Gazetteer of Cathar Castles
Aguilar – To the East of Tuchan, not far from the road North from Estagel to Narbonne, impressive ruins can be seen on a hill 100 ft. high. This is the castle of Aguilar overlooking a dry landscape of vineyards and scrubland.
No documents have yet been found to date the building of the castle. Belonging to the county of Barcelona, it was entrusted to the lords of Termes, subject to the Trencavels, themselves under the counts of Barcelona, kings of Aragon. No doubt linked to the fate of the castle of Termes, Aguilar went through the Albigensian period without playing an important role. But when the French crown had annexed the lands of the Trencavels and set about defending them against Aragon, Aguilar together with Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse, Queribus and Termes made up the “five sons of Carcassonne”, the name given to the fortresses defending that town.
Arques – At the beginning of the 11th century, Arques belonged to the Lagrasse Abbey and a century later was passed into the hands of the lord of Termes. The castrum at that time did not yet possess a castle. In 1231, it was left to Pierre de Voisins, a former companion in arms to Simon de Montfort. Arques was part of the land that Olivier de Termes took back in 1246 after he surrendered to Louis IX. However he sold it in 1260 to its former occupant Pierre de Voisins whose son Gilles I had the village rebuilt as a bastide in 1268 and undertook the building of the castle and its keep. Gilles II de Voisins continued the work which was completed around 1316. The architecture of the keep, twenty meters high on three floors, proves that the criteria of comfort and elegance were taken into account in this design without by any means neglecting the strict defensive aspects. At the heart of the Razes area, a region which after the council of Pieusse in 1226 became the see of the Cathar bishopric, Arques and was directly implicated in the events of the time. In 1210, the village saw the crusaders on their way from Termes to Puivert when they were going to lay siege to Coustaussa Castle a mere ten kilometers away, to the west of Arques. In the early 14th century, Pierre Authie converted some inhabitants of Arques to Catharism including a certain Pierre Maury who was to give evidence before the inquisitor, Jacques Fournier. After the arrest in 1305 of Jacques Authie, son of Pierre and himself a parfait, the Cathars of Arques asked Pope Clement V, who was then in Lyon, directly to be reconciled with the Church.
Arques is the birthplace of Deodat Roche (1877-1978), one of the first historians of Catharism and the village houses a permanent exhibition on the Cathar theme.
Carcassonne – in the 3rd century b.c. the Volques Tectosages occupied the hill of the present town, the oppidum of Carcaso. In 118 b.c. , the Narbonne area was founded, pax Romana reigneda and Carcassonne, as it was already called, prospered. Before the barbarian threat in the 3rd century, it surrounded itself with ramparts from which about thirty towers soared upwards. In the 5th century the Visigoths installed themselves. At the beginning of the 8th century, the Saracens took it and were chased away by Pepin the Short. The legend of Lady Carcass had its origin in these events. The besieged town was held by the Moors. The Moor king was killed in action and provisions were running out. Lady Carcass, the wife of the dead king, had a sow stuffed with wheat thrown to the foot of the ramparts, thus giving the impressions that the town had plenty of reserves to the Franks who then lifted the siege. It was in the 11th century that Bernard Aton Trencavel became Viscount of Beziers and of Carcassonne.
Then came the dark years of the Albigensian crusade. Besieged in the walled city in July 1209, Raymond Roger de Trencavel had to face the attacks of the crusaders, only a week after the burning of Beziers. The lack of food and water forced the viscount to negotiate. Betrayed and imprisoned, he was murdered a few weeks later. Taking the title of viscount of Beziers and Carcassonne, Simon de Montfort made the city the headquarters of the opposition. In 1229 the viscountcy was abolished, the territory was annexed by the French crown, made a seneshalcy and administered by crown agents.
The son of Raymond Trencavel, leading an army raised in the Cobieres, tried to recover his family lands. Outflanked by the royal army and forced to lift the siege when he was about to take the city, Trencavel then returned to exile.
