Carcassonne and the Museum of Torture

France, Provence

My trip to the walled city of Carcassonne.

Summer 2012.

Train view from Spain to France

Bus view from Spain to France

We had just left Barcelona, and after a long bus ride, we stopped at the walled city of Carcassonne, in the southernmost tip of France, close to Provence.

Heading to Carcassonne

Heading to Carcassonne

Our tour bus dropped us off and we were free to wander the streets, doing whatever we liked.

Fortress of Carcassonne

Fortress of Carcassonne


Outer edges of Carcassonne

The walls fortifying the city were impressive, and lived up to expectations of the quintessential European castle archetype.

Walking in between the fortified walls

Walking in between the fortified walls

Carcassonne's impressive walls

Carcassonne’s impressive walls

For purposes of simplicity, I’m just going to refer to the walled city of Carcassonne as “the castle.”

The inside of the castle was full of shops and restaurants, as well as a few hotels and apartments. Many of the shops sold Medieval paraphernalia, stuffed dragons and castle figurines. There were even real swords for sale, and all of us joked about getting one (We were all secretly serious).

Weaponry for sale in Carcassonne

Weaponry for sale in Carcassonne

I honestly could have spent days exploring the castle, but we only had a little time to spare.

Above the shops

Above the shops

The streets were closely packed, and every single shop was temptingly inviting.

Wandering the streets of Carcassonne

Wandering the streets of Carcassonne

To make the most of our time, we decided to check out something that our Tour guide had mentioned briefly…

Carcassonne Torture Museum

Front entrance to the Museum of Torture

Taken from google: Front entrance to the Museum of Torture

This is one of the most unforgettable parts of my trip to France. We were expecting a museum. What we got was a haunted house.

Pictures were not allowed, so I’ll have to make due with google images to explain how awful and how amazing this museum was.

First off, the museum was HUGE, but had no directions whatsoever. Every single door looked like it wasn’t meant for us to enter. Portions of the trip were outdoors. Mannequins were EVERYWHERE. It was so dimly lit, and the mannequins were so convincingly clothed, that at times we weren’t sure whether they were mannequins or workers ready to jump out and scare us.

Torture Museum Mannequins

Torture Museum Mannequins

They were positioned to be administering the torture, receiving the torture, or, in the most disturbing case, crying over their dead husband’s spilled brains. An old scratchy track of a woman sobbing hysterically was placed next to the hunched over woman mannequin. The husband mannequin, whose body swung back and forth in a noose, had his neck at an awkward angle and had a blood splatter on the ground underneath him.

Guillotine in the Museum of Torture

Taken from google: Guillotine in the Museum of Torture

Some corridoors were only barely lit, and others were not lit at all.

Corridoor of the torture museum

Taken from google: Corridoor of the torture museum

Sometimes, long flowey curtains were used as partitions. These created an illusion of movement, which made us even more jumpy.

Some parts were set up quite exactly like hallways of a haunted house, and we heard some screams of other tourists. At one point, we took a staircase downward only to find ourselves at a doorway looking down into a pit. We couldn’t see into it, but we immediately ran back up the stairs.

It was still a museum, though, and we saw many historical artifacts.

Medieval Torture Museum room

Taken from google: Medieval Torture Museum room

Torture device, used hundreds of years ago.

Taken from google: Torture device, used hundreds of years ago.

Everything was authentic, but there were no glass barriers or obstacles keeping people from touching the pieces. You could touch the spikes on which people had been impaled. We saw an iron maiden, a stretcher, a chastity belt, old medical tools, and hundreds upon hundreds of devices used to kill accused witches in the worst ways possible. Each device had a description in English, and we learned things that day that I would rather not know.

Witch burning exhibit

Taken from google: Witch burning exhibit

We finally made it out of the catacomb-like hallways of the torture haunted house museum, and shakily laughed at each other under the shining sun. It felt very strange suddenly teleporting back to the happy dirt streets of the castle.

One of my friends looked down into her hands and realized that she had been clutching a map so hard, that it was now a wrung sweaty scrap. We went into a restaurant for lunch to calm down.

The torture museum is a definite must-see for anyone interested in visiting Carcassonne. I only wish I had had more time to explore the rest of the castle!

Edge of the castle overlooking the town

Edge of the castle overlooking the town

Exploring the Castle

Exploring the Castle


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