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Tourist Sites in and around Carcassonne

Tourist sites and attractions within a radius of km* from the city center

* The distances are point to point and not driving distances!

UNESCO Heritage List, Grand Site de France At around: 0.82 km

The Fortified City of Carcassonne Carcassonne citadel "Cité de Carcassonne" is the crown jewel of the southwest of France medieval fortified towns. It is the real fortress that Disneyland's or any other amusement park's castles (or the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas!) take as model. It belongs to UNESCO's World Heritage list since 1997.
Standing on a hilltop overlooking to the north the Aude river and to the south the vineyards of the Languedoc region, the "Cité of Carcassonne" is, with its 3kms of fortified walls and 52 towers, the largest Middle Ages fortified town of Europe.
The oldest traces of human settlement in the region date to about 600BC. During the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul (that territory that included modern France)...

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At around: 1.6 km

Comtal Chateau of Carcassonne The Comtal Castle of Carcassonne is in itself a monument, a fortress inside the fortress of the Cité de Carcassonne.
The castle was built in the 12th century by the Trencavel family, Viscounts of Carcassonne, Agde, Albi, Ambialet, Béziers, Nîmes and of Razès, in short the most powerful family of what is now the southwest of France after the Count of Toulouse and the King of Aragon. The place chosen by the Trencavels was the highest point of the Carcassonne fortress on an already existent stronghold dating from the Roman times.
It is from the Trencavel times that date the keep and principal block ("corps de logis") on the northern side of the castle.
The castle was...

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Cathar Castle At around: 12.81 km

Lastours Castle The Lastours Castle is a fortification with 4 towers: "Cabaret", "TourRegine", "Surdespine" and "Quertinheux". During the albigensian crusade it was a powerfull heretic stronghold under the leadership of its owner Pierre-Roger de Cabaret. The castle fell into the crusaders hands in March 1211.
Like all the medieval fortification the castle sits atop of steep rocky promontory, in this case above the small village of Lastours - population 167 - and the river L'Orbiel.
There are two legends that make the place even more interesting: the first one tells that Roland - the companion of Charlemagne made famous by "The Song of Roland" left his horse's shoe mark on one of the rocks, and the second one that claims that the grotte that...

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At around: 14.58 km

Saint Hilaire Abbey Saint Hilaire is a little village - population 719 - situated between Carcassonne and Limoux in the department of Aude.
The place was inhabited since roman times but its major religious edifice, the abbey, was formed starting from the 8th century when a community of Benedictine monks settled here. The first monastic community was dedicated to Saint Sernin, the martyr saint that preached the Christian religion in the Toulouse region in the first centuries after Christ.
The saint patron of the monastery changed after only one century since in 825 the documents describe already the abbey as dedicated Saint Hilaire, the first bishop of Carcassone and housing the relics of the saint...

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At around: 15.14 km

Montolieu Perched on a rocky outcrop between the valleys of Dure and Alzeau rivers, Montolieu, an ancient fortified village, is nowadays known as the "Village of Books": it counts no less than 15 bookshops (for a population of under 800 inhabitants!). The bookshops are specialized in rare, limited editions, second-hand and antiquaries' books - some in English language.
The village features also a "Book Arts and Crafts" museum that relates the history of handwriting and typography.
The existence of Montolieu village was recognized in 1146 by Roger Trincavel, Viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne who gave the settlement that existed on the site since Roman occupation times the name Montolieu from the name "Mont des Oliviers" - "Mount of Olives" - of Jerusalem.
An...

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For treasure hunters! At around: 17 km

Capendu and Alaric Mountain Capendu is a little town - population just over 1,500 - situated some 20km east of Carcassonne, at the feet of the Alaric Mountain, on the north side of the Corbières massif. This positioning close to the mountain gave the town its name that was initially Campendut which means steep hill; cam: hill and pendut: steep.
Capendu is, like many urban communities of the region, a circular defensive town. Its center is marked by a little rocky outcrop on which stands the ruined choir of a 13th century chapel, all that now remains of Capendu’s medieval castle. Surrounding the town's centre is a defensive wall and houses - built outside of this fortified line - disposed in rings around the...

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Cathar Castle At around: 21.47 km

Saissac Castle Saissac cathat castle is located almost in the center of the Saissac town.
Being built around 900 AD it is the oldest of the Cathar castle.
In a document dating from year 960 the castle is donated by the bishop of Toulouse to the Count of Carcassonne.
Just before the Cathar Crusade the castle was in the property of Bertrand de Saissac (1140-1202) a protector of the heretics. Bertrand de Saissac was also the tutor of Raimond Roger de Trencavel at the time heir to the viscounty of Carcassonne.
At the beginning of the crusade the Lords of Saissac surrender to the armies of Simon de Montfort and that triggers the shared possession of the castle and of the viscounty’s lands...

