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Carcassonne

This article is about the French city. For other uses of the name Carcassonne, see Carcassonne (disambiguation).

Carcassonne is a fortified French city, in the Aude département, of which it is the préfecture, in the former province of Languedoc. Population (1990): 44,911. It is 90 km (56 miles) south-east of Toulouse. It stands in the gap between the Pyrenees and the central massif[?] of France.

First signs of settlement in Carcassonne region have been dated to about 3500 BCE. In about 800 BCE, the hill site of Carsac became an important trading place.

Carcassonne became strategically important when Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BCE and eventually made it the capital of a colony of Julia Carsaco, later Carcasum. Main part of the northern ramparts[?] date from those times.

In the 600s, Visigoths took over and built more fortifications that still stand. They successfully foiled attacks of Franks. Saracens took Carcassonne in 725 but king Pepin drove them away in 759.

In 1067 Carcassonne became, through marriage, the property of Raimond Roger Trencavel[?], viscount of Albi and Nîmes. In the following centuries the Trencavel family allied in succession either with Barcelona or Toulouse. They built the Chateau Comtal and the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire.

Carcassonne became famous in its role in Albigensian Crusades when the city was a stronghold of French Cathars. In August 1209 crusading army of Simon de Montfort forced citizens to surrender. Monfort had Trencavels killed and became the new viscount. He added to the fortifications. Carcassonne became a border citadel between France and Aragon.

In 1240 Trencavel's son tried to reconquer his old domain but in vain. The city submitted to the rule of kingdom of France in 1247 and king Louis IX founded the new part across the river. He and his successor Philip III built the outer ramparts. Contemporary opinion considered the fortress impregnable. During the Hundred Years' War, Edward the Black Prince did fail to take the city in 1355, although his troops destroyed the Lower Town.

In 1659, the Treaty of Pyrenees[?] transferred the border province of Roussillon to France and Carcassonme's military significance was reduced. Fortifications were abandoned and city became mainly an economic center that concentrated on textile industry.

Eventually the fortified part of Carcassonne fell into disrepair in such an extent that the French government seriously considered that it should be demolished. Degree to that effect was made official in 1849 but it caused an uproar. Historian Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevielle[?] and writer Prosper Mérimée lead a campaign to preserve the fortress as historical monument. Later in the year an architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was commissioned to renovate the place.

Fortifications consists of a double ring of ramparts and 53 towers. The fortress[?] was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

The newer part (Ville) of the city on the other side of the Aude river manufactures shoes, rubber and textiles. It is also center of a major wine-growing region. Major part of the income, however, comes from the tourism connected to the fortifications (Cité). Carcassonne receives about 3 million visitors annually.

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