From Academic Kids

For other uses of the name Carcassonne, see Carcassonne (disambiguation).
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The walled city of Carcassonne


Carcassonne (Carcassona in Occitan) is a fortified French city, in the Aude dpartement, of which it is the prfecture, in the former province of Languedoc. Population (1990): 44,911. It is 90 km (56 miles) south-east of Toulouse. It stands in the gap between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central of France.



First signs of settlement in Carcassonne region have been dated to about 3500 BC. In about 800 BC, the hill site of Carsac became an important trading place.

Carcassonne became strategically important when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC and eventually made it the capital of a colony of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum. Main part of the northern ramparts date from those times.

In the 600s, Visigoths took over and built more fortifications that still stand. They successfully foiled attacks of Franks. Saracens took Carcassonne in 725 but king Pepin drove them away in 759.

In 760, "Pepin the Short", King of the Franks, took most of the south of France, although was unable to penetrate the impregnable fortress of Carcassonne. Undaunted, he situated his army around the walls of the castle with the intention of eventually starving out the inhabitants. The plan began to work, and soon the citizens suffered from starvation. However, legend says that Dame Carcas, the widow of one of the castle's nobles devised a clever bluff. All of the remaining grain that could be found in the castle was brought together and fed to one pig. The fattened pig was then killed and catapulted over the walls toward the offending army. When Pepin saw that despite all the waiting so far, the villagers were still able to feed large portions of grain to their livestock, he and his army became demoralized and they withdrew their offensive. The people of Carcassonne were so pleased with Dame Carcas, that bells across the castle rang in her honor. Many historians believe this legend is the source of the name Carcassonne, derived from "Carcas sonne" (Dame Carcas rings).

In 1067 Carcassonne became, through marriage, the property of Raimond Bernard Trencavel, viscount of Albi and Nmes. In the following centuries the Trencavel family allied in succession either with Barcelona or Toulouse. They built the Chateau Comtal and the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire.

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Cathars being expelled from Carcassone in 1209.

Carcassonne became famous in its role in Albigensian Crusades when the city was a stronghold of French Cathars. In August 1209 the crusading army of Simon de Montfort forced its citizens to surrender. Monfort had Trencavels killed and became the new viscount. He added to the fortifications. Carcassonne became a border citadel between France and Aragon.

In 1240 Trencavel's son tried to reconquer his old domain but in vain. The city submitted to the rule of kingdom of France in 1247 and king Louis IX founded the new part across the river. He and his successor Philip III built the outer ramparts. Contemporary opinion considered the fortress impregnable. During the Hundred Years' War, Edward the Black Prince did fail to take the city in 1355, although his troops destroyed the Lower Town.

In 1659, the Treaty of Pyrenees transferred the border province of Roussillon to France and Carcassonne's military significance was reduced. Fortifications were abandoned and city became mainly an economic center that concentrated on textile industry.

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Forified wall of Carcassonne

The fortified city

Eventually the fortified part of Carcassonne fell into disrepair in such an extent that the French government seriously considered that it should be demolished. A decree to that effect was made official in 1849 but it caused an uproar. Historian Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille and writer Prosper Mrime lead a campaign to preserve the fortress as historical monument. Later in the year an architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was commissioned to renovate the place.

Fortifications consists of a double ring of ramparts and 53 towers. The fortress was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

The fortified city of Carcassonne serves as inspiration for the German board game Carcassonne by Hans im Glck.


The newer part (Ville Basse) of the city on the other side of the Aude river manufactures shoes, rubber and textiles. It is also center of a major wine-growing region. Major part of the income, however, comes from the tourism connected to the fortifications (Cit). Carcassonne receives about 3 million visitors annually.

External links

de:Carcassonne eo:Carcassonne fr:Carcassonne it:Carcassonne ja:カルカソンヌ nl:Carcassonne (Frankrijk) pl:Carcassonne ru:Каркассон sv:Carcassonne


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