Globe Travel Guide
Globe Travel Guide
© David Williams
22 October 2004
city of Carcassonne lies in Roussillon in south-west France at a bend in
the River Aude and this strategic position was very important for many centuries.
The site was occupied by the Tectosage Gauls in the third century BC and
there has been a fort here since around the eighth century. From the tenth
to thirteenth centuries power was in the hands of the Trencavel family and
they constructed the cathedral and the Château Comtal, both of which
are described in this article.
Simon de Montfort took the castle in 1209 and used it as his headquarters until his death in 1218; after that, his son gave the city to King Louis IX. Louis and his son Philip III added the outer walls, making the fortification virtually impregnable. As the French state expanded and took Roussillon, the castle lost its importance as a frontier fortification and the buildings fell into disrepair. In the 1830s attention was turned to restoring the decaying Cité and in1844 the architect Viollet-le-Duc was charged with this mammoth task.
The tall outer wall is 3km long and punctuated by fourteen massive round "pepperpot" towers. These have narrow arrow slits as well as windows from which hot oil could be poured on enemies foolish enough to launch an assault.
I gave way to a group of nine horseriders leaving the citadel, one of them busily taking pictures as he crossed the drawbridge. Once through the outer wall I was now in the lices (the lists), the broad open area between the two walls which was used for jousting. Today it was a picturesque picnic site for a large group of well-behaved primary school pupils. The inner wall towered some 15m above the children; its twenty-four towers have arrow slits and battlements to guard the lices.
roadway led across the lices and through the inner gate, this dark and
foreboding entrance having a large opening above it for pouring more oil
on attackers able to penetrate this far.