The Cathedral or Basilica of Saint Cecilia in the French city of Albi, in the south of the Gallic country, undoubtedly has a more resemblance to a huge fortress than to a temple, and even its stained glass windows of French Gothic architecture have the appearance of defensive embrasures.
That military aspect is not the only different characteristic of this great building, since if we compare it with the typical cathedrals of Notre Dame de Paris, Chartres or Reims, we can quickly appreciate that the Albi temple is built with brick, and not stone as usual.
Basilica of Saint Cecilia of Albi
Also its dimensions and plant are different. It is a church whose length exceeds 110 meters, and yet its width barely reaches 35. Even the height of its walls is greater than its width, since they are walls that reach 40 meters, and in the case of its bell tower rises to 78.
All these dimensions and the castle-like appearance have a lot to do with the time when its construction began, back in the year 1281. A time when the heresy of the Cathars or Albigensian Heresy, was still alive in this southern region of France. For that reason, Christianity wanted to capture all its power in this temple.
However, this construction lasted a long time, and was notfinished and definitively consecrated until 200 years later, in 1480.
If we walk around the building it may seem that we are going through a wall, in which there are semicircular reinforcements, between which the narrow and elongated windows are arranged, as well as coinciding with the supports of the vault that covers the only nave of the temple and leaving space for the lateral chapels.
Some of these cylindrical bodies have gargoyles on their highest part and even some turrets, but they are much later elements, so much so that they were built in the 19th century, by one of the followers of the neogothic architect and historicist Violet le Duc, who worked as a restorer in this area of France, for example in the imposing and nearby Castle of Carcassonne.
Another detail linked to the concept of a fort is that in the Cathedral of Albi, there are only two doors. A very small one to the north, and the main one located on the south side. By the way, a door already elaborated at the beginning of the 15th century and designed by the master builder Dominique de Florence, who created an independent stone element much more ostentatious than the rest, following the characteristics of the gothic art more ornate.