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The statuary

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

Albi Cathedral is home to a considerable collection of statues, possibly the most important collection of French sculpture from the end of the Middle Ages. There are 87 statues on the external façade of the rood screen, 33 Old Testament figures on the perimeter of the choir and 15 statues representing the Church. On the inside we find the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Paul. 72 statues of angels, Charlemagne and the Emperor Constantine dominate the two entrances to the enclosure.

The statues retain their original colours.

The colours bear witness to the fundamental importance that the painting of statues had in the Middle Ages. In mediaeval times the celestial universe was conceived and expressed through a range of colours rather than through bare form and size.

The large statues of the perimeter and interior of the choir are characterised by the diversity of faces and postures, hair and beards are used to give individuality to the statues, the dress is conceived according to the fashion, showing a penchant for the deeply folded robes commonly found in the work of 15th century French artists.

The statuary demonstrates an extraordinary devotion to realism and an impressive attention to detail. This precision is seen in the jewellery, buttons, belts, shoes and furs and in the exact and violent representation of the instruments by which the apostles achieved their martyrdom: saws, axes, adzes and cutlasses.

The exceptional quality of the majority of the statues and the involvement of Louis d’Amboise – both a close adviser to the sovereign and dignitary of the Church, disposing of both the material and political capital necessary to acquire the services of the greatest artists – suggest that the most famous sculptors of the age, Michel Colombe, Antoine Le Moiturier, and perhaps even “the Master of Biron” participated in the elaboration of the statuary.

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