Carcassonne (World Heritage)

Defense architecture at its best: The old town of Carcassonne with its tower-reinforced double wall ring is one of the most impressive examples of medieval defense architecture in Europe.

Carcassonne: facts

Official title: Carcassonne
Cultural monument: Medieval city complex with two complete walls around the upper fortress town (Cité), which is shielded by 52 towers, with the Château Comtal, the 80×30 m count castle as a “fortress in the fortress”, with the originally Romanesque hall church of St-Nazaire, its glass windows “Tree of Jesse” and “Tree of Life” are among the most beautiful in southern France, and the 13th century St-Michel cathedral; Access to the old town (upper town) through the Porte Narbonnaise and the Porte d’Aude
Continent: Europe
Country: France, Aude
Location: Carcassonne
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: largest surviving medieval fortified city in Europe

Carcassonne: history

122 BC Chr. Fortification of the Roman oppidum Carcasso
460 Part of the Visigoth Empire
725 Conquered by the Saracens and renamed Karkashuna
759 Conquest by the Franks under Pippin the Short
1069-1130 Construction of the Romanesque basilica of St-Nazaire
1082-1209 under the influence of the dynasty of Trencavel, Viscounts of Albi, Carcassonne, Béziers and Nîmes
1209-18 owned by the crusader Simon IV Montfort
1229 fallen to King Louis VIII
1269 Consecration of the Basilica of St-Nazaire by Pope Urban II.
1320 Reconstruction of the St-Nazaire basilica in the Languedoc Gothic style
1355 Destruction of the new town Bastide St-Louis
1803 St-Nazaire loses its cathedral status
1849 Reconstruction of St-Nazaire

More beautiful than any film set

The crenellated and tower-reinforced walls of the Cité des old Carcassonne look proud and lofty over the Aude valley. In view of the fortress walls of Carcassonne, which the troubadours sang about in the song of the heroic and – of course – very beautiful Lady Carcass, you think you are transported back to the Middle Ages. Even the set builders in the Hollywood studios couldn’t have designed a more fantastic castle complex!

The legend about the naming of Carcassonne would certainly also be suitable as the basis for the script of a “sword and sword film”: Lady Carcass, who was in a relationship with the Saracen king Balaack, is said to have come up with the “film-ready idea” during a month-long siege by Charlemagne had to fatten the last remaining pig with grain and then throw it at the feet of the enemies from the castle wall. The pig’s belly burst open at the foot of the fortress walls, and a huge amount of grain oozed out towards the besiegers. In view of the lord’s apparently inexhaustible supplies of food, Charlemagne and his men gave up the apparently hopeless siege and left without having achieved anything. The crafty Lady Carcass let the trumpets sound: Carcass sun.

According to hyperrestaurant, the Cité of Carcassonne is Europe’s largest and best-preserved medieval fortress. Two crenellated walls with numerous towers enclose this huge structure. Those who enter the fortress city through the sweeping gates are, as it were, on a journey through time – if it weren’t for the many tourists, souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes. Only late in the evening or early in the morning do the cobblestone streets find their way back to their original charm. Carcassonne experienced its heyday in the 12th century. The lords of Trencavel had the castle hill systematically expanded, the Saint-Nazaire cathedral – famous for its Gothic stained glass windows – was completed, and the magnificent Château Comtal was built as a veritable “fortress within the fortress”. Despite this mighty masonry, the residents of Carcassonne had to surrender to the crusaders in the Albigensian Wars in August 1209 after a twelve-day siege. Water scarcity, the scorching summer heat and the outbreak of epidemics were the attackers’ best allies. Fortunately, the city was only plundered and not sacked, as the victorious general Simon IV Montfort had chosen it as his residence. Decades later, the French King Louis the Saint had a second wall ring built around the city, giving Carcassonne its final and still so characteristic silhouette. After the strategic importance as a border fortress to Catalonia had been lost due to the “Peace of the Pyrenees” in 1659, the slow but steady decline of the fortifications began. In the middle of the 19th In the 19th century, people were even toying with a demolition, but just in time Prosper Mérimée, the French inspector general for historical monuments, put a stop to these plans. With the help of the famous architect and restorer Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, a local archaeologist named Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille finally managed to restore the fortress city to its most beautiful Gothic splendor. The fact that the restorers, who were initially only commissioned with the repair of the cathedral, occasionally let their romantic imagination run wild and added pointed towers and battlements where there weren’t any in the Middle Ages, does not detract from their performance. Rather, their efforts testified to the awakening awareness of Europeans for their cultural roots.