After this experience the city was turned into was turned into an impregnable fortress. The inner walls were restored and topped with twenty-eight towers, outer walls were added with thirteen more towers, and all routes of access were remarkably defended. From then on the walled city’s function was essentially military becoming the headquarters of a defensive system directed towards Catalonia. Aquilar, Puilaurens, Queribus, Peyrepetuse and Termes were its main outposts; they were called the “five sons” of Carcassonne.
In the early 19th century the Army owned the castle and turned it into a vast quarry, selling off the stones. Viollet –le-Duc undertook the extensive restoration work twenty years later to turn the walled city of Carcassonne into the most impressive and extensive medieval defense system left in the world today.
The Centre de Etude Cathari or the Rene Nelli Center which houses the worlds largest collection of surviving Occitan manuscripts and Inquisition tribunal records is based in the ‘new town’ which has sprung up about the citadel’s outer walls.
Coustassa – seen from the road from Couiza into the Corbieres via the Paradis pass, the ruins of the castle of Coustassa are most impressive. For all their noble airs, it is only a few sections of wall left that face the valley. The castle was built by the Trencavels in the mid- 12th century and occupied by Simon de Montfort in 1210 when it was abandoned. The following year it was besieged by crusaders and surrendered after only a few days. Coustassa was inhabited until the early 19th century, when it was largely pulled down.
The village of Coustassa was the parish of abbe Antoine Gelis who was murdered under mysterious circumstances on All Souls Day in 1897. Some believe the modern village is deliberately laid out in the shape of a skull or a helmet when viewed from the air and latter day treasure hunters have been drawn to the neighbourhood by the vast network of overgrown roads, walls and beehive shaped dry stone constructions known as ‘capitelles’ that dot the surrounding hillside. These enigmatic remains can be best surveyed from horseback and a number of excellent stables can be found in the area.
Foix – the huge rock rising above the confluence of the Ariege and the Arget is the perfect place from which to command the trade routes along the two rivers. Looking North to the Pas de la Barre and South up the valley of the Ariege as far as Andorra and the road to Spain, the location cries out for fortification. The building of Foix is not mentioned in texts before the middle of the 13th century, when the seal of Roger IV of Foix (1241-1265) shows that the castle already had two square towers with battlements, joined by a domestic building. The round tower to the South was not built until the 15th century. More than 34 meters high and built on a steep slope, it is supported by an impressive flying buttress. Close study of the site shows that it was defended by two walls with a large barbican (double gate). The town lay at the foot of the rock, protected by the ramparts joining the natural defences of two rivers. These walls ran along the line of the present Allees de Villote.
Raymond Roger of Foix, brother to the Cathar parfait Esclarmonde de Foix, was a partisan of the Occitan cause referred to in the popular troubadour romances as Raimond Drut or Raimond the Beloved . He fought in Castelnaudary in 1211 and in Muret in 1213. The count was quick to defend not only his people but their rights. The military skills of the lords of Foix were such that Simon de Montfort failed at every attempt to take the castle, until 1217, when he occupied the site to besiege Montgaillard. Raymond-Roger soon recovered his property. In September of that year the Count of Foix participated in the Saint-Lizier conference; he died unvanquished in 1223. His son, Roger-Bernard II entered Toulouse with Raymond VI in 1217 and was a faithful supporter of Raymond VII during the War of Liberation. After the Treaty of Meaux, the latter asked Roger-Bernard II to surrender, which he did in Saint-Jen-en-Verges on June 16, 1229. When Roger – Bernard III inherited the viscounty of Bearn in 1290, the lords of Foix-Bearn became very independent Pyrenean Princes. Their line included Gaston III of Foix-Bearn (1331-1391) known under the name of Gaston Febus. Although abandoned to the profit of the Bearn fortresses, Foix preserved a military role due to its strategic position on the Franco-Aragon border. Finally the union of the Foix-Bearns with the Navarre family further reinforced the power of these southern lords.
