There exists a place that can take you through a portal to the past. A place where you can walk along medieval cobblestone streets inside giant fortified walls that once protected citizens from enemy attacks. In this place at the top of a hill, the towers are peaked with blue turrets and the walls zigzag with battlements, protecting the perimeter of the castle. In this new millennium of technology and advancements, there still exists a place of medieval times that looks like something out of a fairytale. Will I find a beautiful princess? Maybe a wrathful king? Maybe there will be knights lining the castle dressed in metal armour. There is no place that lets your mind imagine medieval enchantments more than the majestic Cité de Carcassonne.
The medieval citadel is located in the city of Carcassonne in the south of France about 150 kilometres from the Spanish border. The fortress has a three-kilometre long wall, 52 towers and about 2,500 years of history. It has been inhabited by Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and Crusaders. The site was first a Gaulish settlement, but in the third century A.D., the Romans transformed it into a fortified town thus beginning the construction of the Cité we see today.
In 1849, the French government wanted to demolish the fortified town, but the people fought against the decision and proposed to keep the Cité as a historic monument. Restoration work, started by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation, began in 1853 and continued until the end of the 19th century. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Cité de Carcassonne is a perfect example of a medieval town with its massive defences, Gothic cathedral and narrow winding streets; it is an important component to understanding our past. Inside the walls of the town, you can discover St. Nazaire Basilica, a Gothic cathedral; Château Comtal, a medieval castle; Porte Narbonnaise, the main gateway to the Cité; Porte d’Aude, an alternative entrance; Théâtre de la Cité, a theatre that still holds events today; the ramparts, the walkway on the defensive wall around the town; and the great well in the centre of the Cité. Cité de Carcassonne is like being in an alternate realm of the past; it is the perfect exercise for your imagination.