Carcassonne (2011) Revisited

These are photos I didn’t know I had. I found these pictures from a trip that I took to Carcassonne in 2011. I had always wanted to go to Carcassonne – to fulfil a childhood ambition (that my sister reminded me about). It is a fortified French town in the Aude department, in the Region of Occitanie. Early in the year, I found cheap flights and a hotel in a perfect location situated in the old part of the town. This being February, well out of season, the streets were almost deserted.

Carcassonne is a fortified city, located in a strategic point in the south of France, which has been occupied since the Neolithic period. The city itself consists essentially of a concentric design of two outer walls with 53 towers and barbicans to prevent attack by siege engines. The castle possesses its own drawbridge and ditch leading to a central keep. Carcassonne did not disappointed, its imposing and majestic castle walls where amazing.

Normandy Graveyard & Chapel

Normandy Crosses

In July of this year (2013) I visited my sister in France. She lives in a farmhouse, which she developed herself, in a commune situated in Basse-Normandy. She chose this life for herself partly as a means of escaping from the rat-race I believe – something for which I am full of admiration. At the top of her road is an ancient chapel with a graveyard and with many Normandy crosses. The Chapel itself is being renovated and much older work is being discovered beneath the décor and relief’s of this medieval Chapel. The weather was fine while I visited but in the mornings a mist would cover the landscape and add a very eerie effect to the surroundings. One morning I ventured out to the Chapel early while the mist was still around.

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Interior of the Chapel

My sister managing to get the keys from the trustees one sunny afternoon and I went inside the Chapel to explore. I was surprised by its vibrancy; although it was a fairly simple church and needed much renervation, the altar and murals on the walls were astoundingly colourful. The place although austere had a real sense of spirituality to it and although now quiet; it must have once been full of life and a focal point of the commune.

Normandy Chapel Mural
Mural being discovered beneath
Normandy Chapel Confessional
View from the Confessional
Normandy Chapel Alter
Altar and Chairs
Normandy Chapel Window
Normandy Chapel Window – Light and Shade

Mont Saint-Michel August 2012

Les gargouilles de la Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne

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Les gargouilles de la Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne

The Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celsus is an imposing building situated within the walls of Carcassonne old town  It was formerly the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1801, when it was replaced by the present Carcassonne Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Michel de Carcassonne). It is a grand Gothic building with a large tower and enormous Bishop’s eye built into the west wall. The most notable aspects of this cathedral for me however were the plethora of carvings which adorned both the outside and interior of the church. Built so long ago in more superstitious times when memories of a pre-Christian era had not yet faded and the exterior is covered with grotesque figures employed in strange activities. As with many of the early French churches they acknowledged the pre-Christian religions in their architectural design through elaborate carvings.

The grotesques and gargoyles of this building are something to be appreciated and marvelled at. I got some what carried away shooting them but here are a selection of the images I produced.

Carcassonne 2011

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My first trip away this year was in January, to Carcassonne, France. I had decided that I could not feasibly take any more photographs of Liverpool and needed to book flights, and I had always wanted to see Carcassonne.

I was talking with my sister about the trip and she reminded me that our aunt had a panoramic photograph of Carcassonne on her living room wall when I was young, which I would have seen on one of our family trips to Holland when I was a child, which is where she lived. It amazed me how deeply rooted our desires are and how much our childhood dictates to our adult life, even without our awareness; I was oblivious to the origin of my wish to see Carcassonne when planning the trip. I must have seen this image of Carcassonne when I was about eight; had generated the desire to see it and then filed it under ‘must see one day’ – and then forgot it. Carcassonne became the second location on my bucket list of places to see and photograph.

Carcassonne did not disappoint any. The old city is a medieval concentric castle and the terms ‘mystical’ or ‘fairytale’ are worthy descriptions of this picturesque town. A concentric castle is one with walls that surround a central keep in concentric rings and which in turn are surrounded by a moat. The streets are cobbled and the interior of the town has a market square with innumerable restaurants and bars that cater to thousands of tourists from all over the world, in the summer months. In January however the story is very different and the streets were deserted making for excellent photography. Carcassonne is quite near the Pyrenees and in the Languedoc region of France. The temperature was -2, when I arrived but the skies where clear for almost the whole time. This is a selection of the images I took.