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Carcassonne

     
 

Carcassonne is the Capital city of the Aude. It is the largest city in Europe with its medieval city walls still intact. It was once a Visigothic city, sister city to Rennes-le-Château, and later a Rennes-le-Château stronghold. Today it is a World Heritage Site.

Located between the Black Mountains and the Pyrénées, Carcassonne lies on important routes connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterannean Sea, and Spain to France and Italy.   Signs of Pre-Roman (Iberian) habitation in this area date from the 5th century BC.   In 122 BC the Romans invaded the areas that we now know as Provence and Languedoc, and built a central fortification. This Roman settlement they called Carcasso.  They occupied the region until the mid 5th century AD when it, along with Spain, fell to the Visigoths, invaders from the banks of the Danube.   Carcassonne remained under Visigoth rule from 460 to 725.  A Visigothic walled city was built in the 5th century by Euric I, King of the Visigoths.   In 508 it withstood attack by Frankish king, Clovis I, but fell to the Moors (Saracens) in 725.   The Moorish walled city was renamed Carchachouna.   A generation or so later, in 752, the Moors gave way to the Caroligian king, Pépin the Short, who did manage to take Carcassonne, making it a Frankish City.

For over a century the Medieval city of Carcassona enjoyed tremendous influence under the Trencavel family.  This was brought to an end during the disastrous wars against the Cathars of the Languedoc.  One of the important events in the first stages of the war was the siege of Carcassonne.  At the end of the wars the Languedoc was annexed by the French crown.  Carcassona became a French city called Carcassonne.  After centuries of neglect it was heavily restored, and it is this restored city that makes such an impact today.

The Château Comtal seen from within the Medieval Cité of Carcassonne

The Château Comtal seen from within the Citeé of Carcassonne

Within the city walls is a castle, once the home of Raymond-Roger Trencavel. Although the outer curtain wall of the city is French, and the whole site has been substantially restored, this building has a strong claim to be called a "Cathar Castle". It was besieged from 1st to 15th of August 1209 The city and its castle were taken by deceit, when Roger-Raymond came out to talk terms with Arnaud Amery during the siege.  It is at this stage that Simon de Montfort was appointed to hold Raymond-Roger's territories. Soon afterwards, on the 10th November, Roger-Raymond died in his own prison, aged 24.  

The Cité's outer ramparts, complete with turrets, towers, and crenellations, were built during the reign of Louis IX.  His son, Philip III, continued the work.  He also added a main gate, called the Porte Narbonnaise, to the inner walls.  It is guarded by two flanking towers and a double barbican.

The Château Comtal within the Medieval Cité of Carcassonne

The Château Comtal within the Citeé of Carcassonne

If you want to learn more about these questions from experts like Henry Lincoln, on location in the Languedoc, you might be interested in Templar Quest Tours.

If you are more interested in the Cathars of the Languedoc, you might be more interested in Cathar Country Tours.

 

 
 
 

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