Apr. 19th, 2012

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Back to Carcassone now, and to the inner ramparts.

Here's a view of medieval no-man's land.  If, by any chance, you (as a member of an attacking force) made it through the outer ramparts, you'd have this ahead of you.  An uncomfortable stretch of open ground overlooked by a crenallated curtain wall (the crenellations are Le Duc's creation, but probably aren't that far from the truth...) pierced by arrow slits and various openings from which the defenders could pour boiling fat or other noxious substances.

These are the original ramparts, upstanding in the time of the Cathars, and the Albigensian Crusade.  They have their origins in the Roman period - you can tell this by the layers of tiles placed at various intervals to keep the courses even (ha!  Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] heleninwalesfor remembering this useful fact when I mentioned the course of slates at Hardknott Roman Fort!!).  The 'U'-shaped plan of the turret is also meant to be a Roman characteristic, though I must admit that I spotted quite a few 'U'-plan turrets in my French travels, and most of them were medieval.  Clever people may, however, point out that Edward I used the Roman habit of laying contrasting courses at regular intervals when building Caernavon Castle, as he was trying to make a deliberate reference to Constantinople.  So the builders in the Pays de Cathars may, too, have been making deliberate reference to the earlier 'civilised' occupants of the area when they were building their later castles.

I digress.  The best surviving examples of the Roman defences are on the north side of the walled city.  The restorations used tile instead of slate for the roof to provide a contrast with the medieval construction. 

Once again, the contrast between the lower, original masonry and the upper, 19th century fabric is quite obvious.  Bear in mind, too, that there was a significant amount of rebuilding in the medieval period.  The Roman walls were strengthened by adding a more substantial batter to the base:-

Some of the window openings in this general area have Roman-style tile-defined arches, but I'm not completely convinced that these aren't part of the later restoration.

There are, however, some fragments of earlier fabric which are nothing to do with Le Duc, and which provide tantalising glimpses of the earlier fortifications and the way in which they were modified.  The picture featured below is a good example.  To the left, the small regular blocks and tile courses are evidence of Roman origin, while to the right there are some bits of jumbled features which are totally baffling.  The walling within the arches looks more Roman than medieval, while the arches themselves look more medieval than Roman.  But, of course, the infill must be later than the arches...  Confusing?  You bet it is!!

Much less complicated is the opening featured in Image #2, which originally had a broad entrance, presumably allowing access into the Gallo-Roman settlement, but which was later largely infilled to make the opening much smaller, and therefore more defensive.


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