The castle remained a feudal residence until the end of the 16th century when it became purely military in function. Its strategic position on the road to Spain spared it the destruction ordered by Cardinal Richelieu. In the early 18th century the Provincial government occupied the building, but a few years later the Revolution turned it into a prison. Napoleon gave it to the departement in 1811. A plan to restore its defensive function was soon dropped and the castle sank into oblivion. In 1886 restoration work was begun by Paul Boewilwald, a pupil of Viollet-le-Duc.
Largarde – the castle stands sentinel over the village of Lagarde, 8 kilometers south-east of Mirepoix. Following the Albigensian crusade the castle was handed over to the Levis-Mirepoix family and modified over time to provide a more comfortable residence. During the French Revolution the castle was partially destroyed but its ruins comprising several towers and crumbling curtain walls still stand sentinel over the valley.
Lastours – in the 11th century, the castles of Lastours were the fief of the lords of Cabaret, vassals of the Trencavels. Their ruins stand above the village of Lastours, on a rocky crest defined by the deep valley of the Greshikou torrent to the west and the Orbiel to the east. Of the four castles, Cabaret, the most southerly and Quertinheux existed in the early 13th century; The third turret ,Tour Regine, was built around 1260. The lords received troubadours there such as Raymond de Miraval and Peire Vidal, who dedicated their verses to Brunissende and Loba, the Louve of Pennautier, both ladies of Cabaret. In autumn 1209, Simon de Montfort began a siege of Cabaret and shortly afterwards the Duke of Burgundy left for the North leaving de Montfort with seriously reduced numbers. In 1210, Cabaret saw 100 men arrive before its ramparts, with their eyes torn out, their noses and upper lips cut off, led by one of them who had only been blinded in one eye. The defenders of Bram had been made to suffer this punishment by de Montfort. In March 1211, after the fall of Termes, Pierre-Roger de Cabaret negotiated his surrender against the freedom of Bouchard de Marly, a close ally of Simon de Montfort, whom he had taken hostage in 1209 and whom he freed “freshly bathed, hair well dressed, clothed and perched on a palfrey”, according to Guillaume de Tudele. In 1223, de Cabaret retrieved the castle which sheltered Pierre Isarn, the Cathar bishop of Carcassonne until 1226 and became the most active resistance center against the French led by the Seneschal Imbert de Beaujeu. However after the Council of Toulouse in 1229, the lords of Cabaret had to abandon their fief that they only to recover for a few short weeks when they accompanied the Raymond Trencavel II in a doomed attempt to reconquer his family lands in 1240. As for the faidits and parfaits found there, they took refuge in Montsegur and in the Fenouilledes area.
Lordat – The impressive rock that rises 400 meters above the River Ariege upstream from Tarascon is of great strategic significance. The castle of Lordat at the top of the hill that commands the valley and the roads from Foix to Catalonia via the Puymaurens pass, to the Pays de Soult via Marmare, and to Querigut, via Pailheres. During the 11th century the castle was a source of dispute between the counts of Foix and Cerdagne, each claiming the area. But it appears that when Roger the Elder’s estates were divided, Lordat fell to the younger son, Roger-Bernard, the first count of Foix.
The Albigensian crusade spared the castle, although it often gave shelter to Cathar Perfecti including Guilhabert de Castres in 1224. On June 16, 1229 Roger-Bernard II, count of Foix, submitting to the French king in the church of Saint-Jean-de-Verges, handed over the pledges of the castles Lordat and Montgrenier, which were returned to him five years later.
Rebuilt in the 14th century, Lordat’s role in the history of the county of Foix was more diplomatic than military. After the bloody events in the area during the Wars of Religion ( 16th century) the King of Navarre, later Henri IV, ordered the destruction of the castle, but rescinded. It survived Cardinal Richelieu’s destruction policy but fell into disuse and was abandoned to the elements.
