History of the Medieval Citadel and the Bastide
History of the Crusades
The history of medieval castles, fortresses and strongholds in the South of France is intimately tied to the events that shook the Languedoc region in the XIII century, when the crusade against the Cathars, followers of what was known as the Albigensian heresy, focused widespread attention on the area.
In 1209, Pope Innocent III demanded a crusade against the Cathars. Headed by Simon de Montfort, crusaders destroyed Béziers and Carcassonne. Amaury de Montfort, Simon's son, went into Marmande with his soldiers and massacred more than 5,000 men, women and children for the crime of heresy.
The crusade ended under the regency of Blanche de Castilles in 1229. The last resistance group was headed by Montségur and persisted until 1244. On March 16th of that year, more than 200 Cathars were burned alive for refusing to deny their faith. They were so convinced of their beliefs that they sang while agonising in the fire.
After the fall of the citadel of Montségur, it is believed that survivors hid the Cathars' treasure in the Caves of Lombrives to escape the Inquisition. To this day, the exact location and the contents of that treasure remain a mystery.
History of the fortress citadel
Inhabited since the 6th century BC, Carcassonne was once a Roman town, fortified in the 3rd century AD. It developed into a flourishing medieval town to which the Crown granted a second line of ramparts in the 13th century.
Restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, the citadel is a witness to a thousand years of military architecture and over 2500 years of history. The citadel is one of the best existing examples of a fortified medieval town with its towers and ramparts, its castle and its Basilica of St. Nazaire-and St. Celse.
History of the Old Bridge
The Old Bridge, a stone bridge of 12 arches, was cbuilt from 1315 to 1320, paid for by special taxes to cover its costs. It replaced an older bridge upriver, built on the site of a Roman bridge.
The chapel of Notre-Dame de la Santé (Our Lady of Health) standing just at the start of the bridge, is the only vestige left of the oldest hospital in Carcassonne. Even though its exterior has been restored and the interior has undergone many modifications, the chapel remains an excellent example of XV century architecture.
The Old Bridge today is meant for pedestrians only and allows you to cross the River Aude from the Citadel to the Bastide and enjoy the panoramic views of the fortress on its hilltop, of the river and its banks. Walking down from the hill, you will discover the network of little streets at the foot of the Citadel – the Rue Trivalle and the Rue de la Barbacane, with their little shops and their craftsmen.
History of the Bastide
On the other side of the River Aude lies “the other city” of Carcassonne, known as the Bastide of St. Louis, to differentiate it from the Citadel of Carcassonne.
The Bastide is built according to a grid pattern, around a central square, the Place Carnot with its Neptune Fountain dating from 1770. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the fresh fruit and vegetable market takes place on this square and around the fountain, while fresh meat, sausages, cheese and other produce are sold in stalls in the Corn Market (Halle aux Grains) with its attractive XVIII century framework