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Archdiocese of Albi
Comprises the Department of the Tarn. An archiepiscopal see from 1678 up to the time of the French Revolution Albi had as suffragans the Bishops of Rodez, Castres, Vabres, Cahors, and Mende; it was not re-established until 1822, and by this new distribution it united the ancient Bishopric of Castres and had for suffragans, besides the Dioceses of Rodez (joined with Vabres) of Cahors, and of Mende, the Bishopric of Perpignan. A local tradition which dates from the twelfth century attributes the foundation of the see to St. Clarus, of African birth, who installed his disciple Anthimus as his successor, and went to Lectoure where he was beheaded. The details of this legend have caused the Bollandists to legitimately suspect its authenticity. The first bishop known to history is Diogenianus (about 406). The church at Albi is rich in mementos; it was at Vieux, in the Diocese of Albi, at the end of the fifth century, that the first monastery of the Gauls (coetus sanctorum) was founded by St. Eugene, a bishop exiled from Carthage, St. Longin, and St. Vindemialis, near the tomb of St. Amarandus (martyr of the third century). From the sixth to the eighth centuries, two great families of Albi gave many saints to the Church, the Salvia family, to which belonged St. Desiderius, Bishops of Cahors, also St. Disciola, the companion of St. Radegonda; the Ansbertina family to which belonged St. Goéric and St. Sigisbald, Bishops of Metz, and the latter's sister, St. Sigolina, abbess of Traclar in the Diocese of Albi. The celebrated Cardinal de Bernis, ambassador of Louis XV, at Rome, was titular Bishop of Albi from 1764 to 1794. The memory of St. Dominic who vigorously combated the Albigensian heresy is still very fresh in the Diocese of Albi; in the vicinity of Castres there is a natural grotto containing several rooms, which is called the grotto of St. Dominic; tradition asserts that it was the retreat of the saint. The Council of Albi, in 1254, triumphed over the Albigensian heresy by organizing the Inquisition in that region. The parish church of Lautrec is said to have been founded in the time of Charlemagne. The cathedral of St. Cecilia of Albi (1282-1512) is a typical model of a fortified church; its sculptured gallery is the largest of its kind in France. The ancient Benedictine abbey of Soréze, founded in 757, was converted into a school in 1854 under the direction of the Dominican Lacordaire. The cities of Castres and Gaillac owe their origin to the Benedictine abbeys, the first of which, it is said, was founded by Charlemagne, and the second by Raimond I, Count of Toulouse, in 960. The Archdiocese of Albi, at the end of the year 1905, contained 339,369 inhabitants, 49 first-class parishes, 447 second-class parishes, and 68 vicariates with salaries formerly paid by the State.