Sainte-Cécile Cathedral in Albi was built in the thirteenth century following the suppression of the Albigensian Heresy, centered in Albi, to convey the power of the Church to the populace. The cathedral stands prominently in the city of Albi and is believed to be one of the largest brick buildings in the world. With windows placed high up between the buttresses, entrances guarded by a moat, and extremely thick walls around the base to deter siege, the cathedral has the appearance of a fortress. The massive buttresses of the church have been compressed into the structure, functioning also as piers separating the chapels lining the nave, giving Albi Cathedral a distinctive appearance from most Gothic cathedrals. On the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2010, the cathedral, palace, and nearby streets represent a unique ensemble of southern French Gothic architecture but with notable additions from elsewhere. The decorative campaigns in the complex span the centuries and illustrate Catalan, Renaissance and Flemish styles that once flourished in the region. The jube, a construction composed of a screen, loft, and crucifix, and the choir were commissioned by Louis I of Ambois, Archbishop of Albi, at the end of the fifteenth century. The ensemble—a Gothic masterpiece enriched by the sumptuous polychrome statues by French and Burgundian ateliers—is a rare surviving example, as many jubes and choirs in France were destroyed during the French Revolution. The iconography of the choir represents Old Testament prophets on the side of the ambulatory and statues of Apostles at the interior of the choir, followed by a procession of angels and the coat of arms of the patron family."
How We Helped
WMF conserved the elaborately decorated choir of the cathedral. The interior sculptural and polychrome pictorial details were consolidated where paint was flaking and the overall conditions of the decorated surfaces were improved, returning the enclosure of the choir and its sculpture to its original state.
Why It Matters
Albi Cathedral represents a confluence of architectural and decorative styles demonstrating the important role Albi once played as a nexus of cultural, social and economic exchange. The completed project allows visitors to admire once again the extraordinary artistic achievements that define the interior of Albi Cathedral.