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Step six – Within the walls of Carcassonne

27 Aug

Above, a mold of La Citè and its walls as seen inside the castle. You can see in it a castle and a church…….

The castle of Carcassonne, known as the “Palatium” or Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a “Cathar Castle“. When the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209 they first attacked Raymond-Roger Trencavel castrum at Bèziers and then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne. The castle takes its shape and position from the need to be a safe place, fortified and capable of receiving attacks without succumbing to them. It is a fortress within a fortress that is the city itself, since both have their own walls and watchtowers and defense.

During the French royal domain, between 1228 and 1239, the castle was completely redesigned to become a fortress within the city. Several structures were built. A barbican with a walk and a parapet wall guarding the entrance to the castle, just before the moat surrounding the entire inner wall; the entrance to the castle, framed by two towers, with machicolation, accessible only by a fixed bridge with a stone, followed by a liftgate driven counterweights. The walls replaced the original fence completely surrounding buildings. At the end of the stone bridge, overlooking the pits, the door of the castle and single access point, is flanked by twin towers that defend the entrance to the main courtyard.

The castle consists of two bodies in a building forming a L. In the northern area is a chapel dedicated to St. Mary, notable the apse of the Romanesque period. Only a fence separates the castle from the rest of the walled city.

Galleries made with wood in order to launch missiles on several assailants. They are placed 40 meters in height above the courtyard and two are located also on the belt of the castle walls.

On the walls of the castle there are nine towers, two of them being the highest in the city, the tower of the Chapel and tower Pinte, from the Visigoth period. The rest of the towers were built over the XII century, and are identical both inside and outside: consisting of four plants, including the ground floor. On the ground floor and first floor the ceilings are vaulted, while the upper floors are flat. Communication between plants is done through holes in ceilings. The Tower of Justice, built on the site of another tower (a Gallo-Roman prison) was used by the Inquisition.

 

The Lapidary Museum is located inside of the castle. Since 1927 are on display local archaeological findings in the department of Aude, ranging from the Roman to the Gothic, through the Romanesque, as well as some findings from the castle restoration. Present also some documents on the history of the city and the restoration carried out by Viollet-le-Duc. It is an ideal complement to finish the visit to the Castle and the Cité de Carcassonne. It’s worth stopping to admire its statues, alabaster, frescoes … not to mention the view of the city, which can be admired from its large windows……

A very short walk separates the castle from the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus ………The original church is thought to have been constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Theodoric the Great, ruler of the Visigoths.

On 12 June 1096, Pope Urban II visited the town and blessed the building materials for the construction of the cathedral. Construction was completed in the first half of the twelfth century. It was built on the site of a Carolingian cathedral, of which no traces remain. The crypt too, despite its ancient appearance, dates from the new construction. Around the end of the 13th century, during the rule of kings Philip III, Philip IV, and the episcopates of Pierre de Rochefort and Pierre Rodier, the cathedral was reconstructed in the Gothic style. It remained the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1803, when it lost the title to the present Carcassonne Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne).

The Church of Saints Nazarius and Celsus obtained the status of historical monument in 1840. Around this time, the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc renovated the church along with the rest of the citadel. In 1898, the church was elevated to a minor basilica.

The sandstone basilica’s floor plan is based on a Latin cross, internally measuring 59 m in total length, 16 m in nave width, and 36 m along the transept. The oldest part of the church is the Romanesque tripartite nave. The main entrance in its north wall is formed by a Romanesque portal of five receding arches over two doors. A fortress façade forms the west wall, as is common for medieval Languedocian church buildings. The transept and choir were rebuilt in the Gothic style. The larger windows in this part of the church permit a better illumination compared to the darker romansque nave. The central stained glass window of the choir from 1280 is one of the oldest ones in the south of France. Together with the upper trefoils (the Resurrection of Jesus and the Resurrection of the dead), it depicts the life of Jesus in 16 medallions.

If you’re willing to know more about it, here’s a link to a very exhaustive brochure….

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1 Comment

Posted by on August 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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One response to “Step six – Within the walls of Carcassonne

  1. Gattina

    August 29, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Never been there ! Looks really beautiful ! Your pictures are very good !

     

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