Our 2012 Cathedralquest to France day 21 a side trip to Albi to visit St. Cecile's Cathedral .


Day 21 Saturday, September 23


 It is hard to believe that we have been gone three weeks today.  It has gone by very quickly, yet feels like we have been away from home a long, long time.   We will be happy to see all of our family and our little Jeremiah.  Tomorrow is our last day.  Our plane leaves at 8:30 am on Tuesday.

Each morning it is harder and harder to get up.  We managed get to the breakfast room before they closed.  As we had planned, we left for Albi right after breakfast.  Albi is an hour drive north west of here. 

The photo on the left is from our hotel room.  The distant tall steeple is St. Sernin that we visited yesterday.

 Albi is a very old city with all of its buildings built out of pink brick from clay from the Tarn River.  In the 12c-13c, the crusades against the Cathars became known as the Albigensian Crusades. See more information about the Cathars on Day 18

 One of the most remarkable structures in France is the St. Cecile’s Cathedral in Albi. From the outside it resembles a fortress with very high walls and narrow long windows. The structure is almost overwhelming. The first stone was set in place in 1282 by Bishop Bernard de Castanet with the completion of the foundation work in 1383.  He intended the Cathedral to proclaim the supreme grandeur of God, the solidity of the Christian faith and the rigidity of Orthodox belief in the face Catharism (or the heretic Albigensians) which was not entirely eradicated.  The church built of pink and red bricks and is 370 feet long, hundred and 114 feet wide, with walls  131 feet tall and a Bell tower measuring 256 feet.

At the entrance is a large ornate baldachin. This is the first time that I have seen a baldachin on the outside of a church. We have been in several churches where there is a baldachin over the altar, the most notable being St. Peter's in Rome. The St. Cecile's baldachin  has ornamental stonework of pinnacles, intertwining arches, and flamboyant ribbing on the three sides. It was completed in 1535. The main entrance to the Basilica is through the baldachin which is on the south side. There is no front or West side entrance.  

The inside is extremely beautiful. It is the only cathedral in France where everything is painted – much of it like the ceiling has not be touched in 500 years.   Most cathedrals were built with a screen across between the choir and the nave of the church known as a rood screen.   The choir and sanctuary and altar were closed off from the rest of the congregation and because of the large number of clergy who had many daily services and this gave them privacy.  Often there was central door leading to the nave.  Most cathedrals have removed this screen so that those sitting in the congregation can see and participate in the service.  Several cathedrals and Abbeys that we have visited have not removed this screen – Canterbury and Westminster Abbey to name two.   Washington Cathedral has one but it is open so you can see the altar from the nave.   Because of the elaborate stone carvings on the rood screen at St. Cecile’s it has not been removed.




The nave which is beautifully painted,  is flanked by 29 chapels an example on the left.




The great choir has gold and azure , the scrolls, and coats of arms and the figures of cherubins of the vaulting.




 The vaulting of the entire church is an enormous fresco of color and light and is the largest in the world Italian painters from Bologna executed it in record time from 1509 to 1512. It has never been retouched.  




 We had audio guides in English so we spent a long time at St. Cecile. 

 It was about 3:00 when we left, and we hadn’t had lunch.  There were several cafes across the street so picked one and we each had croque monsieur and salad for lunch.   

The other thing that Albi is famous for is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  He was born there in 1864 into a wealthy family but an early childhood accident left him crippled for life.  In 1882 he moved to Montmartre in Paris where he did most of his painting.  There is a large Toulouse-Lautrec  Art Museum in the old Bishop’s Palace in Albi. We spent an hour or so looking at various painting of Toulouse-Lautrec.

We found our way out of town – thanks to our faithful TomTom and got back to our apartment about 6:00.   We were not hungry, but we went back to the hotel dining room where we ate last night and had a light supper.  Kathleen had carrot soup, and I had a salad with chicken slices.  It was just enough.  One of the things we dislike about eating in France is that it takes forever to get the check.  There were only four other tables being served and we waited almost a half hour for our check.


Next Day

Day 1 - Paris

Day 2 - Sens

Day 3 - Vezelay 

Day 4 - Abbey Fontenay, Semur-en-Auxois, Vezelay -

Day 5 - Beaune

Day 6 - Beaune, Autun, Citeaux, Chateau du Clos Vougeot-

Day 7 - Cluny  

Day 8 - Cluny 

Day 9 - Paray-le-Monial and Clermont-Ferrard

Day 10 - Le Puy-en-Velay 

Day 11 - Avignon 

Day 12 - Avignon to Nimes

Day 13 - Avignon

Day 14 - Marseille

Day 15 - Marseille

Day 16 - Marseille

Day 17 - Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

Day 18 - Carcassonne 

Day 19 - Carcassonne to Toulouse  (posted 10/6/15)

Day 20 - Toulouse

Day 21 - Albi

Day 22 - Toulouse