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An element of defence

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

In 1360 the treaty of Bretigny (a town near Chartres) saw Aquitaine ceded to the English, bringing them as close as Quercy and the Rouergue. The border was just a narrow stream at the bottom of the Gorges of the Viaur. Disorder reigned. Bandits roved the highways and molested the populace.

Albi had six gates protected with drawbridges opening onto the countryside: the ’porte du Tarn’ on the Pont-vieux, the porte de la Trebalhe opposite Castelviel, the porte de Verdusse, the porte neuve, the porte du Vigan and the porte de Rohnel.

At the porte du Tarn the entry was protected by a turret, the small ’tour du Bourreau’ or executioner’s tower, and a drawbridge. The narrowness of the carriageway restricted passage to a single file of mules, forced to advance slowly by the toll gate which allowed the authorities to strictly control the movements of the populace.

On the central pillar, behind a gate, the Virgin’s Chapel shelters a statue of Saint Firmin symbolising the material and defensive strength of the bridge (firmus means solid in Latin). In 1350 the chapel was destroyed and replaced with an iron cross.

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