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France The Globe Travel Guide
© David Williams


22 October 2004

Page 2
This little square has a monument to Jean Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille.
This is Château Comtal and its main entrance is the small opening between the two towers on the left.
Back outside, I joined the ambling throng wandering aimlessly up the street. Among the shops was the small Musée de l`Inquisition which houses instruments of torture once used by the Catholic church against heretics. The street got even narrower, curved to the right (another defensive feature) and arrived at a little square at whose centre was a monument to Jean Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille (1810-76). He was an inspector of historic monuments and through his campaigning was instrumental in getting the citadel restored. This sheltered spot is home to numerous little restaurants which were now starting to serve lunches to hungry visitors.

Beyond the square stood the entrance to the Château Comtal, originally the Trencavels` palace. Louis IX made various modifications to it and added a large semi-circular barbican and the wide moat. The château now houses an archaeological museum with exhibits from the Cité and the local region.

A broad road ran downhill to the left, past a little park which gave excellent views of the château. Then more souvenir shops, less tackier than those seen earlier. Rue St Louis wound its way to a handsome square, at whose far end was the Basilique Saint-Nazaire et Saint-Celse (the former cathedral), which dates back to around the tenth century. This is an austere structure with two tall rectangular towers; the church`s most intriguing features were the large and hideous gargoyles which gave an air of levity to this serious bit of ecclesiastical architecture. A young rucksack-carrying priest and a group of tourists waited patiently in the shade of the walls for the church`s side door to open.
To the right of the church stood the Hôtel de la Cité, its ivy-covered walls making it look more "pretty" than "grand". It was built in 1909 and is on the site of the former Bishop`s Palace.

A souvenir shop stood opposite the hotel and its main attempt to offer something new to tourists was a machine which encouraged the visitor (in English) to "Press your own penny into a souvenir design". One young boy decided to try his hand at this metalworking machine by putting in a 1 euro coin and a 5 cent coin. He then slowly and determinedly turned a large handle; this operated the die which squashed and stretched his 5 cent coin into an oval medallion which now bore a relief picture depicting the outline of the citadel. The lad seemed contented with his handiwork but I was sure that the European bankers would take a dim view of this desecration of their currency.

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