The second you step foot on this fortified settlement, you’ll be rocketed back to a time when nobles and knights lived out their lives in extravagance and cities sprawled out from enormous castles and walls. It’s hard not to imagine the people who lived within Medieval Carcassonne which is just one reason of many to make this a castle you shouldn’t miss in France.
Carcassonne is something straight out of a book of romances: there are medieval turrets, conical roofs, sturdy walls complete with arrow slits and crenelated tops, all surrounded by a dense forest of trees. UNESCO’s committee decided to bestow the honour of becoming a World Heritage Site on Carcassonne because it such an exceptional example of a medieval fortified town. Not to mention, Carcassonne carries incredible historical importance because of the restoration efforts put forth by Viollet-le-Duc which allowed the town to develop stronger conservation principles for all of their buildings of historical significance.
Unlike the name suggests, Carcassonne Castle is more than one established building…it’s actually an entire medieval town that’s been restored and maintained. Located on the right bank of the Aude, the Medieval City is a unique medieval town because of its size and condition. Its history is marked by 2,000 years of conquest and you can see the footprints of Catharism and the Crusades throughout. The door Narbonne Aude acts as the “welcoming gate” to the large city which can be visited freely during the day and night.
The Gothic St-Nazaire basilica is the Cité’s main sacred building, but its oldest portion is Romanesque and dates from the 11th century. It was made much larger in the 13th and 14th centuries to meet the architectural fashion of the times. Although Viollet-le-Duc refashioned the exterior in the 1850s, it’s not all that spectacular to look at from the outside. The real interest lies within, in its sculpture and in some of the finest stained glass in the south of France – the oldest of which is over 700 years old. Mass is held here every Sunday at 11am; decorous dress is “de rigueur” at all times.
Jean-Deschamps Theatre is located right in the heart of the medieval city of Carcassonne. It’s a truly unique place that has been home to an abundance of French festivals and continues to deliver to this day. Every summer the Festival de Carcassonne takes place here and musical acts perform for few weeks in this unusual setting. The theater was established in 1908 on the site of the former cloister Saint-Nazaire and it can accommodate 5,000 spectators.
During the turbulent years of the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, Carcassonne was protected by the construction of a defensive wall some 1,200m long. The fortifications, consisting of two lines of walls and a castle, which is itself surrounded by fortifications, extend over a total length of 3km. Their line largely shows Roman influences in their defences, and they are clearly visible over two-thirds of the total length. The Porte Narbonnaise on the eastern side and the Porte de l'Aude on the west are particularly elaborate defensive works. Take a stroll along the battlement walls and get a true sense of Carcassonne and the elaborate and lengthy history of the place.
Add Carcassonne to your French itinerary and you won’t be disappointed by what you see. Compare travel insurance plans before you purchase and check out an international travel insurance policy from Cover-More Travel Insurance. Rest easy knowing you are protected against the unexpected with a team of travel insurance experts at your back.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jean-Baptiste Bellet.