Carcassonne is a medieval fortified town in Languedoc,
southern France. Situated on a plateau dominating the plain of the Aude, the walled town of
Carcassonne is rectangular in shape, up to 525 m long and 250 m wide.
It is still surrounded by its medieval double enclosure wall: the inner curtain
is around 1245 m in length, with 29 towers, while the outer curtain has 18 towers and is about.
1320 m long. The Chateau Comtal and the former cathedral of St Nazaire also survive.
History of Carcassonne
The site was occupied as early as the 6th century BC, when its strategic
defensive position must already have been recognized.
The oldest parts of the inner curtain wall date either from the late Roman
period (before AD 333, the date at which Carcassonne is mentioned as a castrum on the route from
Bordeaux to Jerusalem) or from Visigothic times.
There are traces of several campaigns of work on the north front and the west
front. During the minority of Louis IX the seneschals of Carcassonne raised the inner wall by
several metres and added an outer wall preceded by a moat.
After the revolt of 1240, Louis razed the Faubourg St Michel, which abutted the
east front of the outer wall, and rebuilt the section of the rampart running from the Tour de la
Vade to the Barbicane St Louis. A section of the inner wall (780 m), evidently still considered
weak, was rebuilt by Philip III and Philip IV between 1280 and 1287.
Finally, between 1852 and 1879, Viollet-le-Duc carried out substantial
restorations, adding crenellations to the walls and giving the towers slate roofs.
The curtain walls of the earliest enclosure wall are 6–7 m high and 2 m wide.
The surviving towers, which straddle the wall about every 20 m, are horseshoe-shaped and filled in
at the base, but each has a chamber lit by three round-arched windows at the level of the parapet
The early 13th-century exterior wall demonstrated a more active concept of
defence: its towers are hollow at the base and contain superimposed, vaulted chambers with numerous
The improvement in weaponry and the pronounced projection of the circular towers
from the wall enabled them to be spaced further apart, at rough intervals of 60–70 m.
The walls rebuilt from 1280 to 1287 are thinner, with rusticated masonry, many
more arrow loops on several levels and six towers à bec for defence against direct attack. The
Porte Narbonnaise, built during this campaign, is exceptional, defended by two formidable spurred
towers, a drawbridge and the St Louis barbican.
The Château Comtal, running along the west side of the inner rampart,
was built by the Vicomtes de Trencavel between 1120 and 1150.
The buildings, altered in part in the 13th, 15th and 18th centuries, were
residential and administrative: they comprised two buildings placed end-to-end parallel to the
rampart and a third, built at right angles, oriented east–west; a chapel was added in the
north-west corner around the year 1180.
In the 12th century the building was described as a palace but it was
transformed into a genuine fortress when the earliest enclosure wall was consolidated and the
second rampart built.
Three curtain walls were built to the south, east and north of the palace,
preceded by a moat and flanked by six round towers with the same characteristics as those of the
outer wall: battered bases, superimposed, rib-vaulted chambers and stirrup-shaped loop holes.
There was provision for hoardings at the tops of the towers and curtain walls,
and a bridge preceded by a barbican defended the access to the castle. The defences were directed
against the city to resist uprisings against the new royal administration.
What to see in the medieval fortified town of Carcassonne:
By road: From Narbonne or Toulouse, N 113 and A 61
By train: SNCF Carcassonne
By boat: Canal du Midi
By plane: Aéroport de Carcassonne Salvaza (Carcassonne Salvaza Airport)
Phone: + 33 (0)4 68 11 70 77
Official website: http://www.carcassonne.culture.fr/
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