Albi, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Ambialet, Monestiés, Carmaux… this is a land of treasures. These towns, villages and bastides, set in the wide expanse of the Ségala, offer a variety of astonishing discoveries. There are plenty of great thrills for fans of history or outdoor sports.
The Albigensian region naturally includes the episcopal city of Albi, but this is far from the only treasure of the region. Ambialet clings on beside the meanders of the River Tarn, Cordes-sur-Ciel sits up above the skies, Monestiés and its life-sized statues play hide and seek, Penne perches underneath its vertiginous château… to mention only a few. They all deserve your attention. Follow your desires, you won’t be disappointed.
Like Russian dolls, these admirable towns house innumerable treasures of architecture, history and art: the Cathédrale Ste Cécile, the museum of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec with more than 1000 artworks, the Forest of Grésigne, the Viaur viaduct, the Byzantine-style frescoes by Estonian artist Nicolaï Greschny at Les Monts d’Alban… An immense heritage, the legacy of centuries of history and human intelligence.
And time seems to have had no effect on these priceless jewels. As you visit these sites, contemplate these monuments, follow the traces of history through ancient streets and roam the surrounding wilderness, you will begin to understand the Albigensian identity.
48 Albigensian bastide houses (Tarn).
The “real” Albigensian (Cathar) sites in the Tarn
- Lombers where the Council between the Albigensian and Catholic bishops took place in 1165.
- Castres where the first Cathar pyre in history was lit by Simon de Montfort in 1210.
- Lavaur led by Dame Guiraude Laurac is the largest pyre in the history of the Cathars (400 Perfects [the priests of Catharism] burned in 1211; Montségur 200 Perfects burned in 1244)
- Hautpoul besieged and destroyed by Simon de Montfort in 1212. The inhabitants took refuge in the valley and founded Mazamet.
- Lagarde Viaur, a village mentioned in the Chanson de la Croisade, which twice resisted the sieges of Simon de Montfort.
- Along with Cordes-sur-ciel, Castelnau de Montmiral are prototypes of bastides, both designed in 1222 during the crusade to protect the good men and women of towns and villages destroyed by Simon de Montfort. Rabastens, a “nest of heretics”, was forced to destroy its ramparts in 1229.
- And of course Albi, seat of the Inquisition since 1277 with the Palais de la Berbie and its “fortress of God” cathedral (1282 -1480).
- Several sites such as Ambialet, Marssac, Castelnau de Lévis, Labastide de Lévis, Saint-Sulpice, Giroussens, Penne d’Albigeois, Labastide Rouairoux, etc. were also scarred by the famous crusade.