1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albi
ALBI, a city of south-western France, capital of the department of Tarn, 48 m. N. E. of Toulouse, on a branch line of the Southern railway. Pop. (1906) 14,956. Albi occupies a commanding position on the left bank of the Tarn; it is united to its suburb of La Madeleine on the right bank by a medieval and a modern bridge. The old town forms a nucleus of narrow, winding streets surrounded by boulevards, beyond which lie modern quarters with regular thoroughfares and public gardens. The cathedral of Sainte Cecile, a fine fortress-church in the Gothic style, begun in 1277, finished in 1512, rises high above the rest of the town. The exterior, flanked at the western end by a lofty tower and pierced by high, narrow windows, is devoid of ornament. Its general plainness contrasts with the elaborate carving of the stone canopy which shelters the southern portal. In the interior, which is without transepts or aisles, the roodscreen and the choir-enclosure, which date from about 1500, are masterpieces of delicate sculpture; the vaulting and the walls are covered with paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries. The archbishop's palace to the north-east of the cathedral is a fortified building of the 14th century. St Salvi, the chief of the other churches of Albi, belongs to the 13th and 15th centuries. A statue of the sailor La Pérouse (1741–1788) stands in the square named after him.
Albi is the seat of an archbishop, a prefect and a court of assizes. It has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of commerce, a lycee and training colleges. The industrial establishments of the town include dye-works, distilleries, tanneries, glass-works and important flour-mills. It is also a centre for hat-making, and produces cloth-fabrics, lace, umbrellas, casks, chairs, wooden shoes, candles and pastries. Trade is in wine and anise.
Albi (Albiga) was, in the Gallo-Roman period, capital of the Albigenses, and later of the viscounty of Albigeois, which was a fief of the counts of Toulouse. From the 12th century onwards, its bishops, the first of whom appears to have lived about the 3rd century, began to encroach on the authority of the viscounts; the latter, after the Albigensian war, lost their estates, which passed to Simon de Montfort and then to the crown of France. By a convention concluded in 1264 the chief temporal power in the city was granted to the bishops. The archbishopric dates from 1678.