The 2nd most visited destination in France, Carcassonne is a cornucopia of incredible history, and the largest medieval fortress on the planet.
Carcassonne - A Bloody History
Located on the Canal du Midi, roughly 50 miles east of Toulouse, it has been a fortified hilltop for over 2000 years and in 1997 was named as a UNESCO heritage site. In 462, Septimania (a small area of Southern France covering Carcassonne, Beziers and Narbonne) was officially given to Theodoric II, the Visigothic king, and in 508 they were successful in defending the city against an onslaught from the Frankish king Clovis. But the bloodshed did not stop there, in 725, Saracens hailing from Barcelona, managed to overrun the city and reigned for 35 years until King Pepin le Bref drove them away.
Catholics & Cathars
In the early 13th century a widespread rise in Catharism was becoming a problem for Pope Innocent III who began the Albigensian Crusades, Carcassonne was renowned as a stronghold for the Occitan Cathars and in 1209 Abbot Arnaud Amalric forced the citizens to surrender, and expelled them from the city. The Viscount negotiating the surrender however, was not so lucky, and was starved to death in his own dungeon. In 1247 Carcassonne yielded to the rule of France and under the treaty of Corbell became a border fortress between France and the Crown of Aragon. In 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed which gave the province of Roussillon back to the French crown and as such the walled city’s military significance was diminished and it became the manufacturing centre for the textiles industry in Languedoc.
Present day Carcassonne is a must see destination, it is a wonderful blend of unique architecture, fascinating museums and Mediterranean culture, if you brave the uphill struggle to the parapet though, then the panoramic views will live long in the memory.
If Carcassonne is somewhere you’d love to visit, then what better way than aboard a luxury hotel barge from the unique viewpoint of the Canal du Midi !