Visigoth signToday we’re going WAY back in history, to the Visigoths. Everybody gets all excited about the Middle Ages, but there were plenty of things that happened in these parts a good 1,000 years earlier.

The Visigoths were a Germanic tribe that moved into southwestern France as the Roman Empire started falling apart, around 400 A.D. In fact, the Visigoths sacked Rome (it was the second time for Rome, having been sacked the first time 800 years earlier, by the Gauls), which speeded the empire’s decline.

Alaric
Mont Alaric

The chief of the Visigoths was Alaric, whose name graces the peak of a small mountain just outside Carcassonne. Mont Alaric, at 600 meters high, makes for a nice hike that affords wonderful views.

Visigoth tombThe countryside in the south is riddled with Visigoth traces. Near the village of Villarzel-Cabardès, about 12 km from Carcassonne, a Visigoth cemetery, known as the “Moural des Morts,” is nestled under some pine trees. The Visigoths are thought to have lived in the area from the fifth to seventh centuries.

Visigoth tomb 1The cemetery has 44 stone tombs, oriented east-west. The Visigoths don’t seem to have been big people. Obviously child mortality was high back then, but even the biggest tombs seem pretty small.

The archeological artifacts from the area, apart from the tombs themselves, are collected at a small but fascinating museum in Villarzel. It’s the passion of Louis Guiraud, whom one must telephone to open up the museum. He’s an excellent guide.

Visigoth tombs 2

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6 thoughts on “Visigothic

  1. I knew about the Cathars, of course, even have a couple of books on them. But had no idea about Visigoths in the neighborhood. The first picture of those graves just gave me chills.

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    1. What shocked me was how small they were. Life must have been so hard. There are other ruins…ceremonial things…I will post more. I am just fascinated by all this (wannabe archaeologist). The little museum is fantastic, BTW.

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  2. Hi! (waving) Nice to meet you on your blog. 🙂

    (This would sound dorky but I just left you a return comment on my blog so hope you’ve made that connection).

    This is precisely the type of post I like. I love history and archaeology. I seem to remember I almost went to Carcassonne when I lived in Avignon. That’s nearby, isn’t it?

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    1. Thank you for commenting! Avignon is close vis-a-vis Paris, but it is still three or four hours away by car.
      Honestly, I love history. Not so much the dates–I was overwhelmed by my kid’s history homework in the U.S. equivalent of third grade — but I adore all of the archaeological stuff as long as nobody is going to test me on it. Have you read the book about the year 1000? Kind of gives an idea of what life was like. Not great.

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