Bust of Dame Carcas
This smiling face is the first thing you’ll see when you enter the Cité of Carcassonne, a bust replicating the 16th-century original (which is now kept in the Chateau Comtal). According to the colorful local legend, Dame Carcas was the inspiration for the naming of Carcassonne: she was a princess who lost her husband, then boldly led local troops in defending the citadel against Charlemagne. It’s said that the Dame’s strategic psychological tactics fooled the conquering forces and saved the citadel: after five years under siege, it’s said that the people of Carcassonne were so starved for resources that they nothing left to eat but wheat and a single pig. The story goes that Dame Carcas made a brilliant bluff, feeding the wheat to this last pig and then throwing it from the highest tower, in full view of the enemy. Seeing this, Charlemagne concluded that the siege must be failing if the citadel could afford to waste fattened livestock. He commanded his soldiers to retreat, and Dames Carcas was so overjoyed that she ordered the whole city to start ringing bells from every tower in celebration. One of the townsfolk exclaimed, “Carcas sonne,” or “Carcas rings,” and from that day on Carcassonne was the name of their home – all thanks to one brave and daring princess.