5. Carcassonne: Medieval Walls Self-Guided Smartphone App Tour
Carcassonne is the largest medieval city in Europe with its walls still intact. It’s also one of the most recognisable and most visited tourist destinations in France, having been featured in many well-known movies. Despite all this, most tourists barely scratch the surface when they visit Cité de Carcassonne. On this walking tour around the UNESCO World Heritage site, I’ll point out some of its most interesting architectural features, and bring its history to life.
Starting outside the medieval city walls, I’ll show you the Buste de Dame Carcas (a sculpture of Lady Carcas) and tell you the story of how she saved the city from Charlemagne. As you enter the city through Porte Narbonnaise (Narbonne Gate, you’ll begin following the wall, which encircles the old city. Along the way, you’ll also learn about the Cathars who flourished here in the twelfth century, the crusade launched against them, and some of the sieges that took place here. You’ll hear about the many different peoples who have occupied this place, and its military role over more than a millennium.
• Find out about the brief Muslim period, in between the Visigoths and the Franks
• Hear the tragic story of the Cathars that culminated here
• Spot the flying pig in a stone sculpture
• Learn why the Papal Inquisition was implemented here long before the Spanish Inquisition existed
• Discover the role played by Saint Dominic and his Dominican friars in establishing Inquisition practices to eliminate what they regarded as “heresy”
• Take in the impressive and almost century-old Château et Remparts de la Cité de Carcassonne, also known as the Château Comtal, where the castle meets the wall and its surrounding defenses
• See the Church of Saints Nazaire and Celse, the city’s two patron saints
• Gaze upon the monument de la Jean Pierre Cros Mayrevieille, a doctor of law, a historian and an Inspector of Historic Monuments who saved the city from ruin
• Locate the various “kill zones” that enemies risked finding themselves trapped in when attempting to siege the city
On this two-hour tour, you won’t just trace the walls of Carcassonne, you’ll also venture into its centre through various gates including the Aude, Nazaire, and Toulouse Gates. Join me, James McDonald, an English historian of the medieval period specialising in the Languedoc, as I bring these old stones to life.