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Basic Information

Carcassonne (Carcassonna in the local Occitan language, Carcaso in Latin) is an ancient city in southern France which has been continuously inhabited since ~3500 BC. For more information on Carcassonne's "mundane" history, see Wikipedia.

It is suggested that Carcassonne is the basis of the city of Carcosa, mythologised in the works of Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers.

Carcassonne's history is strongly connected to the history of the Gnostic Catharist movement. The city was a Catharist stronghold until the Albigensian Crusade. The Cathars of Carcassonne have since featured in many fictional, occultist and pseudo-historical works (e.g. Labyrinth and Holy Blood, Holy Grail).

The city's restoration by Viollet-le-Duc and his successors has certain similarities to the relationship between the cities of Hastur/Yhtill/Alar and Carcosa, which was said to consume these realms and subsume them within itself. Viollet-le-Duc's book on Carcassonne is available here (in French). Viollet's critics charged that he had destroyed the original medieval town to erect a fantasy city, which he then claimed was truer to reality than the original was. The famous architectural critic John Ruskin stated that the type of restoration employed by Viollet-le-Duc was "a destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered: a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed." Robert W Chambers attended the french L'Ecole Des Beaux Arts which was hostile to le-Duc and sympathetic to Ruskin, and so may have been aware of the controversy.


The Carcassonnian Cathars in Theodore Roszak's novel Flicker strongly resemble the actions of a cult of The King In Yellow. Roszak's Cathars infiltrate the movie industry in an attempt to corrupt the youth of the world into life-hating nihilism.

Carcassonne appears as a real city that is never reached before death, in Gustave Naudad's (1820-1893) poem "Carcassonne". An English translation of the poem is here. An alternative translation is here.

Carcassonne has also been used as a fictional unreachable city by Lord Dunsany, who was one of the major influences on H. P. Lovecraft, particularly his Dreamlands tales. Dunsany's short story "Carcassonne" appeared in 1910 in the collection ''A Dreamer's Tales'', which is available here. In it, Carcassonne is a legendary city of beauty, inhabited by a nymph or witch.

"Far away it was, and far and far away, a city of gleaming ramparts rising one over other, and marble terraces behind the ramparts, and fountains shimmering on the terraces. To Carcassonne the elf-kings with their fairies had first retreated from men, and had built it on an evening late in May by blowing their elfin horns."

It is prophesied by a nameless diviner, who comes to a feast but "has no place of honour" (possibly The Stranger, the herald of The King in Yellow) that the heroes, King Camorak and his warriors, will never reach Carcassonne. The King, his bard and his warriors attempt to defy the prophecy and Fate by reaching Carcassonne, but fail, and eventually die or vanish.

Carcassonne is also the title of a short story by William Faulkner, the "southern Gothic" writer. Written in 1931, it concerns a man who attempts to cheat death.

Game and Story Use

  • Carcassonne is a natural setting for any game of modern or medieval occult conspiracy (e.g. Unknown Armies, Kult, In Nomine, Call of Cthulhu (any era)) owing to its Gnostic connections and the popularity of Gnosticism in the current crop of christian conspiratorial pseudohistory (the Da Vinci Code, etc).
  • Carcassonne can be specifically used as a gateway to Carcosa in any game influenced by Robert W Chambers and the Hastur mythos, or as a gateway to Fairyland by any Dunsany-influenced setting (e.g. Changeling).
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