Posted by the Porte Narbonne, or Narbonne Gate, the entrance of the fabled La Cite in Carcassonne is a striking bust that is often missed upon first glance, for it is overshadowed by the exquisitely preserved, millennia-old citadel in its background. But standing before the porte, her face draws one in - round, with plump cheeks, thin arches for eyebrows that follow the shape of her large, downturned eyes, wavy hair peeking out of her wimple - reminiscent of the "celestial" suns with human faces often seen in the bedroom décor of a hip, teenage girl from the '90s. Gaze upon her from a certain angle and distance, and it seems as if one of the iconic conical roofs behind her doubles as a russet-hued hennin.
Garbed in a fine gown with flower accents embroidered on her sleeves and a fussy wimple and veil, the joyfully radiant face that welcomes visitors into the citadel hardly appears to be the "heroine" type. Rather, the way she is depicted here is what usually springs to mind at the mention of a classic damsel in distress. That being said, while this particular damsel was indeed distressed, she relied on no one to not only save herself from the plight at hand, but the entire citadel itself. This damsel, as inscribed on the plaque underneath the bust, is the beloved Dame Carcas, often billed by the locals as the star of the town's origin story.