Secret history of France's cities: Albi

Albi cathedral, the imposing East end of the red-brick building

In the second of a series revealing the history of France’s cities, art historian and medievalist Julia Faiers visits Albi, in the Tarn

Visitors to the southern city of Albi wonder at the looming bulk of its medieval cathedral, standing tall above the river Tarn.

Constructed from rosy brick rather than the stone of Gothic cathedrals in the north, Albi’s cathedral looks more like a fortress than a church.

Instead of delicate spires reaching up to heaven, this cathedral sports massive semi-circular buttresses that resemble defensive towers.

The windows are high, to prevent people from climbing up.

The cathedral could be defended from its machicolations – holes in the walls for throwing out projectiles or pouring burning liquids onto attackers.

From the time of its construction, which ...

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