Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Carcassonne, the largest intact walled town in Europe, is a fairytale magical kingdom type place and in late October it sustained it's reputation as it wasn't swamped with tourists.
Carcassonne is divided into the fortified walled ancient city and the more expansive ville basse across the river. It was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century, though the Romans had fortified the settlement earlier and settled it in 100 BC. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by Viollet-le-Duc, was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.
Walking around the ramparts was a delight with lots of
arched gates and occasional greenery.
The roman towers are distinguished by their
flatter tops and red brick lines in the stone.

The main entrance and the only gate large enough to
allow cart to enter in ancient times.

We spent several days moored in the Canal and enjoyed both the old city and the new. One night we went in for dinner. The whole city is lit up and is a dramatic sight for sure and it was very romantic walking around the city without the crowds of tourists during the day.
It took a whole day to see most of the sights. There are two sets of walls with the former moat now a walkway/road around the city. Various sizes of towers line the walls, some Roman and others medieval and there are 52 of them overall. Inside is a large fortified castle and keep with two sets of ramparts as well. Both city and castles' entrances are protected as well by huge barbicons. This city was never taken by force, but by siege once. That was during the 11th Century Crusade to wipe out the Cathar religion, which I wrote of in my previous entry on the Cathar Fortresses.
Here the space between the two walls
allows for a "roadway"

Typical dramatic view in a narrower section

One of the most elegant private dwellings inside the city

Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
seen from the Keep

A glimpse of the city walls from the Keep

A fortress within a fortress, the Trencavel's Chateau Chavel,
is protected with two sets of walls, moat, barbicons etc. and
was built in the

These wooden walkways along the inner
wall of the Keep are reproductions and
show how the archers were able to fire from
protected positions

The Great Hall was on the second floor here (when the floors
existed) and the huge fireplace is on the left further down.

The slate roofed medieval towers were reconstructed with
pointed roofs by Violette-le-Duc. It's debatable whether this
is historically correct, but it sure is attractive.

The Basilica is quite lovely with beautiful stained glass windows and lots of leering gargolyes. We were lucky to hear a choral group of men from Romania sing chants during our visit. This Basilica was consecrated in 1096 and was formerly the Cathedral, now in the lower city. The Gothic addition is seen here with it's beautiful tall stained glass windows.
The exterior of the Basilica was also
renovated but these gargoyles look properly
weathered (and scary).

This is just the Barbicon for the Castle within the city

We were not attracted by the multiple tourist souvenir
shops but as usual marveled at the food markets.

Two views of the narrow streets within the
city. We came at the right time of year.

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