Carcassone classic fortified town
Carcassone, a large, fortified town in the Languedoc region, is a sight well worth seeing. The fortifications are impressive, consisting of two lines of walls and a castle, which is itself surrounded by fortifications. The walls extend over a total length of 3 km, and feature 56 watchtowers. It is at the other end of the scale from the petit fortified village of Larrassingle.
The site has been occupied for over 2000 years, and a fortified settlement has existed here since pre-Roman days. The earliest known occupation of the site dates from the 6th century BC.
In the 1st century BC, this settlement came under Roman rule and became known as Colonia Iulia Carcaso in 27 BC. During the turbulent years of the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, when there were repeated Barabrian invasions, defensive walls some 1,200 m long were contsructed. Much of these walls can still be seen and form part of later fortifications which were extended in 1230, when a second exterior wall was built. Very little has changed in the basic structure since the 13th century.
Carcassone came under Visigothic rule in the 5th century and resisted repeated attempts by the Franks to capture it. The Arabs briefly took over its rule between 724 and 759, when they were driven out after a siege.
The city suffered two unsuccessful attacks by the Hueguenots in 1575 and 1585 and was part of military action in later years but was never taken. In the 1820s it was declared a second grade fortress and was used as a stone ‘quarry’ until its historic importance was recognised in the 1850s and demolition was halted. Resoration work was begun by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-Ie-Duc in the early 1950s, and continued until completion in 1910.
(Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/345). (Further information: http://mescladis.free.fr/ANGLAIS/pages%20html/history.htm).
The city and the fortifications were indeed impressive, and on the day we visited it was relatively uncrowded, although somewhat chilly. We looked around inside the town and then walked around the walls outside the fortifications, which really gave a feel for how impregnable the defences would have been. Carcassone is one of the historical sites it is worthwhile making a diversion to see.