“The Castelviel is one of the oldest districts of Albi, judging by the discovery of weapons, tools or ornaments made in this place and attributable to the prehistoric, Celtic or Gallo periods. romaine “writes the historian Roger Allaire in” Albi through the centuries “, reference work. “The Castelviel received, around 1130, the name it still bears, but its antiquity dates back well beyond the twelfth century. During prehistory, it forms an oppidum that serves as a refuge for populations scattered in the Tarn valley; it becomes the cradle of the city of Albi. It is a neighborhood like no other, populated since ancient times, long before Albi became an opulent city. Because of its isolated location, on a steep promontory, the Castelviel hill has escaped urban changes, keeping this little something authentic that its inhabitants are so attached to.
It is regarded as the cradle of Albi. Its name reminds us that the tip of this promontory which protrudes like a bow between the escarpments of the valleys of Tarn and Bondidou offered a defensive site, conducive to the establishment of a fortified refuge: the castle of the counts of Toulouse, the all-powerful lords of Albi stood there from the beginning of the Middle Ages There still exists, currently, the “Place du Château” near the Place St Lou, at the exit of the “Bridge of the Republic” which spans the ravine of Bondidou and cross the bridge of the path of . After the crusade of the Albigensians, which leads to the effacement of the Trencavel, viscounts became the main lords of the city in the eleventh century, the Castelviel becomes possession of Montfort and forms a separate community with its consuls.
For a long time, this village in the city remained independent of the jurisdiction of Albi until the Revolution did not lead to its attachment.
This lasting isolation explains why Castelviel has retained the appearance of a former village. Its strong identity is due to the configuration of the parcellaire which is organized from a main axis, the rue du Castelviel from which narrow streets lead to small islands with extremely small plots, since a quarter of the houses have a surface area of soil between 18 and 30 m2.
One discovers its modest and picturesque houses, arranged in stages, with gardens in terraces … and plots of another time. All offer stunning views of the cathedral.
The ravine of Bondidou, currently landscaped parking, (parking of the Cathedral) has well preserved the original escarpment overlooked by the Castelviel and the cathedral. It allows to appreciate well the slope whose ramparts (demolished in the XVIIth century) limited the ravine.
We only have to follow the Rue du Castelviel, a sort of backbone of the district; a series of alleys and two more important streets lead to two small squares; Savene Square, full of charm and picturesque, evokes a village square, surrounded by small houses built in brick and timber.
The small place Saint-Loup, near the church of the same name, became private property in the Revolution, offers a beautiful view of the steeple of the cathedral. The same goes for rue du Castelviel, which opens onto the cathedral and offers a beautiful suite of half-timbered houses and corbels, including a house with mud walls.
On the other side of the Republic Bridge, the umbilical cord between the two districts, the Castelviel comes alive around the fair. Since the spring, the construction machines have invested the place of the castle and some streets of the hill of Castelviel. The bridge and requalification works are changing the neighborhood without losing its character.
It’s a lively neighborhood
While work continues to try as much as possible to limit nuisances, the hill of Castelviel comes alive throughout the summer: aperitif concert organized Savene place at the initiative of the association., Inauguration of the impasse Azémar whose name was the subject of a referendum within the district.
The idea is always to create social bonds, to get to know each other better between inhabitants, but also to make this neighborhood better known to the Albigensians and tourists.
During the “Place (s) aux artistes” festival in mid-July and mid-August, concerts are held in place Saint-Loup with the Conservatory of Music and Dance Tarn, and storytelling sessions take place every Thursday at 16:30 Place Savene.
In this historic district with narrow streets, restaurants and tea rooms and creperie are open all year. The Albigensians, especially locals, book with pleasure one of the tables of these warm places.
At the Castelviel fair, it is recognized that access to the area is more complicated by car with the closure of the bridge of the Republic but remains accessible, on foot or by bike, by the bridge parallel to the track under construction.
The bridge of the Republic
In 1879, the community of Castelviel has eight times less inhabitants than Albi and is twelve times less rich; she can not help being absorbed by her powerful neighbor.
In the nineteenth century, a road bridge “Bridge of the Republic”, raised under the Second Republic, docked at his party, but his calm is disturbed by the construction of a viaduct for the railway. It reveals remains of the Bronze Age, but it completes to erase the remains of the strong house evoking the great Gallo-Roman family Didier-Salvi, the Counts of Toulouse and the knights of the Middle Ages.
The topography and the happy restorations allowed the Castelviel to keep, despite everything, a morphology which it affirms today for the approval of all.