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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 on the 16th of May 1681. It is today a pleasure port but at its inception was meant to make of Castelnaudary one of the biggest ports of the canal, an objective that was fulfilled at the time and that brought prosperity to the region in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Besides being a commercial port, the "Grand Bassin", was a ship yard, where the small vessels navigating the canal could be repaired, and also the first overnight stop of the postal boat coming from Toulouse.
The old bridge situated on the North side of the lake was built in the same time with the canal in the late 17th century. It still stands in its original shape.
On the southern side of the lake there are located the Saint Roch locks that allow a water level vertical drop of 9.42 meters.
The city of Castelnaudary, whose existence is document attested as early as the 12th century, has 18 buildings listed as historic monuments by the French Ministry of Culture . The most representative is arguably the church of Saint Michel.
The church was initially built in the 13th century in a gothic meridional style. In 1355 during the Hundred Years Wars the church was almost entirely burned down by the armies of Edward Woodstock the Black Prince. The church was rebuilt and enlarged several times through out the centuries and features an outstanding 18th century monumental pipe organ.