La Cité Médiévale, Carcassonne
The “Cité de Carcassonne” is the town’s main attraction, and a UNESCO heritage site.
The town’s tourism website has this to say...
“Située sur la rive droite de l’Aude, la Cité Médiévale est une ville fortifiée unique en Europe, de par sa taille et son état de conservation.”
Roughly translated, that means it is a fortified town which is unique in Europe, as a result of its size and state of conservation.
We visited on a mid March Saturday, so it was out of season and quiet. I wouldn’t like to do it at a busy time. I enjoyed it. One of the things which has been on my bucket list for a long time - probably since 15 October 1972, when I visited the town to play rugby.
We didn’t bother going into the Château Comptal.
We did go around the Basilique Saint-Nazaire.
On the negative side, it is very touristy.
The walled town of Carcassone is unique because it has a double ring of walls. Its entire length is 3 kilometers, and it has 52 gigantic towers. The external wall was built during the time of Louis IX when the town was part of the royal estates. The Romans first fortified the hilltop around 100 BC, who called the place Carcasum, being the colonia or city with the highest status of Julia Carsaco. The remainder of the inner wall dates from the 13th century.
It is possible to access and walk on the space between the two ramparts.
Carcassone became famous for its role in the Albigensian Crusades, when the city was the stronghold of the Occitan Cathars. During the time of Napoleon and the Restoration, Carcassone was taken off from the list of official fortifications, fell into disrepair, that the government decided to demolish it. The decision, however, caused a public uproar, and only through a campaign led by the then mayor allowed it to be preserved as a historical monument. In 1853, restoration works began to accomplish what we now see.
It's like being in the Middle Ages. The Old City, called La Cité was so deteriorated that the French government was about to tear the ramparts apart but finally they decided to rebuilt them in 1.849.
UNESCO World Heritage since 1.997.
Carcassonne is located 90 km ( 56 miles ) south- east of Toulouse, in the province of Languedoc-Roussillon. LA CITE' and its ramparts was built by the Romans and then taken over by Viscount Trencavel who ruled over Bas-Languedoc.
Over the ages, it has been built and rebuilt and can now be savoured by the thousands of visitors who come to admire one of Europe's most complete example of a fortified medieval city.
The fortifications here were built in the 13th Century over earlier Roman ones. The city was controlled by the Cathars or Albigensians. This meant that believed themselves to be pure. Considered heresy by the church, a Crusade wa launched against Carcassonne and its leaders, Raimond Bernard Trencavel key amongst them. In 1209, the Crusaders laid seige to the city. In the end, the Cathars surrendered and were forced to leave. A second seige took place in 1240 under Saint Louis. It was he who added much of the later fortifications.
Though much of the citadel was restored in the 19th Century, the city is still a fascinating place with ramparts, towers and curtain walls.
La Cité Médiévale is the number 1 “thing to do” in Carcassonne. It was my first time in a real castle and I was really exited….
A little bit of its history:
“The walled town of Carcassone is best known as a mediaeval fortified town; the site was first occupied in the 6th century BC by a Gaulish settlement, followed by the development of an urban center in the Roman era. In the 3rd century the town suffered occasional invasions and entrenched itself behind the protection of a fortified city wall…….”
La Cite sits on the a plateau on the right side of the Aude river. The minute you step into the fortress you fell like you have been transported to another time. The is a small community of inhabitants that actually live inside the fortress for most of the year.
The Cité is a fortificated town. The Cité (and its ramparts) was in fact first build by romans (1 century before Christus) and then became the possession of the powerful Viscount Trencavel who ruled over Bas-Languedoc. At the end of the crusade against the Albigensians the city, with its improved fortifications, became one of the strongholds symbolising royal power on the frontier between France and Aragon.
n 1659, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees attached Roussillon to France, The city lost its military and strategic role. The religious and civil authorities were gradually transferred to the Lower Town (Ville Basse) or Bastide.
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was charged to save the
fortress from being abandoned and left in ruins, and restored it to its original appearance.
While visiting the Cité, you can really feel that you are in another time! There are of course some "souvenirs"-shops that are not really "medieval", but apart of that, everything is really nice!
But the thing I liked the most is the walk between the first ramparts and the second ones!!! And especially around the "Porte d'Aude". The view is fantastic! At night, the fortress have a golden appearance and glows in the dark!
The Cité is surrounded by a double wall of about 3 kms. separated by an arena called lists, and with 52 towers.