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Cathédrale Ste-Cécile of Albi is largest brick building in the world

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 15th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The largest brick building in the world, the Cathédrale Ste-Cécile of Albi was built in the 13th century in the heart of Cathar country. Perched high on a hill above the River Tarn in France, its severe exterior makes it looks like a fortress, which in fact it originally was.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Cathedral of St. Cecilia in Albi was built as a fortress and statement of strength after the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229), a holy war waged by the Catholic Church against the heretical Cathars and the count of Toulouse.

Construction on Albi Cathedral began in 1282 under the direction of Bernard de Castanet (1277-1307), who was Bishop of Albi and Chief Inquisitor. Construction was mostly done by 1383. The cathedral was not fully complete until 1492.

The cathedral has none of the delicate stonework or wall of glass that characterize the Gothic style in northern France. Instead it is made of solid brick with modest lancet windows. Viewed from the west, the cathedral looks a bit like a great pink rocket ship.White stone gargoyles were added during 19th-century restorations.

Despite its fortress-like exterior, one would expect the interior of Ste-Cecile to be plain, and practical, when in fact the cathedral is literally covered in religious art on the inside.

The most interesting of all this decoration is the huge mural of The Last Judgment that covers both sides of the rounded west wall of the nave. Painted between 1474 and 1484 by unknown Franco-Flemish artists, it is considered one of the most important works of art of the Late Middle Ages.

The Blessed are on the left and the Damned are on the right; Heaven is shown along the top, with the Resurrection of the Dead below, and Hell at the bottom. The mural lacks a Christ in Majesty, an element common to virtually all other medieval depictions of the theme.

The vision of the underworld stars a variety of monstrous demons and suffering humans, organized around the theme of the Seven Deadly Sins. Labeled in Old French, they depict Pride, Envy, Wrath, Greed, Gluttony and Lust. Sloth is conspicuously missing - maybe the painter got lazy and never got around to completing it!

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