The Episcopal Berbie Palace is one of the oldest castles in France and one of the best-preserved. It dates from the same period as the cathedral (1250-1260) and was built in the same spirit, as a military and religious fortress capable of withstanding sieges. It now houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.
Place Sainte Cécile, 81000 Albi
The Palais de la Berbie hosts the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, it is open on the same opening time:
From November to March: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
April, May and June, every day 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
July, August and September, every day: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
October: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
In this time of the city’s takeover by the Church, the palace in Albi expresses the temporal and spiritual power the bishops held over their subjects. Construction was begun under the Bishop Durand Beaucaire, and at his death the palace was already a fortress. But under his successor, Bishop Bernard de Castanet, it took on the monumental allure that remains today. Indeed, unloved by the people and the local royalty because of his domineering personality and ambition, Bishop de Castanet feared for his safety and decided to dramatically strengthen and supplement the defensive arsenal of the palace.
The palace is accessible through a door with highly defensive characteristics, topped with a club and surrounded by buttresses. Past the door stands the imposing tower of Saint Catherine, flanked by four corner towers and attached to the Saint Michel Tower, which served as a court and a prison. Visitors can enjoy a beautiful view from the gardens and the walls of the ancient fort. The tour continues through the walkway that leads to the River Tower. Then, through another archway, visitors arrive at the Tower of Dionysus, whose addition definitively secured the palace from attacks. From this tower visitors can enjoy another beautiful view of the palace. Later, construction of the Mage Tower, a huge column topped by four more towers, completed the work of Bernard de Castanet.
From the 15th century onward, threats diminished and the austere, military architectural style was abandoned to make way for a Renaissance aesthetic. It became a pleasant, leisurely palace to live in with the addition of gardens on the site of the old parade grounds. In the 17th century the fortifications were finally abandoned, and a doorway was opened up to the city toward the Old Bridge. Thereafter, the Berbie Palace was gradually abandoned and in the early 20th century became the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.
The 13th century pavements
Discovered in 2009 in several rooms of the palace, these pavements are exceptional in both their preservation and surface area. They are now visible to visitors.
The gardens are accessible every day : April through September : 8 a.m to 7 p.m. October through March : 8 a. m. to 6 p.m.
The gardens were created in the late 17th century in the French style, characteristic of many gardens at the time. The two terraces and the classical garden face the Tarn River, their spatial structure based on the naturalist movement then in vogue. The garden’s statues represent the seasons, and Bacchus (18th century).