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Saint Salvi

Cité épiscopale d’Albi

In the Middle Ages many commerces developed in this ring of streets, with shops occupying the ground level and the living quarters the first floor. The final level contained an open loft space, solelhier or soleihou, which was used in drying harvested crops.

Across the district of Saint-Salvi starting from the place de la Pile a ring of commerces developed, known in Occitan as roda de la plassa “wheel of the plaza”; the trade and craftsmen were gathered together in these streets where the names clearly evoke this past; pelissaria (furrier street), cotelaria (cutlery street), sabataria (street of cobblers), galinaria (poultry seller street), payrolaria (coppersmiths street).

Close-by is the market hall, designed by André Michelin, and built in 1901-1902. Today the building is still very much in keeping with the rest of the town’s heritage and presents a certain architectural interest.

In the 19th century the rue Mariès was constructed and occasioned the disappearance of the church of Sainte-Martiane, today only remembered in a small alley of the same name, although the mediaeval configuration is still distinguishable with the central hub, the cloister and its adjacent square.

Painted ceilings have been preserved in some of the houses, including the residences of the canons, surrounding the collegiate. These 15th century paintings depict animals, plants and characters of the time – often with grotesque motifs or allegorical figures inspired by mediaeval fables. One depicts a ‘danse macabre’ (dance of Death).

Such painted ceilings can also be found in various private houses on the periphery of the protected site such as at the hôtel de Saunal, residence of a rich dye-merchant in the early 16th century. Simon Saunal possessed the third largest fortune in Albi and he ordered the ceilings in his house to be decorated with motifs of animals, plants and his initials, along with inscriptions: “Vive le roi François” and “Vive Simon Saunal” (long live King François and long live Simon Saunal)

From the 10th century, the district developed around the collegiate of Saint-Salvi, second ecclesiastical power in the Albi diocese after that of the Bishop. It was linked to the rest of the city by the place de la Pile, a central point in Albi life. The place de la Pile or Piale (the name is taken from that given to a measure for grains and liquids) was strategically placed and played host to everyday exchanges.

Until the middle of the 19th century the square was surrounded by covered arcades and picturesque houses which crowded around the apse of Sainte-Cécile.

Between 1860 and 1884 these houses were demolished to open up the square around the Cathedral. On the south and east sides, the houses bordering the square were well aligned often comprising three storeys and regular openings framed in brick in the fashion of 19th century Albi architecture.

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