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At around: 25.78 km

Lagrasse Abbey and Village The medieval little village of Lagrasse is a proud member of « Les Plus beaux Villages de France « organisation. It is situated in the department of Aude and is crossed by the little river l’Orbieu. The village’s name comes from the Occitan "grassa" that means fertile since it is surrounded by fertile vineyards and olive fields.
The village was formed around its Abbey. Later during the 13th century the newer fortified town was built on the other bank of the river l’Orbieu opposite from the Abbey.
During the Hundred Years War (1337- 1453) the fortifications of the town were rebuilt on the order of the Seneschal (the royal officer in charge of justice and control of...

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At around: 26.26 km

Fanjeaux and Prouilhe Monastery Fanjeaux, Prouilhe and Montréal are three villages situated in the picturesque "Pays Lauragais", a mild hilled region that extends between the "les Corbières", Pyrenean Mountains and the Mountaine Noire in the southeast of Toulouse. The villages are historic sites closely connected to the life of Saint Dominic (or Dominique) the founder of the Catholic Dominican Order - also called the "Order of the Preachers".
Dominic de Guzman, the future saint, arrived in this region in 1206 in his way back to his native Spain but encountering the Catharism phenomenon, a heresy that was at the time on the rise in the southwest of France, decide to remain temporarily here and preach the Catholic faith.
While in Montréal no artifact remains from the...

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Mysterious At around: 28.15 km

A dolmen is defined as "a structure usually regarded as a tomb, consisting of two or more large, upright stones set with a space between and capped by a horizontal stone".
The word dolmen comes from the Breton language: daul signifies table and moen means stone.
This etymology led some to believe that the dolmens were druidic altars built in open air. Most probably however the dolmens were Neolithic common funeral chambers - since usually many skeletons were discovered inside.
The "Morel dos Fados" dolmen - the dolmen of the "Fairies Hill" in Occitan language - is located on a little pine trees covered hill on the territory of Pépieux commune at the border between Aude and Hérault departments of southwest of France,...

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At around: 28.82 km

Saint Papoul Abbey Saint Papoul Abbey - a part of a former Episcopal City - is located in the homonym village, in the heart of the Cathar Country, some 37 km (23 mi) northwest of Carcassonne.
The abbey was declared a national historic monument in 1840.
Saint Papoul Abbey was founded in the 8th century by Benedictine monks. It takes the name after Saint Papoul , a hermit who lived in the region in the 5th century and who died a martyr death having the top of his head cut out with a sword. The tradition says that the place of his death - called "Ermitage" and situated some 3km away from the village - was...

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Cathar Castle At around: 29.59 km

Termes Castle The Termes Castle was the place of the longest siege during the Crusade against the Cathars. The siege that was lead by Simon de Montfort lasted from August until 23rd of November 1210 and was documented in detail by Pierre des Vaux de Cernay, who wrote "Historia Albigensis" in 1212.
After the Crusade the castle becomes a French frontier fortification, one of the so called "5 sons of Carcassonne", guarding the Spanish border.
The Castle is situated on top of a hill overlooking the Termes village, a beautiful tiny - population 54 - community. The walk from the village to the castle takes around 15 minutes and is easier then it looks!...

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At around: 30.08 km

Catharism Museum and Hautpoul Village The museum housed on the second level of the Tourism Office of Mazamet building is dedicated to the History of Occitan Catharism and through its descriptive panels, audio and video material gives the visitor a "crush" course on the heresy’s emergence, its customs and traditions, its main leaders and its decline during the Albigeoise Crusade. Unfortunately the museum - unlike the museum of Montsegur - lacks any artefacts. It is also a supporter of the school of thought that the Catharism was a variation of the Eastern European Bogomilism opinion contested by many scholars. It is however a "must" for anybody interested in Catharism.

The Hautpoul village situated at only several km from Mazamet can be the "practical" session after the...

