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The rise of the town (10th-13th centuries)

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

Albi’s rise was concomitant with the economic and commercial development which characterised feudal society.

A second settled nucleus outside the walls is recorded around 940. Although this is the first recorded mention of a development around the Saint-Salvi collegiate, the foundations probably date from the 7th or 8th century. A parish church dedicated to Saint Martiane is also mentioned.

From 950 Albi had its own currency and around 1040 a bridge was built across the River Tarn. Albi thus provided a link from Quercy towards lower Languedoc and from Toulouse and Catalonia towards the Limousin region. The construction of the bridge quickly led to the development of new a suburb on the right bank “Lo Cap del Pont”.

In the mid 11th century Albi became a double town juxtaposing the burg with the city; the burg being constituted of the houses surrounding Saint-Salvi. The urban topography conserved the traces of this core to the present day. The open space between the burg and the river was progressively settled. Around 1130 two parish churches were erected: Saint-Estèfe and Saint-Julien.

The different suburbs merged slowly into one another but between them and the city there remained an indistinct zone in the area once known as the quarter of Combes, in a slight hollow.

In parallel with the suburban transformations, the clerics’ district surrounding the Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile was modified. The collection of Epsicopal buildings which, around 970, grew up besides the mother church, a baptistery dedicated to Saint John and two churches, one dedicated to Saint Peter and the other to Our Lady (Notre-Dame), were brought together to provided a single edifice with a cloister at its southern end.

The 12th century inaugurated a new phase of expansion which was orientated towards the south and east. The new growth corresponded to the quarters of Verdusse and Vigan and the west part of the quarters of Sainte-Martiane and Saint-Affric. The layout was regular in direct contrast to the relatively anarchic structure of the older districts of the town. The naming of the streets manifests this as we find both rue droite de Ronel and rue droite du Vigan (droite meaning straight in French).

In these new quarters we see a deliberate organisation of the space, a genuine urbanisation project led by authorities of each area; the Canons of Saint-Salvi in the eastern part and the Viscount Trencavel and the Bishop in the West where the area known as Castelnau was established.

The growth of Castelnau in the first third of the 12th century instigated a re-definition of the quarters; the part of the old city, not under ecclesiastical domain but remaining under the appanage of vassal knights of the counts of Toulouse and then the viscounts, was to be renamed as Castelviel.

After 1180 the duality of the city-burg vanished with the erection of a wall unifying the urban space progressively defined since 950. The line of this wall, particularly straight in the east, shows that the walls enclosed certain zones which were empty at the time and which were not settled until the 13th century.

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