The Département de l’Aude (11) is in southern France, bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. The River Aude, which rises in the Pyrénées-Orientales, flows north and northeastwards through the west of the department, until it turns eastward at Carcassone to flow to the Mediterranean northeast of Narbonne.
The department was formed from the southwest of Languedoc in 1790 and had once belonged to Septimania or Gothia, where authority had fragmented in the early years of France’s history, and where royal authority was asserted in the 13th century as a result of the Albigensian Crusade. The Cathar castles are now a principal tourist attraction; they were maintained as castles long after Catharism disappeared because the area was a vital border region until the province of Roussillon was ceded by Spain in 1659.
From 1940 the Aude was in unoccupied France until the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942 led to occupation by German troops. Under the Vichy régime the department was placed under the Regional Prefect at Montpellier for police and economic matters.
In 1960 the department became part of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
The capital is Carcassone. The sub-prefectures for the other arrondissements are at Limoux (southwest) and Narbonne (northeast). Castelnaudary, in the northwest, was another until 1926. Narbonne was an ancient Archbishopric, Carcassone a Bishopric. In 1790 Narbonne’s ecclesiastical pre-eminence made it the see for the department, but in 1800 Carcassone’s general pre-eminence led to the permanent transfer of the see.