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Cathar Castle At around: 32.43 km

Villerouge-Termenés Castle Situated in the heart of the village of Villerouge Termenès the castle that bears the same name is a wonderful example of the medieval military architecture of the Corbiére region. The castle was probably built in the middle of the 13th century on the site of an older one. From its foundation until the French Revolution the castle belonged to the powerful Archbishop of Narbonne.
The castle now presents an very interesting audio visual exhibition that traces the life of the village in the 14th century.
The castle is intimately related with the history of the Catharism. It is in its central court that one of the last "Perfecti", Guilhelm Bélibaste, was burnt at stake on the 24th of August 1321.
The...

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Mysterious At around: 33.36 km

The hill-top village of Rennes-le-Château A reader interested in a book making a reference to Rennes le Château will have a hard time choosing among the more then 100 books offered only by Amazon.com on this subject. Of course the best known are: "The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail" by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, "The Sion Revelations, Inside the Shadowy World of Europe's Secret Masters" by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, for the more pragmatic Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" and of course Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" - that even though does not make any direct reference to the village it is still related to it by the names of some key character names like Jacques Sauniere and a man called...
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At around: 34.35 km

Castelnaudary Castelnaudary, a town situated in the department of Aude on the route between Toulouse and Carcassonne is best known for its culinary specialty, the cassoulet, and its "Grand Bassin", the artificial lake created by Pierre Paul de Riquet during the construction of the Canal du Midi.
The Castelnaudary inhabitants - called "Chauriens- consider the Cassoulet of Castelnaudary to be the "father" of all the other cassoulet versions and dedicate it an annual celebration: "La fête du cassoulet". For more information on this celebration visit : www.fete-du-cassoulet.com
Beside the cassoulet, the other emblem of the town is the Grand Bassin. It is an artificial lake of 7 ha, part of the bigger structure of the Canal du Midi, that was inaugurated...

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Cathar Village At around: 34.8 km

Minerve Situated on the southern part of the Natural Park of Haute-Languedoc, at the foot-hills of Montainge Noire and only 1 hour drive from the Mediterranean sea, the little village of Minerve, population 122, is in the same time the historic capital of the Minervois region, an outstanding historic AND geologic site and a member of the "Most beautiful villages of France" - "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" - community.
Built on a rocky bluff, Minerve, or Menerba in the local Occitan language, overlooks from an altitude of more than 60 meters (200 feet) the gorges of the Cesse and Brian Rivers.
The Minerve village region - "le Minervois" - was inhabited since the prehistoric times. The region, together with the whole...

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Listed as Great Site of Midi-Pyrenees At around: 34.91 km

Sorèze Sorèze and its abbey is listed - together with the Saint Ferréol lake - as on of the important tourist sites of the Midi-Pyrenees region of southwest France - Grandes Sites de Midi-Pyrenees.
The location of the present days little town of Soréze was chosen by Pepin of Aquitaine, king of Aquitaine and grandson of Charlemagne, as the founding site of a Benedictine abbey. The abbey was first destroyed in the 10th century by the Normans and later in the 16th century during the Religious Wars.
The same way as following the destructions by the Normans the abbey was rebuilt in the 17th century and in October 1682 a Benedictine monk called Dom...

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UNESCO Heritage List At around: 36.58 km

Saint-Ferreol Lake and Revel Saint Ferreol Lake is at the heart of the complex water supply system of the Canal du Midi, alongside with which is included in the UNESCO's World Heritage list.
This lake that has a surface of 68ha is an artificial body of water that contains 6 millions cubic meters of water. It is formed by the Laudot and Sor Rivers whose waters are collected by a dam built between 1667 and 1672 by the engineer Pierre-Paul de Riquet. The idea was to build a system that will collect enough water from the Montagne Noire to allow the navigation on the Canal du Midi regardless of season and the quantity of precipitations.
Surrounded by mild rolling hills the lake's shore is...

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Mysterious At around: 38.14 km

Bugarach - The Sacred Mountain Bugarach is a quiet charming little village - population 180 - at the feet of the peak with the same name, in heart of the Corbières region.
The Bugarach Mountain – that with its 1231 meters height dominates the region – is an “upside down” mountain meaning a mountain where upper layers of rock - dating from the Jurassic age 135 million years ago - are older than the lower ones - dating from the Cretacic age 75 million years ago. One explanation is that millions of years ago, at the time of the Pyreneean chain creation, a powerful explosion propelled the mountain's tip that landed afterwards upside down. Because of this geological anomaly the magnetic poles of the site...

