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Chateau Comtaltourist information guide
Address: Cite of Carcassonne, Carcassonne, 11000
Tel: +33 (0)4 68 25 01 66
Opening Times: Daily | Admission Charge
A visit to Carcassonne is a step back in time to the Middle Ages. Its history is rich and varied and very few walled towns possess such beauty and enchantment as Carcassonne.
Carcassonne was originally established in 636 by the Romans who wanted to watch over one of the main routes through to Spain. In the year 350, the Franks took the city but soon lost out to the Romans again. Theodoric, King of the Visigoths, made Carcassonne his in 439 building an impressive fortress here. Then came the Moors who built a magnificent square tower which added to Carcassonne's impressive defences. The Moors were followed by Louis IX, Philip the Bold, Pope Urban II and many others. Perhaps one of its more prominent events is the siege and capture of Carcassonne by Simon de Montfort, who led the fight against the Cathars.
The Cite of Carcassonne is the largest fortress in Europe. It consists of the Chateau Comtal, an outer wall with 14 towers, an inner wall with 24 towers, a basilica, church and outer bailey. Chateau Comtal itself was built in the 12th-century by Bernard Aton Trencavel. Chateau Comtal was originally the palace of the viscounts but was later converted to a citadel after Carcassonne became part of the royal estate in 1226. Since the reign of St Louis IX, it has been protected by a large barbican and moat which make it an impenetrable fortress.
You can book a guided tour of Chateau Comtal which includes an archaeological museum, the Musee Lapidaire. Remains come from Carcassonne itself and include Roman inscriptions, country crosses believed to be tombstones of the Cathars and old sketches of the Cite before Viollet-le-Duc restored it. There are also beautiful Gothic windows from a Franciscan convent and finely carved figures.
The Cour d'honneur or main courtyard is large and reflects the three different architectural styles of Chateau Comtal, namely Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. This can be seen in the three window levels in the south of the courtyard. The Cour du Midi in the south-west corner is the tallest of the fortress towers. You can climb to the top for stunning and far-reaching views.
A trip to the Cite of Carcassonne should also include a visit to the Basilique St-Nazaire with its impressive stained glass windows, the Musee des Beaux-Arts with its 17th and 18th-century paintings and the Maison des Memoires Joe-Bousquet. All in all, well worth a visit. Click here for more ideas of what to see and do in and around Carcassonne.