The oval shape of the castle follows the lines of the outcrop. The walls enclose an area nearly 100 meters by 50 meters. A series of three walls on the easiest slope join to form a single defensive wall on the steepest side. They form a striking system of defense around the keep in which only sections of wall are left. An ancient iron cross stands on a hill overlooking the castle gates. The double cross typical to the area is sometimes known as the ‘Cathar’ cross or the ‘Cross of Lorraine’. After the coming of the inquisition it was adopted as a secret sign or watermark by those who did not wish their sympathies to be known to outsiders. By the early 1930’s the castle was in the property of the Countess de Pujol-Murat, a descendant of the de Foix clan. The Countess was an intimate member of the Polaires, a French secret society. She authorized extensive excavations of the castle ruins in search of the rumored Cathar treasure, the lost book of St. John, which had allegedly been brought to the area by either Papa Nicetas or Christian Rosenkreutz on his return from the holy lands. Documentary evidence exists to suggest that both the German Grail historian Otto Rahn and the Welsh platform psychic Grace Cooke who went on to found the British spiritualist movement known as the ‘White Eagles’ were present at the unorthodox and typically fruitless dig.
Miglos – On a spur of rock not far from the prehistoric cave at Niaux, the castle Miglos commands the valley of the Vicdessos stream from its confluence with the Ariege to Vicdessos village.
The square fortress contains in the Eastern corner an oblong keep some 20 meters high. In the opposite corner is another oblong structure with a vaulted water tank on the ground floor. Various buildings join the two towers, forming an inner courtyard. The East wall, overlooking the path from Baychon, has angled arrow slits pointing at different points on the path.
First mentioned in the mid-12th century, the castle was the seat of the barony of Miglos, subject to the counts of Foix. The existing village covers the barony, including the hamlets of Arquizat, Axiat, Baychon, Norgeat and Norat. In the early 14th century the castle passed from the Miglos to the Usson family. Miglos soon lost its military importance and became a residence, changing hands several times. The last owners were turned out during the French Revolution, leaving the place a ruin.
Minerve – The Cesse and its tributary, the Brian, have cut out deep gorges which join in Minerve isolating and protecting a site which has always presented a strategic interest. On this natural mound, the lords of Minerve possessed a castle of which only a few rare remains can be seen such as the north buttress. This castle protected the access to the fortified village which clings to the side of the cliff. After the sacking Beziers in July 1209, many Cathars took refuge in Minerve. A faidit, Guiraud de Pepieux, who had come from Puisserguier, hid out in Minerve at the end of 1209, where he mutilated two crusader knights whom he had taken prisoner; he tore out their eyes and cut off their noses, ears, and upper lips; five months later the defenders of Bram were subjected to the same mutilations. Guided by Aimery de Narbonne, sworn enemy of the viscount Guillaume de Minerve, the crusaders started the siege of the village in June 1210. The shape of the land made the customary assault difficult, so Simon de Montfort installed four catapults on the edge of the cliffs. The village and the castle were subjected to incessant bombardments. There was much damage but above all the covered walkway which led to the only source of water was destroyed. This was very serious as it was very hot during the summer of 1210. Thirst had become the worst enemy of the besieged. Guillaume de Minerve had to surrender after five weeks of siege. The crusaders invaded the village to the chant of the Te Deum. The lord of Minerve lost his castle but was himself saved, as were his soldiers. As for the Cathars, they were asked to recant. One hundred and forty of them, the majority, refused. On July 22, they were thrown onto the flames of the pyre that the crusaders had prepared in the Ravine of the Cesse. A garrison of Northern troops was installed and the occupation lasted while the castle was of any strategic importance. Minerve was later abandoned and became a hideout for brigands and highwaymen until Louis XIII ordered its destruction in 1637.
