Août 1898, Fêtes de Gascogne, Premeir embrasement de la Cité de Carcassonne

The story behind the fire

On 14th August 1898, the Citadel of Carcassonne played host to the “Cadets de Gascogne”, a famous group of eminent personalities from the world of literature, art and politics.

A great celebration was organised in their honour, with historical reconstitutions, balls, banquets and parades… At nightfall, the old town was lit up by a spectacle of fire that marked the end of the festivities.
The people of Carcassonne and everyone in the audience were awe-struck. It was such a crowning success that the town council decided to make it an annual event.

Ever since, each year on 14th July, Bastille Day, the Citadel bursts into flame and smoke engulfs the town, amid explosions, whistling rockets and the smell of gunpowder.

Hundreds of thousands of people gather at the foot of the Citadel to enjoy this spectacle, now a ritual that nobody in Aude or across the region wants to miss!


Anywhere else, it is forbidden to launch firework shells within 650 metres of a monument. In this case, however, because the blaze is part of the Citadel’s history and heritage, the pyrotechnists benefit from a dispensation. They comply with all the usual safety standards as well as specific rules that apply to the Citadel of Carcassonne as a UNESCO World Heritage feature.

La Cité de Carcassonne la nuit

The lights of the Citadel suddenly go out...

The show is about to start!!!
Magnificent, magical, awesome, impressive, poetic, splendid, memorable…there’s no shortage of adjectives to describe this absolutely amazing show. From 10.30 pm, for more than 25 minutes, the Carcassonne sky lights up with sparkling shades of blue, silver, yellow, green and gold in the form of circles, hearts, smileys, pal:m trees and even whirlwinds.

Somewhere around the middle of the scene, walls and towers glow red amid clouds of smoke. The Citadel really does burst into flame. The scene becomes unreal, as the huge volume of smoke carried on the wind gives the ancient ramparts a ghostly appearance.

Cité de Carcassonne, tours

Then the rockets fill the sky again, even more spectacular than before, building to a glorious grande finale that takes your breath away, quite literally. For just a few moments, the 600-metre facade shimmers with explosions by the thousand. The hearts of the buzzing crowd beat faster with each burst, to the ecstatic cries of children and adults alike!

Tip from an expert

Get to Carcassonne early on the day of the event, if only to make sure you find somewhere to park!

Porte Narbonnaise, Cité de Carcassonne de nuit
carcassonne, feu d'artifice, cité
Cité de carcassonne, embrasement

Watching the fireworks

Beware, you won’t be alone! Some 700,000 people come to admire this spectacle every 14th July. To enjoy it to the full, it’s best to arrive early.
You can admire the fireworks display from the banks of the Aude, or facing the Citadel from some of the bridges that straddle this river.

The show is free and there are no grandstands or seating.

Taking photographs

Important: check the wind direction.

If it’s blowing from the West there’ll be no problem.
If it’s coming off the sea, conditions won’t be as good because it will blow the smoke towards the town and cloak the Citadel.
Conditions will be great if there’s no wind at all, but this is rare.

Forget the flash! It’s of no use at all, unless you want to photograph the people just in front of you! Use a tripod to avoid any movement as this would produce blurred shots!


carcassonne, feu d'artifice, cité

The best spots for the fireworks display

The Carcassonne fireworks can be seen for miles around, but it’s much more impressive from close up. Regular spectators have their secret little places (which we won’t reveal), but the map below shows a few strategic places worth knowing about:

carcassonne, feu d'artifice, cité