcopal city is distinctly different from the France’s other world heritage towns as well as other towns in the south of France.

The monuments of Arles are principally classical and are dispersed across many sites. Avignon and Narbonne bear a closer resemblance to Albi but at Avignon the Papal palace dominates the Cathedral and the surroundings districts have not conserved the same unity as those of Albi. At Narbonne the Cathedral is limited to a choir and the site is practically flat. As for the mediaeval centre of Carcassonne, its double ramparts constitute the town’s external defences. Most importantly, all these urban spaces are built in stone.

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