The layout of the Carmelite church is the same as that of Saint Vincent and Saint Michel: the central nave bathed in light gives access to lateral chapels which are not interconnected: the choir is the focal point.
This church of Mediterranean Gothic style is the main part of what remains of an old Carmelite convent. The community was dispersed during the French Revolution (the church was used as a barn), but was able to buy back the whole complex in the mid-19th century. However, they were chased away again. This explains the demolition and that two chapels were used as shops.
Time has left its mark:
Exploration to evaluate the renovation revealed a few features which could be previous to the Black Prince setting fire to the town in 1355: the base of two capitals dated end of the 12th century or the beginning of the 13th century are still to be seen in the first chapel to the left.
There are also traces of paintings previous to the 19th century frescoes perhaps dating back to the 15th century.
The tombs of important families from Carcassonne were dismantled and some of them sold to the Augustinian Museum in Toulouse.
The 19th century murals were painted by Marius Engalhière, a disciple of Viollet le Duc. In particular, a fresco of the Virgin Mary in tears is a fine work of art. The murals portray the spiritual progress of the Carmel from the holy founders. In the same vein are painted stone statues of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila.
Finally, the legacy of the 20th century is the stained glass window of the choir representing Elijah on his chariot of fire (the work of the artist Gérard Million). The experience of Elijah on the Mount Carmel is considered by Carmelites as the starting point of their spirituality.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel used to be the scapular chapel, used by a pious lay fraternity associated with the Carmelite Order. The first arch of the original chapel is made of bricks, the second is partly concealed by whitewash, but where water has seeped in, 15th and 16th century frescoes (an angel) are partly revealed and would be worth restoring.
At present, the bishop’s residence and offices are housed in what remains of the old convent; in particular premises that are not open to the public, with two Renaissance doors, one of which gives access to a stone spiral staircase leading to the bishop’s apartment.
In the entrance hall there is a fine painting of Christ which has been lent by the Court of Carcassonne. Nearby, a recently restored painting portrays Saint Vincent in his dungeon. There is also some restored wood panelling which was probably part of an altar-piece (perhaps 17th century) and lastly a large front door with the Carmelite arms (arms : 17th century, the door may be more recent) which gives access to the rue de la Liberté.
In the courtyard, the 17th century arches of the cloister are visible, although practically nothing remains of the 14th century cloister and there is a beautiful view of the fortified bell tower which was levelled down in 1792.
Finally during the survey of the building, the roof had to be examined from inside and it was discovered then that the original 14th century framework is still in place, and, of greater interest, there is painted woodwork. We hope to make part of this visible to the public, because the renovation project is to remove the false arch of the first bay (above the gallery) in order to reveal the hidden treasures of this fine jewel of the Bastide.