Castle of the Week 73 – Carcassonne part 2

Welcome back to Carcassonne, the only fortified town in Europe which is still inhabited.

Let’s enter the Cité by the Pont Vieux (which means old bridge).

The bridge has been around since the Middle Ages and dates to the year 1359. It is 210 metres long and gives one of the best views of the Cité. It has been designated as a pedestrian zone. From the bridge you will enjoy a view of the Cité which spreads out 1km before you.

Carcassonne is encircled by not one, but two fortified walls. Here is a good example:

The outer wall built after 1230, is 1.5k long and not as high as the inner wall so that the line of defense would not be hindered as weapons were fired from the inner wall.

The map will give you an idea of when areas were constructed:

Looking north to south you will find the Gallo-Roman ramparts whose construction dates back to the third century A.D. They are approximately 3m thick and range in height from 6 to 8 m. The towers are about13m high. They were the first walls to offer defense to the Cité. There are areas in the current wall where the foundations are newer than the older Gallo-Roman wall. This is due to areas where the walls’ foundations crumbled and needed repair.

Next your gaze will take you to the outline of the Château Comtal (Counts’ Castle), where the distinctive roof tops and towers stand out.

The castle was built by Bernard Aton Trencavel in 1120 after deciding a new residence would be better on the highest elevation of the Cité. The Pinte tower was also built at that time, and is the highest tower in Carcassonne at 30m high; you can see it in the photo at the corner of the keep. As we get into the inner part of the Cité, one of the areas of interest is the entrance to the Counts’ castle. To get to this, you have to cross the barbican that protects it. It is the circular area in the photo at the front of the castle fortifications.

The rulers that followed kept control of the castle which they considerably strengthened. They surrounded it with a fortified curtain. The entry was placed between twin towers containing two floors, each containing a portcullis and machicolations. The castle became a Fortress inside the Cité whose own walls already made it a fortress.

The castle is now a museum which has a good collection of items from its history:

A 13th century Knight

Stone ball weaponry

14th century architecture in the castle

Next time we’ll take you round the rest of the castle.

To be continued….

Write-up provided by Lady Arcola. With special thanks to City of Carcassonne for the majority of the pictures in this article. Other pictures courtesy of Burgenwelt