Carcassonne is a very special medieval town up on a hill in southwest France with a castle, and a fortified double wall going all the way around it. We are going to take you on a walk along the entire length of those walls in the old fortified town of Carcassonne.
There cannot be very many places in the world that produce so profound an effect upon the imagination and the sense of beauty and history as the old walled town of Carcassonne, especially when you are walking along its wall stepping back into the 13th century.
Here’s a rapid-fire history of Carcassonne:
People have lived in this area for thousands of years. The Romans arrived in the first century BC and establish the city, they built a wall around it, and fortifications and palaces; the Roman Empire fell; the Visigoths took over; the French came in, the Muslims invaded, but stayed just for a few decades. A thousand years ago the Trencavel Viscount dynasty gained control and stayed for two centuries. They were displaced by the French under King Louis IX around the year 1200 and from that point on it was all France all the time.
By 1700, Carcassonne lost its strategic position guarding the border with Spain, which was moved further south. Their main industry became the manufacture of textiles, which later failed after competition from abroad and the place began to decline. People moved out. The buildings began to fall down and the French government decided to demolish the whole thing in the mid-19th century, but the people reacted and a conservation movement grew. It was rescued, renovated and rebuilt. Tourists began to arrive and enjoy it early in the 20th century and since then its popularity has constantly grown, with currently over 2 million visitors in the average year, becoming one of the world’s great historic sites.
There’s a tall inner wall, and a lower outer wall providing two layers of protection for the old medieval city.
As you walk along on top of the wall you also get nice views looking out at the city beyond and some beautiful landscapes of vineyards, olive groves and green rolling hills.
We’re going to start our walk around the walls at one of the few openings in the massive defensive wall. You’ll see this complicated entrance solve the problem of how do you get through a wall while keeping the attackers out.
Within the walls we have an actual functioning town with shops, there are several small hotels. and 50 homes for the local residents as well, with a small plaza in the center hosting some outdoor terrace restaurants and a vast pedestrian zone that you want to explore, which we’ve shown you and other movies about Carcassonne but in this program we are focusing on the castle and the wall.