May 26 - Carcassonne
was the day for our trip to Carcassone, a side trip to Languedoc
and not really considered part of southwest France. We started at
10 and had a lecture on the Crusade against the Cathars from Emeline
while on the bus. As we approached I was able to get a good picture
of the Cite de Carccassonne (as opposed to the modern lower town)
from the moving bus. We were there by 11:30. There are two miles
of double walls and 52 towers.
First signs of settlement in this region have been dated to
about 3500 BC, but the hill site became an important trading place
in the 6th century BC. Carcassonne became strategically identified
when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC and eventually made
it the colonia of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum. The main part of
the lower courses of the northern ramparts dates from Gallo-Roman
times. In 462 the Romans officially ceded the region to the Visigothic
king Theodoric II who had held Carcassonne since 453; he built more
fortifications at Carcassonne, which was a frontier post on the
northern marches: traces of them still stand. Theodoric is thought
to have begun the predecessor of the basilica that is now dedicated
to Saint Nazaire. In 508 the Visigoths successfully foiled attacks
by the Frankish king Clovis. Saracens from Barcelona took Carcassonne
in 725, but King Pippin the Younger drove them away in 759-60; though
he took most of the south of France, he was unable to penetrate
the impregnable fortress of Carcassonne.
In 1067 Carcassonne became the property of Raimond Bernard Trencavel,
viscount of Albi and Nîmes, through his marriage with Ermengard,
sister of the last count of Carcassonne. In the following centuries
the Trencavel family allied in succession either with the counts
of Barcelona or of Toulouse. They built the Château Comtal
and the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. In 1096 Pope Urban II blessed
the foundation stones of the new cathedral, a Catholic bastion against
the Cathars. Carcassonne became famous in its role in the Albigensian
Crusades, when the city was a stronghold of occitan cathars. In
August 1209 the crusading army of Simon de Montfort forced its citizens
to surrender. After capturing Raymond-Roger de Trencavel and imprisoning
and allowing him to die, Montfort made himself the new viscount.
He added to the fortifications. Carcassonne became a border citadel
between France and the kingdom of Aragon (Spain).
In 1240 Trencavel's son tried to reconquer his old domain but
in vain. The city submitted to the rule of kingdom of France in
1247, and King Louis IX founded the new part of the town across
the river. He and his successor Philip III built the outer ramparts.
Contemporary opinion still considered the fortress impregnable.
During the Hundred Years' War, Edward the Black Prince failed to
take the city in 1355, although his troops destroyed the Lower Town.
In 1659, the Treaty of Pyrenees transferred the border province
of Roussillon to France, and Carcassonne's military significance
was reduced. It was nearly demolished in the mid
19th C, but protests prevented it and it was heavily restored by
Viollet-le-Duc, sometimes without regard to authenticity (e.g. the
pointed roofs of the towers.)
assembled at the gate and entered the city, snapping pictures furiously
along the way. We stopped to look at the chart of the city on a
sign in front of the Chateau, then went off to the right for a view
of the walls near the entrance and for lunch at a restaurant, Le
St. Jean. We had a little free time after lunch for some shopping,
and then walked back through the dity to the Basilica of St. Nazaire.
It had been the cathedral until 1801, but that was now in the lower
city. Although built as Romanesque in the 11th C it was heavily
renovated over the years with most of the now gothic interior dating
to the 13th and 14th C.
visiting the church we started a walk on the ramparts, entering
from the Chateau. We walked about a quarter of the way around, down
to the area near the basilica where there is an outdooor amphitheater
used for concerts and such. It was a vigorous walk for arthritic
knees, with frequent steps up and down at the towers. The weather
was great, although a lilttle chilly and with a strong breeze. The
sights were spectacular. After the walk we had a little more free
time, spent resisting the impulse to buy a crepe from one of the
stands. Carcassonne is the essense of tourism, second only to Mont
St. Michel in popularity in France, but we were all tourists too.
As we drove away about 5 pm the bus stopped for a final picture.
A much edited version is not much better than the one from the moving
bus in the morning.
got back to the hotel in Toulouse fairly late and had dinner at
a restaurant called Rest'O Jazz. The food was fine and the "jazz"
that we were treated to by the Orchestre Ducoin was best described
as wierd, but fun anyway. I had already noticed some similarity
to Spike Jones when they broke out into one of his standard numbers.
In addition to the band we had two girls singing to the accompaniment
of a bass saxophone. All very strange. We all stayed for one set
and then left.
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