Cite de Carcassonne: Fortified Medieval City in France

Located in the region of Occitania, Cite de Carcassonne is a fortified city in France dating back to medieval times. The city once served as one of the most important trade centers in Europe due to its location. It was a link in trade routes between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction aside from the 50,000 living inside. Since 1997, it has been one of the items on the UNESCO Heritage List because of its medieval identity that stayed intact.

cite de Carcassonne

However, the French were not the only ones who understood the strategic importance of Cite de Carcassonne.

cite de Carcassonne walls

Starting from as early as 3500 BCE, various groups of people settled in the region. Apparently, the Celts were one of the first of these groups who made the city their home. While they built the hill site, they also made the first fortifications for the city. After the Celts, the Romans took over and made adjustments of their own. Some of these adjustments are still visible like the lower parts of the northern city walls.

cite de Carcassonne walls close up

The fortifications of the city were not completed in one day or one year, or even one century. Starting with the Romans first, then the Visigoths, Saracens, Spaniards, and finally the French, the city walls developed and acquired their final form.

cite de Carcassonne interior grounds

Until the 17th century, Cite de Carcassonne was a military stronghold and thwarted many attacks. Especially, during the Hundred Years’ War, the walled city defended itself against hordes of English soldiers and sieges. The city also became the first fortified city to ever use hoardings on the upper walls. Hoardings would help the defenders have a better field of view without the risk of leaving themselves open. As Europe became somewhat more peaceful in the following centuries, the city turned into a trade center from a military base.

cite de Carcassonne entrance

The fortified city consists of two extensive outer walls with 53 towers and outposts. In order to have better access to the main keep, the city has its own drawbridge. As many nations contributed in making the fortifications, the difference between the Roman part and the French part of the wall is visible due to the Roman red bricks. Moreover, this section once housed the Catholic Inquisition, therefore, it is called the Inquisition Tower, even today.

fortified city towers

One of the most interesting facts about the city is that it owns its current form and popularity to the restorations in the mid-19th century. Due to Napoleon’s demilitarization orders, the city fell into despair. However, the French public of the time got agitated and wanted the officials to return the castle to its former self. After an extensive renovation effort that nearly took 50 years, Cite de Carcassonne became what it is today.

fortified city church
fortified city walls