Europe

Cathar country: castles, landscapes and the Middle Ages

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When exploring the Languedoc-Roussillon region, in the south of France, the first thing you think about is in the beautiful medieval town of Carcassonne. The medieval walled city is a lovely place and it receives many visitors a year. Who knows Languedoc-Roussillon well knows that there are incredible places that deserve as much or more attention than the jolie ville du Carcassonne. So, in this post I will talk about Carcassonne, but then I will highlight other places in the region that everyone should look at explore southern france.

The walls of Carcassonne are cut on top of a hill as exits from a tale of knights, dragons and princesses. Especially for the towers covered with pointed roofs so characteristic, reminiscent of the Neuschwanstein Castle or at disney castle. The double walls are also impressive, as is the entrance gate, designed to intimidate the invaders, as well as the fortifications of the castle.

Although in summer the narrow streets of the citadel are usually full of tourists buying ice cream and it is difficult to find a hole in a bar or restaurant, it is still worth it. On the negative side, the entrance to the castle is not cheap, nothing less than 9 euros, which the tourist usually reluctantly pays for that of "since we are here ...". Once in the castle, you can walk through the battlements, cross the north wall of the town, the tower, the watchtower, see the rooms and browse the defensive constructions, such as the scaffolds that were used to defend the base of the walls. In addition, in a very spacious room you can see a video subtitled in Spanish and other languages ​​that explains in an entertaining way the main historical facts of the citadel and the reconstruction process.

The strong point in the history of the medieval city is the crusade that Simon de Montfort directed against the heretic Cathars protected by Raymond Trencavel, Viscount of Carcassonne. Pope Innocent III decreed the crusade in 1208 to erase the Albigenses from the map, who did not follow orthodox dogma and preferred a more ascetic Christianity and who repudiated the entire material world. The city finally surrendered in 1209 and the area was thus annexed to the kingdom of France.

Regarding the reconstruction of historical places like this, it is something that causes me contradictory feelings. On the one hand, I am disappointed when I find out that a place is rebuilt. I think then that the place loses value because it is not original, but an imagined version with more or less archaeological rigor. On the other hand, I love ruins and castles, and I like to imagine what life in these places should be like in its times of splendor. And those who were responsible for the restoration of the walls of Carcassonne should have felt the same. Without a doubt, without the passion for the Middle Ages that the architect Viollet-le-Duc felt, the person in charge of the restoration in the s. XIX, now this city would not be a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

From Monday to Saturday there are guided visits to the citadel and the new city, in Spanish, for 9 euros, at 15.00, which start at Carcassonne tourist office next to the main gate of the city. The visit ends in front of the pier of the Canal du Midi. This canal was built in the nineteenth century to link the Atlantic with the Mediterranean Sea and now it is a good place to travel by bike along its banks or by barge quietly.

A good day to go to Carcassonne is July 14. Besides that in July it is the month that it rains less, that day the historic fire of the citadel is commemorated with a great nightly flare show at 22.30.

Another good day is September 14 and 15. When coinciding with the French heritage day, admission is free to all the castles in the area, which is a considerable saving. The only downside is that in those days, guided tours of the Carcassonne tourist office are only made in French.

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