"An Old French Walled City" Carcassonne by hquittner

Carcassonne Travel Guide: 483 reviews and 1,416 photos

Restoration vs. Reconstruction

The social human animal is a mixture of destructive, accumulative and creative drives. These are displayed in very variable degrees when he encounters objects of the past or his environment. Carcassonne is a splendid example of how this plays out. It is now considered to be a monument of historic architecture and art. In becoming this, it as also become a tourist trap. In the 19C it was saved from demolition as a stone quarry and lime-pit. Its rescue from destruction in 1850 is mostly due to the agitations of J-P Cros-Mayrevieille with help from Viollet-le-Duc who was working on the Cathedral of St. Nazaire, Prosper Merimee was recruited and as Inspector General he convinced, now Napoleon III to reclassify it from to be demolished to Historical Monument with le-Duc to start on it as he finished the church (1853). One must read pieces of le-Duc’s massive written architectural exegeses to understand his approach which goes beyond his scholarly understanding of how the Romanesque and Gothic builders discovered working principles, necessary for his restorations. It embodies practical and esthetic considerations and of economy of scale, practical compromises and artistic license. He was a genius but many of his extrapolations and inventions were inaccurate. Moreover he was a Romantic. Many of his concepts about restoration are not only rejected (with much debate) but are being undone as factually wrong, even here at Carcassonne, his largest work (after Notre Dame de Paris). It must be admitted that without him, there would be a great deal less for us to see in France and the Gothic style would not be admired the way it is. Seldom mentioned is that conceptually he envisioned and attempted to create a computer-style encyclopedia with textual linkages in almost every passage (a teaching concept that is only now beginning to be exploited). Perhaps the most complete extension of his esthetics of Gothic Architecture is to be found at the Fortress-Chateau of Pierrefonds in Picardy 90 km from Paris, a favorite Sunday afternoon drive for Parisians. (See Our Tips on it).

How We Got There

It would be amiss to set foot in the Midi and not also visit Carcassonne (even though it is out of the Region. This was our first stop after leaving Toulouse and before heading to Albi (via Castres). We spent three nights at an Inn inside the walled town (see Our Tip on “Le Donjon”). and devoted an entire two days in absorbing the town without going into the main city.

If You Stay Long Enough

It would be amiss to set foot in the Midi and not also visit Carcassonne (even though it is out of the Region. This was our first stop after leaving Toulouse and before heading to Albi (via Castres). We spent three nights at an Inn inside the walled town (see Our Tip on “Le Donjon”). and devoted an entire two days in absorbing the town without going into the main city.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A Medieval Exhibit
  • Cons:Try to Enjoy the Tourists
  • In a nutshell:A Sightseer's Paradise
  • Last visit to Carcassonne: Oct 1995
  • Intro Updated Sep 5, 2009
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hquittner

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