Albi sits in a geological depression and is very much a low rise environment so the Cathedral is visible from miles away. The guides rightly stress its superlatives - biggest brick cathedral in the world, biggest altar screen etc, etc. It was built after the mass slaughters of the crusade against the Cathars and certainly gets across its triumphalist Catholic message - We are big, powerful and here to stay. The scènes of the tortures of hell painted on the screen merit an X rating and reinforce the threatenng nature of the structure. All of this makes it worth seeing but, as is typical of French historic attractions, the background story is essentially ingored with what little information there is based on the usual statements of who built what bit when and how big it is.
Basically, if you haven't already read up on the Cathars and the aftermath of the crusade against them, it is all a bit of a bore. To me, the most impressive bits, after the "WOW What a Building!" reaction are the walks in the adjoining cathedral precinct with its gardens and view of old Albi and the Tarn bridges followed by a bit of shade in the St Sernin cloisters across the plaza.
The Tourism Office next door is largely a waste of space and could be used more effetively as a low key interpretation centre to put the whole complex and its hixtory into some form of intelligible context without detracting from the structures themselves. Wasted opportunity, really, but still very much worth a visit if your are in the area.
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