Basilica of Saint-Nazaire-and-Saint-Celse
One of the main historical attractions in Carcassonne lies within the walled city of La Cité: the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Celse. In 453 AD, Carcassonne was held by the Visigothic king Theodoric II. Theodoric the Great began the construction of an Arian church, which is believed to be the predecessor of the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Celse.
The construction of the basilica was completed in the 12th century and at that time was known as the Cathedral of Carcassonne. It remained as Cathedral of Carcassonne until 1801 when the Cathedral Saint-Michel de Carcassonne was elevated to cathedral status and replaced the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Celse as the home of the Bishop’s cathedral.
The Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Celse was enlarged between 1269 and 1330 at the expense of the Bishop of Carcassonne, Pierre de Rochefort. The new expansion was in the gothic style, which was a great contrast to the original Romanesque style. The juxtaposition of these two distinct styles is one of the most interesting attributes of this basilica. The basilica houses the tomb of Bishop Guillaume Radulphe, the Saint-Pierre Vault, the Stone of the Seat, and is home to arguably the most beautiful stained glass in the south of France.
The fortified city, known as La Cité is a medieval citadel in Carcassonne. When the romans entered the city, they began building on an already existing castle. The Roman influence can be identified by the redbrick layers and the shallow pitch terracotta roofs, which are a stark contrast to the medieval architecture. The ‘Inquisition Tower’ housed the Catholic Inquisition in the 13th century.
The town was annexed to the country of France in the 13th century and was an integral location in their defense against the Crown of Aragon (modern day Spain). In 1695, the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed, and such a fortification was no longer needed. At this time, Carcassonne became one of the major economic centers of France.
In 1849, the French government wanted to destroy the fortification as it was in such disrepair, but this decision was strongly opposed by the people and a campaign to restore the walled city began. In 1853, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, an architect, was charged with renovating La Cité. The restorations were carried out long after his death and were completed in the late 19th century. This renovation was under much scrutiny at the time as Eugène Viollet-le-Duc used many modern techniques, which took away from the authenticity of the fortress. The magnificent La Cité consists of a double walled fortification spanning almost 3km interspersed with 53 stunning towers and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.