April 20, 2017. Day off – Carcassonne

Our walk in the morning took us through the old town and over the Pont Vieux (14th C) spanning the River Aude. This provided a great first  glimpse of the medieval castle.

The history of the ancient Cité de Carcassonne and the Bastide de Saint Louis or “old city” is long and fascinating.  After our few hours visiting, a few things stand out. We learned of Catherism, a belief popular in Carcassonne in the 12thC, but deemed heretical by the Catholic Church. In 1209, Pope Innocent III ordered a Crusade against the Cathars and established the Inquisition in France,  leading to the surrender of Carcassonne to the crusading army led by the “Black Knight”, Simon de Montfort.  The inhabitants of the Cité were not massacred, unlike their less fortunate neighbors (see blog tomorrow), but were forced to leave the town.  A “new” town, the Bastide Saint Louis, based on a grid pattern, was created across the river in 1247 by Louis IX .

Additions  and modifications to the Cité continued,  but eventually the fortress fell into ruins. Pressured by residents and others, the Government of France reversed its decision to demolish the Cité and work on restoration began in 1853, directed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Le-Duc, who  was also responsible for the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris, and who decided to restore the fortress in the period of Louis IX. This approach to restoration was criticized in his lifetime and also in the 20th C, as it ignored the fact that the fortress survived a mixture of styles. The work of restoration included the Comtal Chateau  and the Basilique of St. Nazaire.

In 1997, the City of Carcassonne was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “an excellent example of a medieval fortified town whose massive defences were constructed on walls dating from Late Antiquity. It is of exceptional importance by virtue of the restoration work carried out in the second half of the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc, which had a profound influence on subsequent developments in conservation principles and practice.”

Basilque St. Nazaire

One thought on “April 20, 2017. Day off – Carcassonne”

  1. I remember Carcassonne being a very pleasant interesting place and glad you found it the same. Your doing well as always! Liz x

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