We had moved inland for a few days to visit Carcassonne. As there was no campgrounds open in the area we stopped at the motorhome aire just outside the old city walls. We were surprised how many motorhomes were there but we found a good spot tucked up in a corner.
The next morning we woke to sunshine but a very strong wind. It took us a few minutes to walk to the old Cité a doubled walled and turreted fortress that crowns the hill above the River Aude. The Cité is a UNESCO world Heritage site. The site of the Cité has a very long history. Its strategic importance was recognised by the Romans who occupied its hilltop until the demise of the Western Roman Empire and was later taken over by the Visigoths in the fifth century who founded the city. In 1067, Carcassonne became by marriage the property of Raimond-Bernard Trencavel viscount of Albi and Nîmes. The Trencavel dynasty was one of the most powerful families in the south of France between the 11th and 13th centuries. The Cité became a stronghold of the Occitan Cathars. The theology of the Cathars was dualistic, a belief in two equal and comparable transcendental principles; God, the force of good, and Satan, the force of evil. They called for a return to the Christian message of perfection, poverty and preaching. They were in conflict with the Roman Church so much so that in 1208 Pope Innocent III called for crusade against the Cathar heresy. Carcassonne was besieged and surrendered on 15 August 1209.
The city subsequently became part of the Kingdom of France and became an important border fortress between France and the Crown of Aragon and it was during this time that the walls were built which are seen today. The Cité declined during the 17th century and by the 19th century most of the ramparts had been used as stone quarries and the city was in ruins. A major restoration was undertaken during the late 19th century /early 20th century; although it could be argued it was over restored, to the picture book fortress city seen today.
The inside of the walls was very touristy with a lot of people. We enjoyed walking around the fortress between the walls and then up on the ramparts with access only from the old castle. After exploring the Cité we walked down into the new town but were not impressed.