Ar(t)chitecture: Carcassonne, the city with two UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Carcassonne, a french city imbued with the spirit of the past, boasts 2500 years of history and is privileged to have two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Canal du Midi, classified in 1996, and the Medieval City in 1997.

The Medieval City
Situated on the right bank of the Aude, the Medieval City is a fortified city unlike any other in Europe, on account of its size and its state of preservation. Its history is marked by 2000 years of conquest and by the imprint of Catharism and the Crusades. The Cité de Carcassonne, the medieval fortress, was restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853.

The Canal du Midi
The work of Pierre-Paul Riquet and excavated in the XVIIth century to link the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi, formerly used for transporting goods and people, is today frequented by numerous boaters and tourists.  It was considered at the time to be one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century.

Throughout the centuries the historic site of Carcassonne has played a decisive role in the history of Languedoc. An Iron Age Oppidum transformed into a Roman town in the Ist Century BC, the city-state became the possession of the powerful Viscount Trencavel who ruled over Bas-Languedoc. At the end of the crusade against the Albigensians the city, with its improved fortifications, became one of the strongholds symbolising royal power on the frontier between France and Aragon.

However, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees made the Roussillon a French possession, the city lost its strategic role and its defence works were neglected. In the XIXth Century, the residents of Carcassonne and the Historic Monuments Department (Service des Monuments historiques), commissioned Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to restore the ancient fortress to its original appearance.

Inside the inner walls, the stone streets and buildings are very Medieval, with narrow cobblestone street and ancient buildings. The interior “village” area inside the walls of La Cité is quite large, and you’ll need the whole day to explore all of it.

The little squares filled with souvenir shops and café-restaurants reminded us of, for example, villages like St Paul-de-Vence and Les Baux-de-Provence. The cafés and restaurants can be quite welcoming after some hours of exploring the cité.

The Canal du Midi

Websites (in english):
Office de tourisme de Carcassonne
La Cité de Carcassonne

Source: Ar-t-chitecture-Carcassonne-the-city

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