St Antoine House and locality
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Bizanet : Narbonne : Cathar Castles : Carcassonne : Fontfroide Abbey

Nature : Beaches

The City of Carcassonne
Created over 2000 years ago and remodelled in the 19th century, Carcassonne is one of the finest examples of beautifuly preserved architecture from the Middle Ages. The medieval city and its ramparts emerge from the vineyards close to the summits of the Corbières - impenetrable citadels. These fortresses acted as a refuge for the Cathars during the Alibigeois invasion. Today Carcassonne is a classed as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The river Aude and the canal du Midi separate the " lower town " from the mediaeval city built in the 13th century and restored in the 19th by Viollet le Duc.

To visit in the medieval city: the Narbonne gate; the Tréseau tower; the count's castle (12th c.); the lapidary depot; the Aude gate; the basilica of Saint Nazaire and Saint Celse (11th and 14th c.); Vade tower and the old town where the shops flourish as they did in the old days.

In the lower town: the Old Bridge which crosses the river Aude; the Murat hotel decorated with tapestries from Aubusson; the fine arts museum; Neptune's fountain (18th c.) in Carnot Square; Saint Michael's cathedral in typical Languedoc gothic style; the church of Saint Vincent; St Carmes chapel (13thc.) and the centre for Cathar sudies.

Fontfroide Abbey
Hidden at the end of a small lane bordered by the garrigue and cypress trees, lies the abbey of Fontfroide, one of the most beautiful cistercian abbeys in France.

In 1093 Viscount Aymeric the 1st of Narbonne allowed a community of monks to settle on his land at Fons Frigidus, a secret, wooded retreat in the Corbières, with a cold water spring. Affiliated to the cistercian order in 1145, the abbey gained enormous propserity: it owned 25 large farms, 20,000 sheep, numerous agricultural estates across the Aude, Rousillon and Catalonia.

The 12th century abbey church, of cathedral dimensions includes the capitular hall, the cloister, with its floral decorations which are evidence of this golden age.

In the old vegetable garden is a collection of nearly 3,000 rose bushes which flower in 11 colours in season (from May to September). The abbey is 10km from Saint-Antoine and
open all year round.

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@ LesCorbiè December 2004