Montaillou – East of the Ariege Pyrenees, the Pays d’Aillon runs along the foothills and up the Chioula pass. On the plateau is a hillock, the Mont d’Aillon, which gave its name to both the castle and the village on the slope. That name is Montaillou, famous for the twenty-five hearings conducted by Jacques Fournier from 1318 to 1325. The inquisitors meticulous records were to provide the basis for the work of later historians such as Emmanuel Le Roi Ladurie and Otto Rahn.
Only a few sections of wall are left of the castle. Although the castle was untouched by the Albigensian crusades, the local area was deeply involved in heresy. Some of the villagers were in touch with nearby Montsegur, and at the end of the 13th century the Authie brothers, Cathar Perfecti, had a small congregation there.
Since the Pays d’Aillon came directly under the county of Foix, the castle was the seat of feudal authority, in the shape of two men; the lord of the manor, in charge of the army and police matters, and the bailiff, who delivered justice in the count’s name and collected taxes.
The comte de Foix’s guard tower has long since fallen into ruin and the neighboring village is all but abandoned. The spring at the bottom of the churchyard, once reported to be a portal to the ‘other world’ of faeries and nature spirits would seem to have run dry in recent years but those in the know claim that the statue if the virgin still moves by itself at night when the chapel doors are safely locked.
Montsegur – meaning ‘secure mountain’ and standing on the spur of rock in the Ariege, 1207 meters high on the Saint-Barthelemy massif, overlooking the hills of Plantaurel and Laugaris beyond. It a place with both a majestic and tragic history. Rebuilt in 1204 by Raymond de Pereille, Montsegur came to represent a place of resistance against invaders during the Albigensian Crusade. After an extremely harsh winter, the castle fell to the crusaders on March 16, 1244 and 225 Perfecti were burned alive on the fields below the castle.
Today, what is left of the castle remains a mystery. After an arduous, twenty minute climb you walk into a small courtyard of some 700 sq meters surrounded by high walls. Opposite the main entrance is a small opening, on the right steps to the ramparts, and on the left rises the keep with two bays. There are also signs of building work. The walls have regularly placed square holes for beams. Sections of wall barely emerging from the ground suggest foundations.
It is not very clear how supposedly five hundred people lived here during the siege. There is some sort of a small village at the foot of the fortress and evidence of habitation has been found on the northern and western sides of the outcrop.
The castle’s natural defenses are formidable. The cliffs of the outcrop are steep and high. The south-west flank is protected by three walls. There was a watchpost set up at the eastern end of the outcrop, at the top of Tower Rock. The village that was below the castle walls may have surrounded by a wooden stockade with a barbican (double gate) to the east. The walls along the top of the mountain are the final rampart.
Some historical texts would suggest that Raymond de Pereille was owner of the castle and that Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix, defender of Montsegur, and one of the ‘sons of Belisenna’, married Raymond’s oldest daughter to inherit the castle. Other records suggest that Montsegur was part of a marriage dowry given to Esclarmonde d’Alion, from her father, the Comte de Foix, when she married Bernard d’Alion. Esclarmonde de Foix, her aunt, and the supposed ‘high priestess of the Cathar’s, was already dead by the time of the siege.
As for the treasure and the four that escaped down the mountain, there may have been a treasure, but the four that escaped down the mountain, which is written as fact today, is based on nothing more than a dream that author Napoleon Peyrat had one night while writing his accounts of the siege. There is no proof that four escaped to Bugarach, or across the Pays de Sault to the castle of Usson.
The castle was, however, built by master builders, and on the day of the summer solstice (and some four days before) there is a most striking solar alignment that takes place. As the morning sun enters the east-facing arrow slits in the lower chamber and leaves by the west-facing ones, it marks out through these narrow openings two, brilliantly red rectangles of light that move across the inner sides of the slits opposite. Then they disappear as the sun lights up the chamber walls.
