The medieval town dominates the ordinary landscape of Carcassonne. It conceals extraordinary wealth, often unknown, which s guarded jealously amid the ramparts. Among them, a beautiful Roman mosaic from the first century.
Under several beds of gravel and lime which allowed it to survive the centuries without damage, it appears there at our feet. A Roman mosaic dating from the first century, at the time of the colonia Iulia Carcaso founded under Emperor Augustus in the wake of the colonising of Narbonne, then first Roman city outside Italy.
To find this mosaic of 2,000 years, you have to cross the courtyard of the Comtal castle and climb the flight of stairs that lead to the large slab. There, cross the door surmounted by a cross indicating that it was once access to an ancient chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary and adjoining the former Bishop's Palace.
Going down the spiral staircase leading to the mosaic, we see the apse of the chapel gutted.
Unearthed in 1926 by the first curator of the city, Peter Embry and fitted in 1974, this mosaic of 40 square meters likely covered the floor of a Roman noble house. "Located on the north side, oriented Atax - the Roman name of the Aude River - the most comfortable houses belonged to the nobility," says Jean-Louis Gasc, National Monuments tour guide.
The mosaic shows a frieze of interlacing doubled amazon shields meant to protect incursions of enemies from outside. It also shows a flower with four petals and a man kneading bread.
It is not impossible that under the soil of other private homes there are housed other Roman mosaics in the city. Curiously, however, in 1967, the villa Gourgouli in Peyriac-Minervois, next to that of a Comtal castle, a Gallo-Roman mosaic, red and blue tiles, was found.
Unfortunately, these two testimonies of the Roman past of Carcassonne are still inaccessible to the public. In 2006, the director of the city at the time, Patricia Corbett banned access for security reasons. The slab of Comtal castle courtyard covering the mosaics had - and still has - some fragility. "Significant structural problems some of which question the overall strength of the building," wrote the director, based on a diagnosis made by the specialist control office Socotec.
Welcome to the blog of Rhedesium
My name is Sandy Hamblett, inspired and passionate researcher of the mysteries at Rennes-les-Bains.