The Pont Vieux

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Albi’s Pont Vieux ("Old Bridge" in English) is a bridge of medieval origin still in use. While visiting the city, crossing it gives you one of the most beautiful panoramas on the Berbie Palace and Saint Cecilia’s Cathedral. First link between both Tarn's riverbanks, the Pont Vieux is a patrimonial element of Albi, within the UNESCO classification of the Episcopal City and classified as a historical monument since 1961.

A FORMERLY FORTIFIED BRIDGE

Imagine a 151m long bridge, safeguarded at each end by drawbridges, which explains why the arches are narrower there. It was defended at the centre by the fortified Notre Dame tower, which has since disappeared.
Looking into history: In 1040, the construction of a bridge was decided upon and funded by a portion of the revenue from the ferry operated by the Chapter to cross the Tarn. At that time, France was experiencing ‘bridge fever’ due to the development of traffic, as a consequence of productive, demographic and commercial growth. In the 16th century, this bridge had a different appearance, as half-timbered 60 to 80 m2 houses straddled the roadway. 11 families lived there, tanners, shoemakers, weavers, fullers, and a fruit merchant. In 1766, following a major flood of the Tarn, the city bought the damaged houses to destroy them.

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Pont-vieux-zoom-sur-les-piles-du-pont-Albi-Tourisme.jpg, par Fabienne

A TOLL BRIDGE

In the 12th century, Albi was at an important crossroad on the routes between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, between the Basque country, Toulouse and Lyon, but also between Catalonia and Paris. Fairs and markets played a key role. As a point of passage, the Pont-vieux was able to levy a toll. A very complete price list, dated 1245, includes 200 articles among which were;

  • foodstuffs
  • raw materials for tannery, tanning and the textile industry
  • finished products, utensils and work tools
  • coal and pastels from Carmaux.

This document is a very rich source of information about daily life, the nature of trade in the Albi market, the diversity of measures and the nature of transport at this time.

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Pont-vieux-eclairage-special-Nuit-Pastel-evenement culturel juin-Albi-Tourisme.jpg, par Fabienne

PORT ACTIVITY

In the Middle Ages, the Tarn was the base of an important river trade that was done on boats called scows. The Port Vielh of Albi, below the old bridge, was alive with life and various activities until the late eighteenth century. Today, scows can still be seen on the Tarn. The fleet of ‘Albi croisières’ is a nod to this historical tradition and gives a different viewpoint of the City, its bridges and its geographical location. In Albi, we enjoy cruising!

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pont-vieux-croisiere-en-gabarre-sur-le-tarn-albi-tourisme.jpg, par Fabienne