After the siege in 1244, Montsegur was given to the Levis family to whom Simon de Montfort (dead by this time) had promised it to at the start of the crusade. After that the castle held a garrison for a long time and underwent a number of changes.
Opoul-Perillos – this remote limestone plateau overlooking lake Leucate has been continuously occupied since Roman times. The castle was rebuilt in 1246 by Jacques d’Aragon and was occupied alternately by the French and the Spanish. It was destroyed by Cardinal Richilieu in 1642. The remains of the polygonal curtain wall are still visible from a great distance across the dry scrub. Two round towers including the keep guard the plateau’s south-west flank and there are traces of a vaulted tank in the middle of the court. At the base of the plateau are the remains of an abandoned village once known as Salvaterrat. There are several dry stone constructions in the castle’s vicinity reminiscent of the ‘capitelles’ found in Coustassa although these remains are commonly said to be ‘meditation cells’ once used by nuns from the nearby convent of St.Cecile. The locale is rich in unexplored caves which have drawn modern treasure hunters to the area, goaded on by romantic associations with the ‘Chapel Perilous’ and ‘Siege Perilous’ of Grail lore – the vacant thirteenth seat at the Round Table reserved by Merlin for the knight who would one day succeed in the sacred quest. The seat is so strictly reserved however that it proves fatal to anyone else who sits in it…
Peyrepertuse – Northeast of the Galamus gorges in the Corbieres a huge barrier of rock runs East to West. Rising like the prow of a ship to some 800 meters it is 300 meters long and more than 50 meters at the widest point. The south cliff conceals a cave, and to the North there is a shelter beneath the rock. These openings may once have been connected, giving the name “pierced rock”, Peyrepertuse, modern French “pierre percee”. The top of the rock was put entirely to military use. First the flatter Eastern end, where the solid walls with open towers joined by a walkway were built over the sheer cliff face. Opposite the entrance, defended by a zigzag passage, can be seen the well restored remains of the original castle and the Chapel of Sainte-Marie (1115). In the middle of the enclosure is a vast esplanade commanded by the ruins of the castle Saint-Jourdy to the East, built on the orders of Louis IX in 1242. It can reached by the so-called stairway of Saint-Louis, a hundred or so steps cut into the rock.
In the 9th century Peyrepertuse belonged to the county of Besalu. Two centuries later it came under the authority of the counts of Barcelona, later to become kings of Aragon. Despite its size and position the castle played only a minor role in the Albigensian crusade. In 1217, Guillaume de Peyrepertuse had to surrender to Simon de Montfort, becoming his vassal in the presence of the Viscount of Narbonne. However this allegiance was short-lived because he was excommunicated in 1224 and 1229 he was still resisting behind the ramparts of Puilaurens. His castle sheltered Cathars and faidits until 1240. In autumn 1240 Raymond Trencavel II was forced to lift the siege of Carcassonne and seek refuge in Peyrepertuse. The northern French troops, led by Jean de Beaumont, head of the royal army, were at his heels and laid siege to the castle. Caught without supplies, the castle surrendered on November 16 after only three days. The Treaty of Corbeil in 1258, settling the details of the borders with Catalonia, gave the castle to the King of France. With a royal garrison it became an important part of the defensive system based on Carcassonne. When Roussillon was annexed by France in 1659, the castle lost its strategic importance and sank into oblivion. Several shadowy, disembodied presences are said to haunt the ‘governor’s room’ and the narrow flight of stairs leading to the 12th century chapel.
Puilaurens – commanding the road up the River Boulzane from the Aude valley to Conflent, the castle Puilaurens stands on an outcrop of rocks not far from the gorges of the Pierre-Lys. The only access is by a zigzag path up a narrow natural corridor. The keep at the Western end overlooks the path up to a large gateway. This leads into a chamber with twelve arrow slits in the walls, all aimed at the doorway. Beyond this final defense is a large courtyard enclosed by battlemented walls with a walkway. The walls follow the irregular shape of the rock. There are remains of a storehouse or living quarters in the middle of the yard. The castle itself is reached by a narrow path above the main entrance.
