Carcassonne Day Two : Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus


Next on our little saunter around Carcassonne was a visit to the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus and there’s been a religious building on this site since the sixth century. Mostly built between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, it was the town’s main cathedral until 1803 and it’s an impressive building. For a period in the eighth century, this area of France was under Muslim occupation although no-one is quite sure what happened to the cathedral at that stage and there’s nothing left of the original building. It was all a little sub-optimal in 1209 during the Siege of Carcassonne as the authorities needed to pinch some of the cathedral’s stone to repair some of the damaged ramparts. But it was repaired and there were numerous expansions over the following centuries. The walled city had started to depopulate and fall apart a bit by the end of the eighteenth century, with the dormitory, refectory and kitchens for the monks being demolished in 1792. The move to make the Saint-Michel church the new cathedral took place in 1803, but the resurgence in tourism to the area recently has ensured that this former cathedral is still well visited.


With its origins going back to the seventeenth century, the organ was enlarged between 1772 and 1775, being made an historic monument in its own right in 1970. By that time it was in poor condition and it was restored between 1982 and 1985.


The pulpit.


The choir and apse is the oldest part of the building with its impressive stained glass.


More stained glass. I obviously haven’t got a clue what is what here, but some of this stained glass is from the fourteenth century, which seems to be a remarkable survival to me. I’m not a student of architecture (or indeed arguably anything), but it all feels well balanced and proportioned, the medieval architects have inserted a lot of glass here with some degree of expertise.


One of the rosettes on the arm of the transept. This basilica does have the challenge that it’s such a visited tourist attraction that its use as a religious building is compromised to a degree, it’d be hard to take part in a confession with the 36 tourists walking by and it’s hard to find any quiet areas. Although, on the flip side, there’s the opportunity to get money from excited and delighted visitors to the building. I had a little look at the reviews and that challenge is evident:

“Very beautiful place of worship but a shame that it has fallen into the hands of mass tourism which does not respect the silence within a sacred place.”

And when it’s used as a religious building, there’s feedback about that in the form of 1 star reviews….

“We would have loved to visit it, but unfortunately there was a wedding.”


“Thrown out of the church because rich people decide to get married at the beginning of August in the church.”

Anyway, that’s probably enough about the basilica as it was then time for us to focus on our dining requirements for the evening.