I’m in Carcassonne, in the early stages of a two-week road trip around France. I’m staying at the youth hostel here, in one of the best youth hostel locations I’ve ever seen. I’m inside the walled medieval (I can never spell that, thanks spell check!) city. If it’s not clear what I mean by that, I’m going to put in a picture I took from the road a couple miles away, across a farmer’s field.
How about that? Doesn’t it just make you think of Robin Hood or the Black Death or a jousting competition? (I found out after I wrote that that they do have jousting there in the summer.) So anyway, that’s where I am typing this right now. I’ll continue this later, I’m going to tour the walls right now and then get on the road to my next stop: Provence.
Carcassonne didn’t miraculously survive intact since the middle ages. It was restored by the French government in the mid-1800s. It was a controversial restoration in that it’s seen by many to be too perfect. However, I think it’s an inspired place.
I think we should restore ruins more often. The Parthenon in Athens, the Coliseum in Rome, these should be restored to their former glory. People should be able to see them today in their restored, original state. I do not believe that we should indulge our romantic view of ruins in the case of such stunning buildings. The restored monument would be even more stunning than the ruin.
But are there other reasons, besides cost, why ruins aren’t restored? Is it that archeologically it’s wrong to disturb them, because you cover up historical information as you restore the monument? The solution to that is simply to do a thorough archaeological study of the site before the restoration starts.
I was enthralled by Carcassonne. I think more people would be interested in history if historical structures were restored to be the impressive buildings they once were. If we kept them as a living part of our culture instead of a moldering remnant of the past.