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Since the pre-Roman period, this fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, one of the founders of the modern science of conservation.
Situated on the right bank of the Aude, the City, a medieval village that is still inhabited, has 52 towers and two concentric walls totalling 3km in length. Open at night as well as during the day via the Porte Narbonnaise and the Porte d’Aude, a large part of the Medieval City can be seen on unguided tours by visitors.
Within the Medieval City is the majestic Castle of the Counts. This last line of defence was built in the 12th century by the Trencavel family, Viscounts of Carcassonne. A century thereafter, an enclosure was erected in order to fortify the castle. This surrounding area consists of a curtain wall, round towers, the fortified gatehouse and the moat.
On the eastern side of the City, facing out towards the city of Narbonne, is the Porte Narbonnaise. Built in 1280 during the reign of Philippe III, the Porte consists of two enormous projecting towers. Viollet-le-Duc rebuilt the battlements and the slate roof in the 13th century, as well as erecting a false drawbridge on the site.
To the west and close to the Castle is the Porte d’Aude, which overlooks the river.
Built during the reign of Saint Louis in 1260 on the left bank of the Aude, the Bastide stands on a rectangular plan laid out around the central square, now the Place Carnot. Nowadays the Bastide is delimited by the boulevards laid out in the 18th and 19th centuries on the site of the old moats, has retained its arrangement of streets and boasts a remarkable architectural heritage, both in its former private mansions and its religious edifices.
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