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Albi, Episcopal city

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

The feudal period in Albi was marked by the presence of the Counts of Toulouse and then by the powerful Viscounts of Trencavel in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The right to the land was shared between the stakeholders. Besides the feudal lords we find the Bishop and the canons of Saint Salvi. The layout of the town reflects this distribution of landholder rights.

The urban development of the 12th and 13th centuries was accompanied by religious dissent. Albi, together with Toulouse, Carcassonne, Foix and other towns, was one of the centres for this dissidence.

In the 12th century the dissenters began to organise. The restoration by force of the Christian faith was accompanied by the Languedoc passing definitively under French control.

As part of its campaign to reassert its control over the population, the Roman Church eliminated local elites that were considered favourable to the heresy and began a policy of ’implanting’ trustworthy administrators of both spiritual and secular authority.

Albi was a case in point, becoming an Episcopal City under the rule of its builder-Bishops. Bernard de Combret launched the construction of the fort and the Berbie palace.

Bernard de Combret completed the works of his predecessor: he linked the existing buildings together giving the palace the aspect of a citadel. The Bishop feared for his safety, as much with regard to royal power as to the popular revolts which threatened to break out – thus explaining why the walls of the palace are so much thicker on the side closest to the town.

In order to reduce the risk of fire he had ribbed vaults built as ceilings of all the rooms of the fortress.

At the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, significant urban development accompanied the construction of the Epsicopal buildings, including the development of new suburbs and religious buildings outside of the city walls.

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