Cathédrale Ste-Cécile

sights / Religious

Cathédrale Ste-Cécile information

Albi , France
Street place Ste-Cécile
grand chœur adult/child €2/free
Opening hours
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Lonely Planet review

Right at the heart of Albi is the mighty Cathédrale Ste-Cécile, which was begun in 1282 but took well over a century to complete. Attractive isn't the word – what strikes you most is its sheer mass, rising over town like some Tolkienesque tower rather than a place of Christian worship. Its fortified facade is a result of the many religious wars that marked the medieval era, particularly the persecution of the Cathars during the early 13th century. The cathedral was intentionally designed as an unmistakable symbol of the might and power of the medieval church, and it certainly makes a statement – it's one of the world's largest brick buildings, and has been cited on Unesco's World Heritage list since 2010.

Step inside and the contrast with the brutal exterior is astonishing. No surface was left untouched by the Italian artists who, in the early 16th century, painted their way, chapel by chapel, along the entire nave. Particularly noteworthy is the grand chœur (great choir) with its frescos, chapels and biblical figures, each carved from stone and painted by hand.

At the western end is Le Jugement Dernier (The Last Judgement, painted 1474–1484), a vivid doomsday horror show of the damned being boiled in oil, beheaded or tortured by demons and monsters.