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.
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.
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
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
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
If you want to learn more about these questions from experts like
Henry Lincoln, on location in the Languedoc, you might be interested
If you are more interested in the Cathars of the Languedoc, you
might be more interested in Cathar Country Tours.