Working their way up the Tarn valley in small groups, the Celts were the first to settle in Ambialet around the 6th century BC. They were followed by the Gauls, and the Romans, who set up a frontier post in this important strategic position. In 942, the Viscount of Albi, Aton "the Old", assumed the title of Viscount of Ambialet, giving rise to the first official reference to the town.
He built a formidable fortress that was, for over two hundred years, one of the most powerful strongholds of the Albigeois region. His successors, remembered by their famous nickname of "Trencavel", carved out an enormous realm including Béziers, Nîmes, Limoux and Carcassone.
At the time of the Albigensian Crusade, Simon de Montfort seized Ambialet and in 1210 had a famous meeting here with Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse. Twenty years later the Treaty of Meaux awarded the territory to the family of de Montfort. On the death of Alphonse de Poitiers in 1271 it was taken over by the throne of France. Destroyed by the English during the Hundred Years War, the fortress was taken without a struggle by the Hugenots of Realmont in 1563 and 1568. In 1762, the Castelpers family, who had aquired Ambialet at the end of the 14th century, ceded it to the Baron de Lormet who kept it until the Revolution. In the 19th century the village declined as a result of the drift away from the land, until invigorated by the development of the tunnel, bridge and railway towards 1900, which opened it up to outside influence.
The village of Ambialet has had to adapt to the demands of a very difficult terrain, resulting in its development along the peninsular in two distinct parts. Ambialet-le Haut, at the beginning of the meander, (by the road to Villeneuve and Trebas) and Ambialet-le-Bas, at the foot of the promontory. Until the end of the 19th century, only a path along the rocky ridge, overhanging the river in places, joined the two parts of the village.
On its creation during the Revolution the Commune of Ambialet comprised the following parishes:
- In the present Commune of Ambialet: Saint-Gilles d'Ambialet, Notre-Dame de Lacapelle (in Ambialet-le-Haut), Notre-Dame de l'Oder (on the peninsular), Notre dame de Bonneval et Saint-Pierre de Lacondomine.
- In the present Commune of Villefranche: Saint-Barthélémy de Fabas
- In the present Commune of Fraysse: Saint-Louis du Fraysse, Saint-Pierre de Cambon du Temple, Saint-Salvy de Bonneval, Saint-Jean de Salès
- In the present Commune of Paulinet: Saint-Salvy du Burc
- In the present Commune of Curvalle: Saint-Martin de Nègremont
After several revisions, the Commune of Fraysse was finally created in 1937 from land formerly of the Commune of Ambialet.
In the eleventh century, a church and priory were built by the Benedictine Order on a hill in Ambialet, while the village had become established below. Many centuries later, in 1860, the priory was bought by a Franciscan friar, Father Clausade. He restored the monastery of the Priory for Third Order Franciscans and also the attached Romanesque chapel of Notre-Dame-de-L’Oder. He also established a seminary school for young boys.
The seminary boarding school closed around 1960. Currently, the Monastery is leased by Saint Francis University as one of its religious study campuses.
Franciscan monastery and Priory