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Undiscovered France - Albi

Gain historical context on Albi, an unlikely tourist destination in the South of France.

With a population of under 50,000 the French town of Albi may not appear to be a typical French tourist destination. Yet, with history dating back to the 13th century and the location of the Albigensian Crusade led by Pope Innocent III, the town no doubt offers tourists not only a unique religious experience, but also a beautiful view along the Tarn River (Micheal Ray). The town of Albi holds particular religious significance during the time of the Crusades as it was known for a large Cathar population. Challenging the Catholic Church and its rampant corruption during the 13th century, the Cathars grew in numbers and proved to be a very large threat to Pope Innocent III’s desires to spread Catholicism. While the Albigensian Crusade devastated and led to rampant destruction in Albi and many Southern French towns, historical researchers believe the Catholic Church’s efforts to limit the spread of Catharism was in vain (Mark, 2019). 


Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage location, visitors should no doubt visit Saint Cecilia’s Cathedral. Not only is this cathedral the largest brick-built Cathedral in the entire world, but it was built as an aftermath of the Albigensian Crusade, providing visitors with an important historical lesson whilst seeing the beauty of Albi’s religious sites (Albi Office de Tourisme, 2019). The largest painted cathedral in Europe, visitors should investigate the former Treasury room which houses the Mappa Mundi, one of the two oldest drawn map representations of the world during the 8th century (Albi Office de Tourisme, 2019). Used by Bishops, the Mappa Mundi has 77 pages focusing on the Mediterranean Sea as the central point of our world (Albi Office de Tourisme, 2019). 


Tourists should further their desire to learn about Albi’s rich religious and historical impact by exploring the vibrant culinary scene! Located right across from Saint Cecilia's Cathedral, the Marché Couvert D’Albi houses over 200 merchants with all types of culinary specialties. Open since the early 20th century, the triangular structure was built by the acclaimed architect, Thierry Burdois (Marché Couvert D’Albi, 2020). Open every Saturday, travelers should visit this traditional market to learn more about French cuisine, produce, and culture.


While not often put on most tourist’s list upon visiting France, the quaint town of Albi is no doubt one of France’s hidden gems. The town offers an important visual history depicting one of the most contentious moments in the Catholic Churches empire during the Middle Ages and shows the vibrant resurgence of how moments of the Inquisition impacted French communities. While the Cathars did not survive long after the Reformation, their ability to withstand the Albigensian Crusades is confirmation of their religious conviction and is evident in unique architectural moments found throughout Albi. 


Do you now have the sudden urge to discover this enchanting destination? Perfect! The Council will be traveling to “Undiscovered France” June 15 -23, 2021. Not only will we explore Albi, but we will also be hitting Toulouse, Carcassonne, and other fascinating French towns.


Sources:

“COVID-19 : Le Marché Reste Ouvert.” Marché Couvert D'Albi, 7 Apr. 2020, marchecouvert-albi.com/.


The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Jean-François De Galaup, Comte De La Pérouse.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 Aug. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Francois-de-Galaup-comte-de-La-Perouse.


“The Mappa Mundi.” Office De Tourisme D'Albi, 24 Apr. 2019, www.albi-tourisme.fr/en/mappa-mundi.


Mark, Joshua J. “Cathars.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 25 June 2020, www.ancient.eu/Cathars/.

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