Day 86 – Art for art’s sake, Carcassonne for Pope Innocent III’s sake

Monday 8th October 2018

My sincerest apologies for the drought in blog posts of late. We have been travelling a lot and arriving at our camp spots late. I have either had little time or limited WIFI connection or both. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it.

We have reluctantly moved on from Orgon due to the weather and, having promised ourselves long ago that, on the way to Spain we would visit the medieval city of Carcassone and that is exactly what we did on Monday 8th October.

Carcassone – A Castle drawn from the imagination of a child

Our visit is long overdue. We have been talking about visiting for some years since seeing the ramparts from the motorway when passing on our way to the Pyrenees about 6 years ago.

Carcassonne is described as looking like something from a children’s book. Well, this year at least, that ‘child’ has been let loose with some crayons and is likely to be grounded for some time to come.

Art for art’s sake?

Some call it ‘art.’ Some, me and Mrs P included, call it vandalism and litter. A Swiss artist whose name I will not share in case you commission him to paint circles on a building near you was paid (in real money! you believe it?) to create this illusion that works from one, very specific spot. From anywhere (and I do mean anywhere) else it just looks like some vandals have been let loose with some paint left over by the roads department.

‘Ere, Harry, what happened to that paint we left out last night?

The locals are unimpressed and you can read all about how unimpressed they are via the above link. The artist (read: con artist) on the other hand is reported to be very proud of his work.

The design is fixed to the walls by metal foil (litter) and local art students were given the highly taxing job of painting it.

Lowly art student: “Sir.”

Art tutor: “Yes lowly student. What do you want now?”

Lowly art student: “Does painting these bits of tin foil yellow count towards my degree sir?”

Art tutor: “Yes, lowly student. Strangely it does.”

This delegation of work allowed the ‘artist‘ to spend important time artistically counting his filthy lucre and beginning work on his next commission. That of designing the Emperor’s new clothes.

It is otherwise a magnificent edifice. It’s foundations have been kicking around for 2,500 years and, during the 12th century the powerful Trencavel family improved the fortifications greatly. Unfortunately for them the Trencavels, who were Cathars, fell foul of Pope Innocent III (Innocent!?) who declared Cathars heretics and ordered a crusade against the city. The city surrendered, the head of the Trencavels was imprisoned and died, a few people were burned at the stake and the Cathar church ceased to exist in the region. Pope Innocent (ha!) III declared “job done.” and gave the castle to his mates who made it much bigger and stronger.

The current condition of the castle is down to the French state who, in 1844 commissioned Eugine Viollet-Le-duc (Eugine the purple duck!?) to restore it. He decided against just painting some big yellow circles on the ground and presenting a bill for works completed and did a splendid job. After all, he probably remembered how the French State had used Madame Guillotine on arty farty, pretentious types.

Unlike Pope Innocent III young Eugine only had to evict a few dozen peasants from the ruins of the castle to complete the work. A small plaque near the entrance to the castle reads;

No peasants were harmed or otherwise burned at the stake during the renovation of this building.

The faithfully restored castle of Carcassone

The main part of the castle shown above is further surrounded by a city wall which today encloses more trinket, coffee and general tourist tat shops than you could wave a papal crosier at.

We only spent half a day here as the weather took a distinct turn for the worse (more about that next time). We will return. I recommend you visit.

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