You probably know a little about Carcassone – or have, at least, heard of it … the best preserved medieval Town in (western) Europe, and certainly in France.
But exactly how did it get to be this way?
Well, it’s like this – it was one of the Towns where the Albigensians (a group of Christians declared heretical by the Catholic hierarchy because, well, they said the Catholic hierarchy was corrupt, self-serving and a waste of space in a religious sense … all of which was quite true at that time) were, if not in control, at least present in large numbers and quite well integrated in Occitan (southern French, where they spoke the Langue d’Oc … a dialect of medieval French different from the Langue d’Oil spoken in the north of France … the one that is the ancestor of modern French) society.
So. The Pope was down on them. And the Kings of France wanted to assert their control as they felt they were too independent. So the Pope declared a Crusade – the Albigensian Crusade.
So the Crusaders are not only promised absolution for all their sins and a reserved place in heaven (Holy Jesus and No Quarter and all) they’re also offered the lands of anyone (Albigensian or not) they slaughter …
Carcassone’s Lord holds out for a considerable while but, eventually, surrenders to prevent a worse slaughter … and the Crusaders, not trusting the townsfolk, boot them out of their homes and force them down the hill and onto the other side of the river.
The kicker is that the new settlement was, as it turned out, better placed to be a trade entrepot (and the booted out locals were evidently pretty good businessmen) and, so, within a relatively short period of time the economic life was sucked out of medieval walled Carcassone and it was gradually abandoned … and fell into partial ruin, only to be restored by Viollet le Duc in the 19th century over the course of several decades!
And that’s all for tonight, folks. Only one more night in Paris … then I fly to London on Saturday, have Sunday in London and fly out of London for Changi and then to Sydney, Monday, arriving Wednesday morning … assuming BA pilots don’t go on strike!