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The Château Comtal in the Medieval City of Carcassonne

The Château Comtal (Count’s Castle) is a 12th century Medieval castle within the Cité de Carcassonne, the largest Medieval city in Europe with its city walls still intact. The Medieval Cité lies within the modern city of Carcassonne in the Aude Department, of which Carcassonne is the prefecture, in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The Castle is located at the western end of a rocky spur, on the highest point of the city.

History of the Château Comtal

The earliest known settlement of the site where Carcassonne now stands dates from the 6th century BC, when a hill-fort was built on this rocky spur overlooking the valley of the Aude and the ancient routes linking the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe. In the 1st century BC, this settlement was absorbed into the Roman culture. During the turbulent years of the late 3rd and the early 4th century it was protected by the construction of a defensive wall some 1,200 metres in length, the impressive remains of which still survive around two thirds of the interior fortifications of the later town. (more)

Today

The citadel derives its reputation from its 3 kilometres long double surrounding walls interspersed by 52 towers. Although the outer curtain wall of the cité is French, and the whole site has been substantially restored, the Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a "Cathar Castle", since when the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209, after attacking Raymond-Roger Trencavel's castrum at Bèziers, they then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne.

The castle consists of two single-storey buildings, dominated by a square tower, arranged at right angles in a courtyard, enclosed by palisades on the east side. Built in a variety of styles, the oldest parts of the castle can be seen from the courtyard today, and are mainly medieval, as well as Romanesque and Gothic structures, consisting of the west wing, the south wing, and the ground floor of the ‘Pinte’ tower; a watchtower 28 metres in height. The private chapel of the counts, the Chapel Sainte-Marie, was built in 1150 and the remains of the apse can still be seen.

A ring of walls with slits for firing arrows and round towers with embrasures run along the walls along the eastern side where the main entrance is. The second entrance to the castle is on the western side.

The main entrance of the castle is at the end of a stone bridge running over a dry ditch. The castle was built on a former Visigoth fortress of which it kept some parts of walls and two towers on the western side of the Cité, close to the inner wall, above the steepest side of the hill, and on the eastern side are the ditches where you can walk under the walls and see the bridge. To visit the castle, you walk over the bridge and pay an entrance fee. Inside you can visit a museum laid out in some parts of the habitations, and in the yard, displays of medieval military art, with reconstructions of battles, types of sieges, as well as other historical displays.

Opening hours of the Château Comtal:

April – September – 9.30 – 18.30
October – March – 9.30 – 17.00
Closed – 1 January, 1 May, 14 July, 1 and 11 November, 25 December
 
Tekst: Melisande Aquilina