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It was painted by Flemish artists between 1474 and 1480 and the reptilian demons, torturing sad souls for eternity, are a stern reminder of the wages of sin. It’s missing its central section, knocked through to give access to a more recent chapel at the base of the bell tower. Sadly, that means that God, the judge of the Last Judgement, is no longer to be seen. At the other end, surrounding the choir is a Gothic rood screen, carved out of limestone, housing dozens of statues in niches. By the central doorway, you can make out Adam trying to cover himself, facing Eve, striking her model’s pose. Before the Counter Reformation, access to this part of the church was only available to the clergy, keeping out the common people who could only hear, but not see, the celebration of mass. Son of Albi - Toulouse- Lautrec Albi’s most famous son is the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the house where he was born in 1864 still exists, although it’s closed to the public. What you can see is an almost complete collection of his works in the Palais de la Berbie, next to the Cathedral.When he died in 1901 of alcoholism and syphilis, nobody was interested in his paintings and they struggled to find a home. Fortunately one of his cousins was Mayor of Albi at the time and the Toulouse Lautrec museum opened in 1922. "Toulouse-Lautrec probably influenced Van Gogh and Picasso was a great admirer" Lautrec had bone disease, probably a result of inbreeding in his family, and broke his right thigh bone when he fell off a chair when he was 13. Recuperating in the Pyrenees, he tripped and broke the other thigh bone and both never completely healed. He started drawing and painting during long periods of convalescence and went to Paris to study with Bonnat and Cormon. During this time, he had his first encounter with a prostitute and started painting the low life of Montmartre.
What surprises in the museum is that he really was an accomplished painter although he never seems to have settled on a style. You can detect expressionist, impressionist, classical, even chiaroscuro in the 240 canvases on display. He probably influenced Van Gogh and Picasso was a great admirer. Towards the end of his life, in 1891, he taught himself lithography and made the 31 Moulin Rouge posters for which he’s justly famous. Yvette Gilbert, raunchy cabaret singer of the Belle Epoque and favourite subject for Toulouse- Lautrec The other UNESCO listed attraction in Albi is the parchment Mappa Mundi, dating from the 8th century, and one of the oldest representations of the world. It belonged to Albi cathedral and you can see a facsimile in the Treasury with information panels explaining the content and the history. I’m privileged to be shown the original, now kept in the Pierre-Amalric Library and only brought out on special occasions. As well as being exceptionally delicate, its surprisingly small, the size of an exercise book. It represents the world in the form of a horseshoe, centred around the Mediterranean, orientated to the East and features some fifty names of cities, regions, rivers, seas and winds. I can just make out the shape of Europe and even India is represented, although it’s not as close as they thought.
Bonjour and bienvenue to the Autumn
Features continued 54 UNESCO World