The Fortified City of Carcassonne: A UNESCO World Heritage Site In France

A view of Carcassonne.
A view of Carcassonne.

6. Location

The Cité de Carcassonne is a historic fortified city that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, in the city of Carcassonne. This citadel sits upon a hill in the southeastern area of Carcassonne and overlooks the Aude river.

5. History

The Cité de Carcassonne first began to take shape in 333 AD when Roman forces built walls around the pre-existing settlement. These walls were held in place by between 34 and 40 towers that stood at approximately 46 feet in height. Sections of the wall extended between these towers for anywhere from 60 to 98 feet in length. At this time, the city had four principal entrances.

During the 5th and 6th centuries, the town was occupied by the Visigoths, who rebuilt the walls but maintained the basic structure of the citadel. The next major change did not occur until after 1226, when additional walls were constructed around the outside of the original walls. Carcassonne became part of the French kingdom in 1247. Under this new government, the original Roman walls were torn down and new walls were built in a larger radius, extending southward. The fortress walls were modified through the 14th century, under the rule of King Philip IV.

4. Architecture

The Cité de Carcassonne provides the world with the opportunity to witness Medieval-era military-style architecture. In the mid-1800s, this architecture was threatened by plans within the French government to destroy the fortifications. The plan was met with resistance throughout the town and a preservation campaign was begun by an architect and a historian, Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille and Prosper Merimee. These two individuals worked to educate the public and fight against the government, claiming the historical and architectural importance of the site. Their preservation campaign was finally successful when in 1853, the government of France hired the two to restore and renovate the fortress walls.

3. Uniqueness

The cathedral of Carcassonne.

This European site is particularly unique both for its excellent state of preservation and for its immense size. It offers locals and visitors a chance to walk back in time, imagining an era of swords and knights on horseback. The town within has maintained its original layout and is home to a large Gothic-style cathedral as well. Another factor that makes this site unique is that the restoration work completed here during the 19th century has become the foundation for the architectural conservation and preservation framework used around the world today.

2. Things To See And Do

Visitors to this site are able to walk through the town, taking note of the original stone roads and building walls. Within the city walls are French cafes, restaurants, gift shops, a castle, and hotels. A favorite activity with tourists is to walk along the fortress walls and look out over the city below.

1. Important Tourist Information

To reach the Cité de Carcassonne, visitors can arrive by train. This trip takes around one hour from Toulouse and around three hours from Barcelona. A 20-minute walk through Carcassonne brings visitors to the bridge that crosses the river and leads to the citadel. Tourists may choose to walk up the steep hill or to take a local shuttle service.


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