A landmark of history that has resurrected to its former glory.Älgbert Elgson
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Carcassonne was founded in antiquity and developed into a military place. Since the beginning of the history of the city, it was intended as a fortification and outpost, because it was also a long time border town between the Frankish kingdom and the Kingdom of Aragon.
The owner changed in the course of time until 1247 by renunciation it finally came to the French crown domain. But by military actions, it was often contested.
By shifting the border between France and Spain, Carcassonne lost its former importance. From then on, the city had to regain its status through trade. The old town and the fortress were abandoned, increasingly falling into decay and parts of the complex were used as a quarry for new buildings near the Canal du Midi, which was run through the city from the beginning of the 19th century.
The fortress was restored in 1853 by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. It is thanks to him and the numerous workers who participated in the great project that the great castle complex can now be visited again in its former form.
During the restoration, great care was taken to preserve the former structure and restore all the buildings as faithfully as possible.
In order to be able to finance this enormous undertaking, tourists were attracted very early on.
This has not changed until today. Carcassone is one of the most visited attractions in France (about 4 million visitors per year). The old town has kept a certain charm, but you can see here that tourism is the main source of income. Many streets still have their medieval charm, but in the main streets that run from the main gate to the fortress within the castle walls, you can see that many shops specializing in tourists want to bring their sometimes questionable goods to the daily clientele.
In the summer months, it may come to tourist crowds, but that should not hinder your exploratory desire. The city has much to offer, because in addition to the impressive architecture, many events take place in the castle during the summer.
The fortress can also be discovered from the inside, and the city (almost) circumnavigated on the walls.
The diocese of Carcassonne was founded in 533. Since that time there was a church building, which was further expanded. The Romanesque building, which today forms the nave, was completed in the 12th century. Throughout history, the importance of the diocese and the cathedral has grown larger and larger. The present building in Gothic style was until 1801 bishopric. The town and church are on a branch line of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (Via Tolosana).
The former importance, linked to the loss of importance of the city of Carcassonne, could not be regained, although Pope Leo XIII. the cathedral had been elevated to basilica minor in 1898 because of the building’s important position in the past – also to underline its commitment to the Vatican.
Today, the construction impresses mainly due to the architecture. There are always events in the church building and some can be visited with free admission.
How to get there?
It is easy to get to Carcassonne by car, but it is not too far from the city train station also. From the station to the old town it is about two kilometers walk.
Around the castle hill there are numerous parking lots, but the signage to these is sometimes very bad, so one should first select one and navigate there with the GPS.
Carcassonne is a very well preserved castle that welcomes its visitors with open arms. There are many shops and also many restaurants provide something for your physical well-being.
In the Cité are also other museums, such as the Musée de l’Ecole or the Inquisition Museum. You can easily spend the whole day exploring the city to the last corner.
For EU citizens, entry into the castle is free for up to 26 years.
The atmosphere took us and we felt transported back to the Middle Ages. Unfortunately we were there in the off-season, but unlike in other touristy towns Carcassonne was still very busy and the shops and restaurants were open. The view from the surrounding walls is something to take in. So be sure to take your time during the walk around the fortifications.
We were here: 2019
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