Carcassonne beats the Disney castle for 'Most Medieval'
August 16-18, 1999:
"Wow!" was all we could say for a few minutes after seeing the Carcassonne skyline.
Stone walls and pointy towers stab to the heart of our archetypes.
Every night we were there we wandered the walls under their spell.
They're careful to maintain the effect, even choosing nighttime spots that make it seem like firelight is lighting the walls.
Carcassonne was founded by the Romans and spent most of its life as a trading town, being on the ancient border between France and Spain.
In the middle ages, it was fortified by the Cathars, a religious sect which was stamped out by Catholicism for the sin of eschewing wealth and adhering to the sermon on the mount.
This area of France is covered with other Cathar castles, like the one to the right which we saw in a photo show.
Of course, it's too good to be true.
Back in 1844 a famous French architect named Viollet-le-Duc rescued the city from decreed destruction and 'restored' it.
Well le-Duc was from the north of France, not the south where Carcassonne is. So how'd he make the tower tops look?
To the left you can see the pointy, slate roofed tower tops. Those are all from 1844. Back before the border was moved and the nobles let the townsfolk take the tower stones for their homes, any roofs on the towers would have been pink tiles like you see in the town below. (Most towers didn't have roofs.)
The one tall, square tower was too tall for people to reach, so they never took any stones, so le-Duc didn't need to restore it.
The original builders had defense on their minds.
Here you see a 'false door.' It's inside the first round of walls. Attackers would have found a convincing looking wooden door in this space and spend the time battering it down, only to find this wall.
Then the real fun started. Once the attackers had bared the wall, the defenders would drop these these 200lb stones which would then roll down the sloped wall and demolish the attackers.
Just like Indiana Jones.
Of course it's a law of nature that sights like these will draw a crowd.
But it was interesting that though we were all clad in modern dress, buying with credit cards, it still lent to that authentic feel. We were crowded in noisy, narrow streets engaged in trade just like the people of medieval times.
We were even buying authentic medieval stuff...
The crowds made it difficult to be alone with out photographic subject.
There was a theatre that broadcast the most evocative music over the city at night.
Just like in the middle ages, most people ignore the beggars.
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