About Cité de Carcassonne
Founded between the 1st to 5th century the Cité de Carcassonne is a spectacular medieval citadel located in the French city of Carcassonne. It is constructed from 3km-long double surrounding walls interspersed by 52 towers and has been occupied in different ages by Romans, Visigoths, Saracens, and Crusaders.
History of the Cité de Carcassonne
This once Gaulish settlement was transformed in the 3rd century by the Romans who turned the site into a fortified town, known as a ‘castellum’. The walls were rebuilt during the town’s occupation by the Visigoths in the 5th and 6th centuries and it has since undergone numerous construction projects.
In 1096, the vicomte of Trencavel authorised the construction of the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and towards the end of the 13th century the cathedral was reconstructed in the Gothic style. In 1247AD, with an additional line of fortifications added outside of the Roman walls, the town was annexed to the kingdom of France where it provided a frontier between France and the Crown of Aragon. Further construction to the site continued into the reign of King Philip IV in the early 14th century.
In 1659, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the town lost its military significance, the fortifications were abandoned and the town played a new key role in the French financial sector.
In 1849 the French government decided that the city fortifications should be demolished, although this decision was strongly opposed by the local people. Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille and Prosper Mérimée, an eminent archaeologist and historian, led a campaign to preserve the fortress as a historical monument. The government later reversed its decision and in 1853 restoration work began. The architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc directed the renovations although his work was criticised as inappropriate to the climate and traditions of the region.
Cité de Carcassonne today
The citadel was restored at the end of the 19th century and in 1997 it was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Getting to Cité de Carcassonne
Carcassonne can be accessed with direct TGV trains via Dijon, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, or Bordeaux. Carcassonne station is a 30 minute walk from the site. By car take the the A61 motorway, exit 24 (Carcassonne East, the nearest) or exit 23 (Carcassonne West). There are 3 car parks near the site which you must pay to use. Porte Narbonnaise parking is for those who have booked hotels in the site and must contact their accommodation for access.