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Carcassonne: a fortified medieval city

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Carcassonne, the most beautiful example of military architecture of the Middle Ages in France. This is a small town of about forty-five thousand inhabitants located in the Occitania region (Languedoc-Roussillon) in the Aude department. Located at 90 km south-east of Toulouse, in the wide valley that separates the Pyrenees from the Massif Central.

The city is clearly divided into two parts by the Aude River. The original nucleus (la Cité), high on the hill to the right of the Aude river, and the lower town (Bastide Saint-Louis), more recent, on the left bank.

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement existed on the hill where the city of Carcassonne is located today. The Romans, in the first century BC, founded a Roman colony with the name of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum.

The city developed in its present forms starting from the thirteenth century. Today it preserves the medieval citadel with fortifications, a castle, the medieval village, with narrow and winding streets, and the old Gothic cathedral of St.-Nazaire.

Having fallen into disrepair since the Napoleonic era, the walls of Carcassonne were restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc starting from 1853. The restoration partly altered the appearance of the fortifications. In particular, the roofing of many of the towers was altered with slate, a characteristic material of northern France, in place of the original red tiles, but the restoration made it possible to preserve the marvelous walls.

In 1997, UNESCO included the fortified city of Carcassonne on the list of world heritage sites. According to UNESCO, Carcassonne represents a surprising example of a fortified medieval city, formed by two concentric walls reinforced by 52 towers and opened by four gates.


Carcassonne is a remarkable example of a fortified medieval city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole city is an attraction. Among the most important we find, in the original nucleus (la Cité), high on the hill to the right of the Aude river, a splendid castle (Château Comtal), a beautiful Gothic basilica (Basilique Saint-Nazaire), the two concentric walls in total 3 km long, numerous characteristic streets and alleys full of old houses.


The element that characterizes the city is undoubtedly its double walls. The internal one runs along the route of the Roman wall, 1,070 meters long. It still retains part of the Roman walls and 17 defensive towers of the original 30. The main part of the northern walls dates back to Roman times, as well as numerous bases of the towers.

During the thirteenth century, the king of France ordered the construction of a second city wall around the city, this new wall is surrounded by a moat, and like the other it is full of towers. The two walls are opened by four gates located at the four cardinal points: the Porte Narbonnaise (1280), the Porte Saint-Nazaire, the Porte d’Aude (XII century) and the Porte du Bourg.


The Castle of the Count (Château Comtal), is a fortress that was the seat of the viscounts of Carcassonne. It is located in the upper city leaning against the internal walls. This castle was built at the beginning of the 12th century, and is made up of a wall on which 9 defensive towers stand out. The castle can be visited and allows access to the ramparts of the city. Château Comtal also houses a lapidary museum and a permanent exhibition on the restoration of the city in the 19th century. Another important building in the upper town is the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire, of Romanesque origin. It was consecrated in 1096, and enlarged in Gothic style between 1269 and 1330, its stained glass windows are very beautiful.


Known as the Lower City (Ville Basse), the more recent Bastide Saint-Louis, located on the left bank of the Aude River, is the commercial and residential center of Carcassonne. The city was built in the thirteenth century and was surrounded by walls 2,800 meters long in the fourteenth century, of these fortification works, today, only a few vestiges remain.

In the center of the town is the ancient market square (place Carnot), in this part of the city there are also the church of Saint-Vincent (XIV century), the Halle aux Grains (XVIII century), the Cathedral of Saint-Michel (XIII-XIV century). In the north-western part of Bastide Saint-Louis passes the Canal du Midi, a river route classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.

MUSEUMS: In the lower town area (Bastide Saint-Louis) there are: the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts), dedicated to European painting of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. La Maison des Mémoires (Maison Joë Bousquet), a permanent exhibition on the work of the poet Joë Bousquet. Here are also the headquarters of the Center d’Etudes Cathares René Nelli and the Groupe Audois de Recherche et d’Animations Ethnographiques.

In the Cité Médiévale is the Château Comtal, which houses a lapidary museum and a permanent exhibition on the restoration of the city in the 19th century. Other museums include the Cultural Center of the Memory of Combat (Center Culturel de la Memoire Combattante), the Museum of Cavalry, Arms and Archery (Musée de la chevalerie, armes et archeries), the Museum of the school (Musée de l’Ecole) and finally the Museum of the memory of the Middle Ages (Musée Mémoires du Moyen-Age).

The climate of Carcassonne.



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