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Plus Beaux Villages de France At around: 38.56 km

Camon Situated in Ariège department of the southwest, Camon is a fortified village listed as one of the most beautiful in France "Plus Beaux Villages de France".
The village was born towards the end of the first millennium of Christian era, on the banks of the River Hers, next to a Benedictine abbey founded in 778 by Charlemagne.
On June 18, 1279 the village - like all the other communities located on the Hers River valley - was completely destroyed by a flood.
During the next 30 or so years the village was rebuilt after the urbanistic plans of the time of a French royal fortress.
In 1494 the town was in large part destroyed again by...

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At around: 38.71 km

Répudre Bridge Channel The Répudre bridge channel, built in 1676, is the first aqueduct bridge built by Pierre Paul de Riquet and the first of its kind in the world.
It is name this way because it crosses the little creek of Répudre at the border between the the communal territories of Paraza and Ventenac.
It is a backcountry location but worth a detour.
The little town of Ventenac - population just over 500 - is situated on the hill overlooking the "Canal du Midi" and the plains of the Aude valley. The place was inhabited since Roman times and it was they, the Romans, who gave the town the name Aventinus from where Ventenac name derives.
Ventenac territory is famous for producing one of the best...

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Grand Site du Midi-Pyrénées At around: 41.25 km

Mirepoix Mirepoix, a town of just above 3,000 inhabitants in the Ariège department of southwest of France, is nowadays the proud bearer of the distinction "Grand Site du Midi-Pyrénées".
Due to its urban design Mirepoix can be described as a "bastide" - a fortified town with parallel roads and houses located around a central square.
Mirepoix region was inhabited since the dawn of the time. During the Neolithic times a new population coming from the Iberic peninsula arrived here and marked its territory with megaliths and dolmens that can still be seen in Ariège.
It is only in the 10th century that the town of Mirepoix is born at the feet of a fortified castle overlooking the Hers River valley from the right...

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UNESCO Heritage List At around: 43.15 km

Seuil de Naurouze Seuil de Naurouze was one of the 3 important parts _ besides the canal itself and the water reservoir - of the system called Canal du Midi. The water from the Saint Ferreol lake was channeled to this specific location "Seuil de Naurouze" that was established by Pierre Paul de Riquet as being the highest point - 189.43 altitude - of the Canal.
Water spilled on one side of the threshold flows towards the Atlantic while spilled on the other side flows towards the sea.
The threshold is physically represented by the water between the two locks called significantly "Ocean" and "Mediterranée" situated 5km from each other.
The complex of Naurouze was built between 1669 and 1673. It was initially a...

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Cathar Castle At around: 43.18 km

Peyrepertuse Castle - A Cathar Fortress After Carcassonne the most important fortress Cathar and one of the five "sons" of Carcassonne fortress - along with Queribus, Puilaurens, Termes and Aguilar.
It is situated on a 800m high rocky promontory above the village of Duilhac - population 90 ! - and only around 5 Km from another cathar fortress - Queribuss. On a clear day from its highest point you can see the Mediterranean see. It is easily accessible.
During the crusade the castle is owned by the heretic sympathizer Guillaume de Peyrepertuse. The castle falls into the crusaders hands on the 16th of November 1240 and becomes a border protection stronghold....

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At around: 44.04 km

Castres Situated some 78Km (or 49mi) east of Toulouse and 44km (or 27mi) southeast of Albi, Castres is the second largest town of the department of Tarn (department number 81). The town - now with a population of over 40,000 - was founded in the 9th century around a Benedictine abbey.
During the heyday of the pilgrimage to Saint James de Compostela during the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries Castres became an important stop on the so called "Arles path" to Compostela in Spain.
In 1317, Castres was created bishopric and remained like this until 1790.
During many centuries Castres prosperity was tightly linked to the Agout River that crosses the town. One can still...

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At around: 45.17 km

Fontfroide Abbey Fontfroide Abbey is situated in the beautiful masif with the same name - small rolling hills not higher then 300 meters covered by meditereanan vegetation - close to the city of Narbonne.
The abbey initially founded in 1093 joined the Cistercian religious order in 1145 and kept on being expanded until the 14the century.
During the cruisade The Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century it was one of the headquarters of the Papal forces, under the leadership of the abbot Arnaud Amalric.
The abbey it is a wonderfully preserved monasic residence and is listed as Historic Monument by the French Ministry of Culture.
Finish your visit with a very nice easy hike to the Cross of Fontfroide...

