Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

It’s time to take a look at another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Last week we were in France to uncover the Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments.

Today we’re headed back to France as we check out the Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne!

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defenses encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral.

Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation. The Committee decided to inscribe this property on the basis that the historic town of Carcassonne is an excellent example of a medieval fortified town whose massive defenses were constructed on walls dating from Late Antiquity.

It is of exceptional importance by virtue of the restoration work carried out in the second half of the 19th  Century by Viollet-le-Duc, which had a profound influence on subsequent developments in conservation principles and practice.

How This Relates to Rome:

Carcassonne became strategically identified when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC and eventually made the colonia of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum (by the process of swapping consonants known as metathesis). The main part of the lower courses of the northern ramparts dates from Gallo-Roman times.

In 462 the Romans officially ceded Septimania to the Visigothic king Theodoric II who had held Carcassonne since AD 453. He built more fortifications at Carcassonne, which was a frontier post on the northern marches; traces of them still stand.

Theodoric is thought to have begun the predecessor of the basilica that is now dedicated to Saint Nazaire. In AD 508, the Visigoths successfully foiled attacks by the Frankish king Clovis.

Saracens from Barcelona took Carcassonne in 725, but King Pepin the Short (Pépin le Bref) drove them away in 759-60. Though he took most of the south of France, he was unable to penetrate the impregnable fortress of Carcassonne.

Thanks for taking the tour with us today. We hope you’re inspired to take further adventures to discover more Roman antiquities.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!

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