A Trip to the Middle Ages

Programs for this blog post

Aerospace Engineering

Authored By:

Kyle Rader

We concluded our weekend of excursions with a trip to the medieval city of Carcassonne.  This city is perched atop a hill overlooking the surrounding valley, and is encircled with its fortifications of watchtowers and stone walls.  One of the best preserved examples of medieval fortified cities, it is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for good reason!

Our day began with an in-depth walking tour of the city, learning about its history from the beginnings up through modern times.  The city's fortifications began nearly 1,500 years ago with the construction of a number of the watchtowers that are still present, and identifiable through the strips of red bricks interspersed within the smaller stones that made up the bulk of the structure.  The other significant portion of the construction took place in the 1200s, adding additional towers, walls, and other fortifications.

Walking throughout this town is incredibly impressive for a city of today, so I cannot imagine what it would have been like over 800 years ago.  Imagining what invading armies would face when approaching this fortress, the word imposing doesn't even come close to describing it!

In the more recent centuries - and yes, this history needs to be measured in centuries, not years - the city started falling into disrepair, and lost its importance.  However, in the 19th century, the public interest in historical places grew, especially from the middle ages, thus jump-starting the push for repair and restoration.  The majority of this worked happened in the middle of the 1800s, with additional portions of the structure being replaced that had been taken in previous centuries by people looking for free building material for their houses.  The city today stands as a reminder of the way of life in a previous world, and the importance that protection from enemy forces was.

After a picnic lunch and some free time to explore the walled city, we took a self-guided tour of the castle in the heart of the city.  The majority of the interior of the castle is no longer present, but most of the structure remains (or was repaired/rebuilt).  The tour finished with a walk along the top of a long stretch of the city walls, snaking through all of the watchtowers along the way.

After a full day of tours and explorations through Carcassonne, it is no wonder that this fortified city has become such a popular destination.  It is remarkable that something of this magnitude has survived in the state it has to this day, and I'm so thankful that it has!  It is the perfect place for someone who loves to explore and imagine life in another world, and there is certainly no lack of things to see.  Maybe one day I will be able to spend a night or two in one of the city's hotels and explore the countless nooks and crannies hidden about this amazing destination!