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  • The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The fortified city of Carcassonne

    People still live in the historic fortified city. © Only France

  • The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The fortified city of Carcassonne

    Vineyard in autumn at the foot of the Fortified City of Carcassonne. © Only France

  • The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The Fortified City of Carcassonne was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. © Hemis.fr

  • The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The double walls and 52 towers of the fortified city tower above the Aude Valley. © Hemis.fr

  • The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The fortified city of Carcassonne

    The fortifications cover 3km in all. © Only France

The City of Carcassonne, an exceptional example of a fortified medieval city, played a role of primary importance in the history of the Languedoc region and the south of France. In the 19th century, the restoration work on the city, directed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, restored it to its unique appearance. It was listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1997.

The Medieval city of Carcassonne has an extraordinary system of ramparts surrounding the castle and the buildings associated with it, its streets and its superb Gothic cathedral. “Carcassonne also owes its exceptional importance to the long restoration campaign carried out by Viollet-le-Duc,” according to the Unesco web site.

Unique restoration work carried out in the 19th century

At the end of the Crusade against the Albigensians, the historical fortified city of Carcassonne became an emblematic centre of the power of the King of France, at the border with Aragon. Under the successive reigns of Louis IX, Philip the Bold and Philip the Fair, it took on its final shape.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the city was a fortress with half-ruined walls, perched on a butte which is difficult to reach. It was only in the second half of the 19th century that it benefited, under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, from one of the most extensive restoration projects ever carried out up until that time.

From 1846 to 1852, the architect carried out exceptional work, which involved taking advantage of all of the material traces visible in the masonry, and which could shed light on the structure. Based on these indications, sometimes tenuous, he restored the fortress, referring to the form it had been given by the royal engineers of the 13th century. The work he started continued even after his death in 1879.

Impressive fortifications

The impressive fortifications, visible from far off in the Aude countryside, are composed of two enclosures and a 12th century count's castle, itself surrounded by fortifications. They extend over a total length of 3 kilometres.

The historical city, protected by these walls and their 52 towers, which are still inhabited, houses in particular the remarkable Gothic basilica of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Celse. The two main entrances to the fortified city, the Narbonne Gate on the east façade and the Aude Gate on the west façade, represent particularly elaborate defence systems.

The dreamlike atmosphere of this “décor city”, an ideal setting for passionate medieval tales, has attracted many film makers since the beginning of the 20th century.

Not to be missed

  • The count's castle stands against the old enclosure. Its curtain, its round towers, its small entry castle, its barbican and its pit make it an excellent introduction to medieval military architecture.
  • The Saint-Nazaire Basilica. All that remains of the Romanesque cathedral are the nave and its side aisles; the Romanesque choir was replaced by a Gothic transept in 1270. Five stained glass windows light the choir, with The Life of Christ at the centre. Its chapels have famous stained glass windows, The Tree of Jesse and The Tree of Life.
  • The Narbonne Gate with its two enormous towers is a remarkable construction designed for the art of war; the halls which are superposed on the various levels express the refinements of Gothic architecture.