At the end of the 10th century, Puilaurens belonged to the abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxa. The castle came under the influence of Aragon in 1162. Although it remained aloof of military operations such as the crusade against the Albigensians, it was refuge for heretics and for faidits, lords such as Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, condemned by the Council of Toulouse in 1229 for his resistance in the castrum of Puilaurens. The lord of Fenouillet , who died in 1242 in the hands of the heretics was a Cathar and the fortresses that he still controlled, such as Puilaurens or Fenouillet, presented serious guarantees in the Fenouilledes area argued over by the crowns of France and Aragon. His son Hugues de Saissac succeeded him but it was Chabert de Barbaira who took military command of the castles. How and when did this castle come back to the Capetians? Sources do not give precise answers to these questions but in 1255 when Queribus was falling, Puilaurens had already entered the royal domain. In 1258, after the treaty of Corbeil, in which Aragon gave over to France all lands to the north of the Agly, Saint Louis and Philip the Bold had the fortifications of Puilaurens well reinforced and with Aguilar, Queribus, Peyrepertuse and Termes, comprising an imposing line of defense of the south of the kingdom called “the five sons of Carcassonne”. In 1260 the garrison of Puilaurens had only twenty-five sergeants. Occupied in 1635 by Spanish troops, Puilaurens lost all its strategic importance after the treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 which moved the border with Spain from the Agly to the line of the crest of the Pyrenees. The castle was made into a prison for a while and then little by little abandoned to the violent assaults of the wind and the patient wear of time.
The southwest tower is also known as the “white lady’s” tower and her ghost has been seen there many times in the dark of night under the starry skies. There is also a speaking tube built into the stonework of this tower allowing people to talk to each from different floors.
Puivert – the castle as it stands today dates from the 14th century when the Bruyere family were its lords. In the 12th century a primitive castle stood on this hill in the Quercorb area. In 1170, a meeting of troubadours was held here and during the summer of 1185, Lady Trencavel and Ettienette de Pennautier , the ‘loveliest woman in the Languedoc’ better known to the troubadours who immortalized her in song and story as ‘ Loba – the she-wolf of Cabaret’, reigned over the festivities known as “the court of love”. Courtly tradition continued for some time as can be seen in the Musicians Chamber in the eight pendants representing artists playing the instruments of the time. In November 1210 the castle was besieged by Simon de Montfort. It then belonged to the Congost family who were heretics. Alpais, sister of Raymond de Pereille and mother of Gaillard, lord of Puivert, had received in 1208 the consolamentum of the dying. Congosts participated in the massacre of the inquisitors in Avignonet in 1242 and defended Montsegur in 1242. Puivert fell after three days of siege. Simon de Montfort then gave it to Lambert de Thury. Later it belonged to Thomas Pons de Bruyere who made alterations in the 14th century. Puivert also hosts its own version of the ghostly white lady legend. “A long time ago, there was a lake at the foot of the walls of Puivert. An Aragon Princess, who was old and sick, asked the lord of the place, Lord Bruyere, if she could spend her last days in Puivert. Every summer evening, when the night was clear and warm, a Herald would go up the dunjeon, and announce the appearance of the White Lady, since she was called that. She would come on a golden seat carried by four Saracen slaves and she would go sit on a marble bench by the shores of the lake, to meditate all night long. But when it rained, the water of the lake would cover the marble bench and the lady couldn’t go there. A servant suggested then to open a breach in the natural dam that held the lake, which she did. But the entire rock broke, and took the lady and the workers. It is said that every clear summer night, the White Lady comes back to haunt the phantasmal shores of the vanished tarn.