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Cathar Castle At around: 45.67 km

Queribus Castle - A Cathar Fortress Queribus Castle is considered the last stonghold of the cathare resistence.
Its fall in 1255 marks the end of the Crusade against the cathars.
The castle is situated on a 729 meter high rock above the picturesque village of Cucugnan.
From this isolated pointy promontory the castle surveys the Languedoc plains, the Alberes massif and further the Mediterranean sea.It is considered to be one of the "Five Sons of Carcassone" along with Termes, Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse and Aguilar the famous line of five strategically placed castles that was protecting the french border with Spain - until 1659 when the border was moved after the "Treaty of the Pyrenees" more south.
The castle still preserves many vestiges of the times when it...

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Cathar Castle At around: 45.78 km

Puilaurens Castle - A Cathar Fortress Puilaurens Castle is perched on a 700 meter high rock above the villages of Lapradelle and Puilaurens at the border between Aude and Pyrenees-Orientales departments.
It is France's most southern fortified castle.
After the fall of Monsegur many cathars sought refuge in other castles among them Puilaurens. The castle was one of the last to fall into cathare cruisaders hands. After the cuisade when Languedoc became a part of the French kingdom the castle became a fortification that ensured the protection of the border with the neighboring Spain.
After the treaty of 1679 when Rousillon - the region in which it is situated - was anexed to the French Crown, the castle lost its strategic importance....

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At around: 45.84 km

The village  of Saint Felix de Lauragais Situated between Toulouse and Carcassone, Saint Felix de Lauragais is a small village - population 1354 - that offers from its highest point at 339m altitude an exceptional panorama of Languedoc and Midi-Pyrenees regions from "Montagne Noir" all the way to the Pyrenees, panorama that includes no less then 7 departments.
Like many old villages of France Saint Felix de Lauragais is a place where layers of history are heaped one on top of the other.
The village was inhabited since Neolithic era and was through the ages a roman camp, a Visigothic fortress, a bastide.
It is here that the first Cathare Council took place in 1167. The council, attended by Nicetas, the Bogomil pope, established an administrative organisation...

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Mysterious At around: 46.02 km

Sidobre The story started around 300 millions years ago when liquid magma was buried under a huge mountain chain. In time the mountains have been eroded by wind and water and what remains of them is the central France mountainous structure called Massif Central. The lava has cooled down during millions of years and gave birth to a granite block - around 15 km long, 7 km wide and 10 km deep, one of the biggest in Europe - that forms now the Sidobre region, part of the Natural Park of Haut Languedoc.
Situated between the towns of Castre at west and Brassac at east, Sidobre offers extraordinary, unique in Europe, landscapes with huge masses of granite, sometimes strangely carved by nature...

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At around: 46.06 km

Burlats Burlats - a little charming town at the gateway of the fascinating Sidobre region in the Natural Park of Haut Languedoc.
Burlats - now population 2,000 - was founded most probably in the 9th century around a Benedictine abbey.
In the 10th century the town and its region is donated by the Count of Toulouse to the Trencavel family, Viscounts of Albi, Béziers, Narbonne and Carcassonee, whose head Raymond Roger Trencavel achieved fame in the 13th century, during the Cathar crusade, for his fight against Simon de Monfort, the crusaders leader. Montfort beat Trencavel and the latter died, only 23 years of age, imprisoned in one of the dungeons of the Carcassonne fortress. The Viscount Raymond Roger did most probably grow-up...

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Mysterious At around: 49.01 km

The Intermittent Spring of Fontestorbes The intermittent spring of Fontestorbes is a natural wonder.
It was already famous during antiquity and throughout the centuries it was attributed magical or divine powers.
Its name Fontestorbes comes from the Latin "fons turbatus" which means "enraged fountain". During the dry periods between the middle of July and middle of November the spring becomes intermittent.
A cycle starts with the water gushing noisily from the bottom of the cave with an impressive speed, and then it calms down and flows normally during 10 minutes until it reaches the maximum level from where it forms a cascade that feeds the river l'Hers. Subsequently the water starts to recede to finally disappear through a breach in the right part of the cave.
The whole cycle...

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At around: 49.07 km

The village of Avignonet-Lauragais Avignonet-Lauragais is a small village -population a little over 1000 –-situated in the department of Haute Garonne not far from the "Autoroute des Deux Mers" that links Toulouse to Carcassonne to Narbonne. It is also a village situated on the banks of the Canal du Midi. The site of the village was inhabited since 8000 BC.
However probably the most important event ir>n its history took place in 1242, during the last years of the Crusade against the Cathars.
In May 1242 the Inquisition sets up a tribunal in Avignonet. The village is at the time the turf of Raymond d’Alfaro one of the officers of Raymond VII Count of Toulouse, a known cathar supporter.
During the night of May 12, 1242 a...

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