Carcassonne History, France
The origins of Carcassonne, France are not certain, but archaeologists have found evidence in Carcassonne history of civilization in the area dating back to around 3500 B.C. It is likely that the first settlement was Celtic. During the 500’s B.C., there was an important fortified hill-top trade center in the area known as Carsac, which is a Celtic word.
Carcassonne History – The Ancient Eras
There is evidence that Carcasum, as it was called at this point in Carcassonne history, was also strategically important and fortified further under Roman rule during the 2nd century B.C. After the Roman Empire began to decline in the 5th century A.D., the rule of the city was transferred to the Visigoth king Theodoric II. He built more fortifications for the city and used it as an outpost. Some of the Roman and Visigothic fortifications still stand today, including Carcassonne Castle which was considered impenetrable by attackers.
Carcassonne History – Medieval Times
During the following century, the Franks attempted to invade Carcassonne, but the Visigoths kept a strong hold on the city for the next two-hundred years. In 725 A.D., however, the city was lost to the Saracens who were almost immediately driven away by King Pepin the Younger who was the father of Charlemagne and conquered much of France at that time. Despite the power of these legendary kings however, they did not take Carcassonne due to the city’s fortifications. Instead the city remained, for the time being, under the rule of the Bellonid counts who would have control of the area for three centuries. The rule of the counts came to an end in 1067 A.D. when Ermengard, the female heir to the county, married Viscount Raimond Bernard Trencavel.
Carcassone history also shows the pivotal role that the city played in the Albigensian Crusades against the Cathars, a heretical Christian sect which began in Southern France in the 1000’s. Inhabitants of the city were friendly towards the Cathars and allowed them to use its fortifications for protection. In 1209, however, the nobleman Simon de Montfort and his army defeated the city and forced the Catharic citizens to leave. The Viscount Raymond-Roger de Trencavel was captured and neglected to the point of death. Upon his death, Montfort named himself viscount and added on to the city’s fortifications.
Forty-one years after Monfort took the city, the son of Viscount Trencavel attempted to invade and retake the city. He failed and Carcassonne fell under the rule of France in 1247. The city’s fortifications made it an important border stronghold between France and Spain, which was named Aragon at that time. King Louis IX and King Philip III built on to the city and extended it past the river. In 1355, Edward the Black Prince, the legendary Prince of Wales, attempted to take the city during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England. He failed to pass the fortifications but did cause much damage to the Lower Town across the river.
Carcassonne History – Saving Carcassonne
An extension of France’s borders further south in 1659 stole some of Carcassonne’s importance as a border citadel. The city turned to industry and was soon an important economic center for Southern France. Because of this, the fortifications were not maintained for hundreds of years. Fortunately for lovers of Carcassonne history, propositions for demolishing the fortifications proved unpopular and, instead, the walls and castle were restored in the 19th century.
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