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Hotel de gorsse

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

This large residence can be found in the Combes district along the banks of the Tarn. Either side of the courtyard and garden, the building is flanked by the rue de la Buade and the rue de la Souque and its large gateway opens onto the place Henri-de-Gorsse.

The hôtel de Gorsse is one of many 15th and 16th century constructions in the town. Clues to the owners can be found in the town plans; in 1525 the house was the property of Ignace de Braudouin, by 1550 the property passed to the Clari family.

There follow mentions of well-known families in the history of Albi and the Languedoc region; the Cirons, the marquis de Panat and the Gorsse family, owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. Members of this family were important actors in the history of Albi and played diverse roles such as solicitors, magistrates, mayors, administrators, a general and a deputy mayor.

The hotel de Gorsse opens on to a large courtyard with two elegant timber framed façades dominated by an imposing square tower housing a straight flighted staircase.

Entry to the house was originally via rue de la Souque to the west; a passage in the house still exists which arrives, via a gallery, at a doorway surmounted by a stone arcade with flamboyant decorations.

Particularly note-worthy is the western section, the two parts of the building forming a right angle. The brickwork and timber framing combine harmoniously across the two storeys.

This section would originally have been bordered by loggias (from the latin meaning a roofed open gallery) which enabled access to the various rooms on the upper level. The structure of the building is best understood with a visit to its interior.

The west wing, in brick and timber, is typical of late Gothic art - pinnacles decorated with crockets (a hook-shaped decorative element common in Gothic architecture in the form of a stylised carving of curled leaves, buds or flowers), colonnettes with twisted baguette mouldings - whilst the timber is adorned with wooden sculptures: a ram’s head, two human busts (possibly representing the builders, these wear period clothing with sleeves and collar trimmed in ermine) and the bust of an infant.

The house possesses an elegant and imposing tower which contains a magnificent straight-flighted staircase surmounted at each landing by a rib vault.

Here we have a perfect example of the triumph of brick, in this instance married with wood and stone. The southern face of the tower includes twin doors dated 1670 which presumably indicates the year these doors were knocked through following the demolition of several buildings which enlarged the courtyard.

This elegant tower is a symbol of the prestige the owners aimed to portray. This house, constructed in the early 16th century, is a beautiful example of a harmonious marriage of Gothic forms with Renaissance art. It bears witness to the golden age of pastel (woad) running from 1450 to 1560 in which the town of Albi saw the construction of a number of Renaissance houses by local families who prospered in this pays de Cocagne.

For nearly half a century, the owners of this Renaissance gem have sought to renovate the building which figures amongst the best in a long list of other listed buildings within the perimeter of the Episcopal city and its immediate surroundings : the hôtels Reynès, des Ambassadeurs, de Saunal, Decazes, du Castelnau, de Rivières, the maison Enjalbert...

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