Sainte-Cécile Cathedral is the architectural and monumental centre of the programme of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in the city of Albi lying on the south-west edge of the Massif Central in France beside the River Tarn
From the sixth to the eighth centuries, two families of Albi produced a series of saints, the Salvia family (St. Desiderius, St. Disciola) and the Ansbertina family (St. Goéric, St. Sigisbald, and St. Sigolina)
The main body of the building was erected between 1282 and 1390 after the end of the Albigensian Crusade in the thirteenth century
It is a fortified church with tall vertical walls, the original openings of which are high and narrow.
It appears to be a Southern French Gothic fortress of faith
It is simple and austere being made entirely of locally made red brick. ("La brique forraine")
It is said to be the biggest brick built Cathedral in Europe if not the world
Its austerity represents an attempt by the Catholic authorities to avoid ostentation, to appeal to the followers of the Cathars and as well to appeal to the ascetic Cistercian Order which was recently founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux
It has no aisle or transept
It has a single nave 97m long, soaring up 30m to the keystone, and an internal span of 19.2m. The choir is a direct continuation eastwards of the nave
The building has been called the ‘supreme expression of the huge Languedocian aisle-less nave’ as seen also in Toulouse, Narbonne, and Barcelona in Catalonia
The cathedral at Albi and much other foreign precedent, had a great architectural influence in the High Victorian Gothic period
For its influence on the design of 19th century English Churches see John Thomas Albi Cathedral and British Church Architecture: The infuence of thirteenth-century church building in southern France and northern Spain upon ecclesiastical design in modern Britain (2002) published by The Ecclesiological Society
It was at Albi that the Council of Albi was held in 1254 by St. Louis on his return from his Crusade, under the presidency of Zoen, Bishop of Avignon and Papal Legate for the final repression of the Albigensian heresy and the reformation of clergy and people.
It was at this Council that the term "Albigensian" was officially adopted as a name for the heresy of the Cathars