Apr. 30th, 2012

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Another look inside the courtyard at the castle of Carcassone today, and a glimpse of the castle which forms the core of the medieval defences.  It's part of the earlier structure which pre-dated the French capture of the city, and it formed an integral part of the castle occupied by Trencavel family, and in particular by Count Roger, the last head of the Trenscavel family who died a prisoner within this very castle following the surrender of Carcassone to the Albigensian crusaders.

Through the generations (and indeed the centuries), the castle has seen much alteration in its fabric.  It was originally much lower - if you look carefully, you can see that the two-storey hall section was only one storey in height, with the upper storey added later:-

The adjacent keep has also been increased in height. Look carefully at the upper storey, and the area lying immediately above the course of walling which has the holes in it.  You can just see a row of ghost crenellations (or battlements, if you're being less technical...) in the wall fabric.  This marks the original wallhead of Count Roger's castle.

As for the sockets in the masonry...   They could mark the location of joists which together formed the framework for a timber-built structure.  Or they could mark the locations where logs were placed in the wall to aid the builders during the process of construction ('putlog' holes). 

But if you want to see the real treasure of the Trencavel castle, then you have to go inside, to one of the earlier rooms in which restoration works undertaken in the early twentieth century uncovered some medieval wall paintings beneath a coating of distemper.  Artworks in a medieval ecclesiastical context are rare, but they're arguably quite numerous compared to their domestic counterparts.  But here's a remarkable example of the kind of internal decor that the Trencavels enjoyed at the height of their power in the late 12th century:-

 It features Frankish knights battling Saracen warriors, making visual reference to the 12th century Crusades in the Holy Land.  It was a military escapade in which the Trenscavel family distinguished themselves by their conduct, and presumably, obtained a great deal of wealth, prestige and perhaps even land in the process.

Which, considering their fate at the hands of the Albigensian crusaders just a few generations later, is something of a tragic irony...


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