Palais de la Berbie, Albi!!

Oh seldom a name implies much, but when it does it is worldly huge and this is the case of the Palais de la Berbie or Berbie palace in gorgeous Albi, dept 81 of the Tarn in the Occitanie region of my belle France. Of course, the Berbie palace by itself may not mean much to many.

However, when I tell you this is the main Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec museum than I am talking heavy hitters in the world of paintings. Lots of would be painters but there is only a handful masters that rose to heavens on earth while painting etc. He is one of them , one my favorites and we have been here several times. Let me tell you a bit more on the Berbie Palace and the museum of Toulouse-Lautrec.

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The absolute must see in Albi is the Palais de la Berbie and its gardens one of the episcopal city built after the crusade against the Albigeois(cathars). The name of Berbie comes from the Occitan language meaning bishop. In the 13C the bishop Bernard de Castanet an important person in the construction of the complex had built a donjon tower of 50 meters four towers and walls all around the palace with courts and exterior ramparts until the Tarn river. This is the origin of the fortress that was change over the centuries in residence , by 1905 the palace is property of the Tarn Department and the mayor puts the museum of Albi. Later it becomes after the death of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in 1922 the museum on his honor with donations of his work from his mother. Now, also, the tourist office of Albi.

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A bit on the Berbie palace briefly.  The Palais de la Berbie or Berbie Palace is a former episcopal palace. Built during the second half of the 13C, under the episcopate of three successive bishops, its construction took around fifty years to become a fortress under Bernard II de Combret and Bernard III of Castanet, faced with the hostility of the Albigensian population, both economically and religiously, with the Cathars. The Berbie Palace owes its name to a deformation of the Occitan bisbia, from the Latin episcopia, meaning “bishopric”. The castle is presented as a fairground brick fortress. The walls are reinforced by semi-cylindrical buttresses supporting in height arches masking the machicolations. This type of architecture, curious in the south where it is one of the only examples, was popularised in the west of France by the house Plantagenêt. When the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, born in Albi in 1864, died in 1901 at the Château Malromé in Saint-André-du-Bois, his parents wished to offer their collection to a museum. In 1905, the law separating churches and the state dispossessed the archbishopric of Albi from the episcopal residence and allowed the opening of a museum. In 1922, the painter’s parents donated their collection to expand the museum. In addition to the Albigensian painter, a part evokes the history of the Berbie palace and more generally of the episcopal city of Albi.

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Following the museum brochure and the map with id letters of the Episcopilean center I will describe the building and museum here. The Palais de la Berbie on the Toulouse-Lautrec museum of Albi.

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The wing of Amboise and gallery of Daillon du Lude (id. F and G) It is in this part of the palace that the visit to the museum begins. The entrance to the museum is through glass doors, the central of which includes the Toulouse-Lautrec signature, the letters HTL intertwined. On the ground floor are the museum shop, the ticket office and the access gate, in vaulted rooms dating from the time of construction to the Renaissance. On the first floor is the gallery of Daillon du Lude giving on the yard. It houses the history of the palace. The wing of Amboise, overlooking the city, shows the small lounge of Daillon du Lude and the so-called room of the Cross. On the second floor, works by contemporary and later artists at Toulouse-Lautrec are on display.

The wing of the Suffragants (E) The ground floor, where the entrance turnstiles give, exhibits drawings and paintings from the youth of Toulouse-Lautrec. In this part is the access to the auditorium created under the main courtyard. On the first floor, works by Toulouse-Lautrec concerning his vision of Parisian nights and his late period are exhibited. On the second floor, works by contemporaries of the Albigensian painter are visible.

The Sainte-Catherine tower (D) and Saint-Michel tower (C) The whole forms a massive keep which sometimes takes the name of Mage tower, in other words the Major tower .The appearance of the two towers is similar, but the thickness of the walls of the Sainte-Catherine tower reveals the defensive destination, while the Saint-Michel tower results from an arrangement of the old palace, bisbia vielha in Occitan language. The Sainte-Catherine tower is the keep of the palace. The result is two very opposite façades. Seen from the south, the adjoining Saint-Michel tower gives a massive and austere appearance. To the north, the preserved part opens onto the gardens with classic style windows. A terrace rests on a vault against the corner turrets. It is accessible by two large patio doors. At the level of the roof exceeds the southern part on which are seen the traces of the old Gothic vaults of the upper rooms demolished at the very beginning of the 17C. On the ground floor of the museum, the mage tower presents portraits made by Toulouse-Lautrec and paintings of brothels. On the first floor, a medieval palatial room is presented with a living room of Cardinal Bernis arranged in a corner turret. The second floor is not accessible to the public. The Saint-Michel tower houses a chapel dedicated to the eponymous Archangel.

The Courtine de Durand de Beaucaire (I et J) The curtain wall of Durand de Beaucaire becomes a real bulwark with the work of his successors. It has a door framed with turrets carrying a machicolation. It is fitted out as a pleasure gallery by Hyacinthe Serroni. Windows are open on the south facade to light the rooms. A pontoon is built to reach the cathedral; it will be demolished at the end of the 19C or at the beginning of the 20C. It includes on the first floor the Serroni gallery presenting the history of the episcopal city.

The Annexed wings (id. R, S, T, U and V) .The rampart which surrounded the place d’Armes was partly arranged by the prelates in the upper part, during the creation of the terraces and gardens. The Amboise tower (V) or the octagon tower (T) or both, could take the place of an older tower. A portal was roughly cut in the curtain of Bernard de Castanet (U), without pageantry or framing, at the time of Cardinal de Choiseul-Stainville. It faced the recently opened street at the Place des Remparts, leading to the old bridge. This part cannot be visited on the ground floor or freely accessible from the gardens for the arcaded gallery of the curtain wall (S). On the first floor, this part, named Stainville wing in honor of the Archbishop, houses advertising posters from Toulouse-Lautrec.

The Octagon tower (T) and that of d’Amboise (V) are occupied by drawings and lithographs. The Amboise gallery (U) can be visited for its beauty, without exhibition; it is a painted ceiling in the overturned boat hull. The Courtines around the garden (id. K, L, M, N, O, P and G) The tour de l’éperon à bec or beak spur tower (L) could have been taken from an old tower of the former ramparts; it would then perhaps have served as a barbican before the construction of the curtain walls of Bernard de Castanet. It was reduced in height during works during or after the wars of religion. The lowering could be intended for the reception of artillery pieces. Bernard de Castanet built the towers of the river, Dionysus and the library with ramparts forming a crab claw with curtain walls, protecting access to the river. The curtain parallel to the Tarn river is more recent, closing the polygon and allowing by filling the volume behind the ramparts to create a place of weapon become the garden.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it is a must are

The lettering is a guide from a map at the Epicopal city of Albi webpage above here is the text and map in pdf file in French : Cité Episcopale of Albi map guide with lettering and history

The same webpage as above but with the history of the Berbie palace in English: Cité Episcopale of Albi on the Berbie Palace

The city of Albi on the Berbie Palace in French: City of Albi on the Berbie palace

The tourist office of Albi on the Berbie palace in English: Tourist office of Albi on the Berbie palace

There you go now I feel better and you are all set to come on to Albi; see the beautiful Palais de la Berbie and the awesome Toulouse-Lautrec museum; worth the trip alone. Hope you enjoy the post and thank you for reading it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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2 Comments to “Palais de la Berbie, Albi!!”

  1. A fantastic brick-built building

    Liked by 1 person

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