St. Cecile Cathedral, Albi, France

St. Cecile Cathedral, Albi, France (Photo credit: E.L. Malvaney)

Capital of the Albigeois, a medieval County in southwestern France;  the town of Albi, which stands on the River Tarn, has also been the seat of a Bishop – an Archbishop since 1678.

The County came early into the hands of the Counts of Toulouse, but by the 10th century its real ruler was the Vicomte, though he had to face the rivalry of the Bishop in the city.  The Vicomtes belonged to the Trencavel family, who in the late 10th century also acquired the Vicomté of Béziers and then the comital power, though without the title, in the County of Carcassone.  This family, more powerful than many counts, was overthrown by the first Albigensian Crusade in 1209, and Raymond Roger, the Vicomte, who had sympathised with the Cathar heresy against which the Crusade was directed, died in a dungeon in Carcassone.   His rights passed to Simon de Montfort, the leader of the Crusade, whose son later resigned them to the King of France.  Raymond Roger’s son was briefly restored in 1224;  in 1229 the Count of Toulouse was allowed the government of the county, and in 1271, after the death of the heiress of Toulouse and her husband, it reverted to the King and became part of the province of Languedoc.

Although the Albigensian Crusade takes its name from Albi, it is because the Trencavel family rose to greatness through being Vicomtes of Albi, not because the town was itself a leading Cathar centre.

The Bishops were powerful in the city.   The Archbishopric was created in 1678 through the division of the province of Bourges, to which the diocese had hitherto belonged.   In 1790 the diocese was demoted to a bishopric in the province of Toulouse, but its metropolitan rank was restored in 1822.

Albi became the capital of the Department of the Tarn in 1790.

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