The Aude


By Paula Smith

Aude is one of the most popular departments in Languedoc

Named after the Aude River, Aude is one of the most popular departments in Languedoc. Carcassonne, sa main ville, is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. Aude has a very interesting history. Giant Dinosaurs Walked This Territory Millions Of Years Ago. But the most famous story is that of the Cathars, who were brutally murdered in the 13th and 14th centuries. The area is littered with so-called Cathar castles and is nicknamed Cathar Country, Land of the Cathars. For a description of the most important of these castles, visit our page: “The Cathars”.


This city, which has two distinct parts, is a “must” absolute when you visit Languedoc.

The story

Before the arrival of the Romans, this site was already inhabited for a long time. The Romans built their castellum in the 2nd century BC. AD. after which the first wall was erected around the fort. After the Romans, the City was a Visigoth stronghold. For a very short time, it was even taken by the Moors. It was at this time that the most famous legend of Carcassonne was born. The story of Madame Carcas, the wife of Saraceen Balaak.

“When Charlemagne stood outside the gates of Carcassonne with his troops, the army of the castle only existed of one person, Mme Carcas. She gave the illusion that there were still many men on the walls. When Charlemagne wanted to starve the castle, Dame Carcas heard On her plan, she threw a pig filled with sweet corn over the wall, tricking Charlemagne into thinking there was enough food left, and he left instead. At the place of his recovery, she blew her horn triumphantly (Carcassonne ). ”

Another story tells of the presence of solar temples or solar churches, which would have been at the origin of the name of Carcassonne (Karke Sonne). However, it is more likely that its name is based on the name of the Roman fortress, Carcasso. The connection with the temples of the sun and a possible Egyptian influence in its Celtic history is now a matter of discussion among scholars.

The Crusade against the Cathars

When Carcassonne was reconquered by the Moors, it became the possession of several noble families, whose Trencavel family was the last. In 1074, Lord Bernard Aton Trencavel was the lord of Carcassonne and the Razés, Agde, Beziers, Albi and Nimes. In the 13th century, the city of Carcassonne must surrender to the Catholic army during the crusade against the Cathars. Count Raymond-Roger de Trencavel, old 24 ans, was taken prisoner and very badly treated, so that he died shortly after. This news shocked Languedoc. Trencavel offered a sanctuary to the Cathars and therefore took sides against the Church of Rome. In 1226, the leader of the crusade, Simon de Montfort, ceded Carcassonne to the French crown, after which a second wall was erected. Raymond-Roger's son, also called Roger, attempted to recapture Carcassonne by 1240, but failed and fled to Barcelona. Consequently, Louis IX gave the order to destroy the houses around the castle, after which the inhabitants were driven out of the City. They were not allowed to return before the less 7 ans. In 1248, they received permission to build the Lower Town (lower town) on the other side of the Aude. In the middle of the fourteenth century, Froissart described Carcassonne as a thriving city with about 7 000 houses and renowned for its textile industry. Unfortunately, this industry collapsed around the beginning of the 15th century. It was not until the 17th century that the city enjoyed another period of prosperity. During the years of the Revolution, Carcassonne did not play a big role. However, the economic decline of the Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and British influence around the Mediterranean ended this period of prosperity. At the end of the 19th century, Carcassonne renovated its historic buildings and tried to profit from the wine industry. Today, much of its income and prosperity is based on the tourism industry.

The lower town

The lower town is a more modern place with several medieval remains. It is interesting to note the remains of the wall and the gate near the main shopping street, the two churches of Saint-Vincent and Saint-Michel and Place Carnot with the Neptune fountain dating from the 18th century in the middle of the square. This square is the center of the city, with its many terraces and shops.

The city

The oldest part is the City, the best preserved medieval city in Europe. Ici, you can stroll through its medieval streets. The main attraction is the castle, that you can visit with a guide only. Waiting for the guide, you can take a look at the museum. The guide takes you from the main building over the walls. You cannot return to the museum or the adjoining gift shop. If you want to buy something or visit the museum, you can only do this before the guided tour. At the end of the visit, you will see the old Saint-Nazaire church. It is a Romanesque church / gothic with many legends of the Templar treasury. Inside, you will see among other things an image of the Holy Trinity, a statue of Anna and her daughter Marie, and in the chapel of Notre-Dame (13th century), you can see the Tree of Jesse. The most famous element is undoubtedly the seat stone, on which you can see the siege of Carcassonne in 1209 by the crusaders.

It is interesting to walk between the walls of the City or by tourist train. In July and August, there is a party in the City almost every Saturday. Ask the tourist office for more information. The City is beautifully lit at night.

Paula Smith
Tourism in the south of France

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