Queribus – At the southern boundary of the Corbieres, about three kilometers from the village of Cucugnan dear to Achille Mir, Queribus castle tops a rocky peak which is 728 meters high. It thus controls the Grau de Maury pass and overlooks the Roussillion Plain. The viewpoint that it offers from its ramparts includes Peyrepertuse to the north-west and stretches as far as the sea to the south-west and to the Canigou to the south. The shape of the land lent itself to the building of a castellum of which the first mention was made in 1020 in the will of the Count of Besalu where Queribus appears under the name Cherbucio. One century later Queribus became a dependence of the Count of Barcelona and then, after the marriage in 1137 between the Count of Barcelona, Raymond Berenger IV and the heiress of the King ofAragon, passed to her. During the crusade against the Albigensians, Queribus was not implicated but Fenouilledes and Peyrepertuse were sanctuaries of many faidit lords and Cathars. In 1223, Benoit de Teremes, Cathar bishop of the Razes was in Queribus and died there in 1241. Two years after the fall of Montsegur, in 1246, a Cathar parfait Pierre Paraire and a few believers were living there. Chabert de Barbaira, the “lion of combat” and a follower of viscount Pierre de Fenouillet who died in 1242, commanded the place. In May 1255, the Seneschal of Carcassonne, Pierre d’Auteil, with the support of the archbishop of Narbonne, undertook the siege of Queribus, the last bastion of the Occitan resistance, which surrendered three weeks later. This quick surrender is probably due to the fact that Chabert de Barbaira was no longer in the castle. He was said to have been first taken prisoner in early March 1255 near Carcassonne by Olivier de Termes, one of his former companion in arms, who had rallied to the side of Louis IX. Queribus then became a royal fortress at the southern frontier of the kingdom such as it was defined by the treaty of Corbeil in 1258 and was the object of great works which reinforced its defenses.
Roquefixade – halfway along the road between Foix and Lavelanet, a rugged cliff stands out against the sky. Unless you know what to look for, it is hard to distinguish the remains of the fortress of Roquefixade from the shape of the crag. This stronghold commanded the road west from Foix to the Pays d’Olmes. You make your way first along the cliff and then turn sharply upwards across a steep meadow. To the right a deep cleft in the sheer rockface is spanned by part of the castle wall. This fissure in the rock must be the origin of the name Roquefixade. The path leads you onto a wide space that must have been the castle courtyard. The castle itself was built on the highest point of the rock and is entered through a gatehouse where you can see above you signs of a hole for dropping heavy objects on attackers. Unfortunately very little of the building is left, but you can just make out where the keep stood, at the point where the enclosing wall spans the cleft.
Part of the defenses of the Pays d’Olmes, Roquefixade was subject to the counts of Toulouse who had passed their rights over the castle to the counts of Foix. Their rights were taken back during a quarrel between the two families in February 1243. After the Albigensian crusade Roquefixade passed to the French crown and the Northern garrison was installed, twelve sergeants, a porter a watchman and a chaplain. On October 28, 1632 Louis XIII, who had come to watch the execution of Duc de Montmorency in Toulouse, ordered the castle to be destroyed. The following year his instructions were followed out to the letter.
Saissac – the castle guards the rocky headland overlooking the ravine of Vernassonne as a strategic position at the base of the Black Mountain. It first appears in historic texts as early as 960 AD. It was bequeathed by the bishop of Toulouse to the count of Carcassonne and in the 11th century was pledged to powerful vassels who formed a junior branch under the counts of Foix known as the lineage of Saissac. The castrum beneath the current castle is dated to the 11th century although its origin may date back to the time of the Visigoths.
At the time of the Albigensian crusade in 1229, the lord of Saissac, Bertrand de Saissac, himself a Cathar, was the personal tutor of Raymond-Roger de Trencavel. The castle was subjugated by Bouchard de Marly and the family stripped of their titles. Later in 1234 the castle was restored by Lambert de Thursey a companion of Simon de Montfort. By the end of the 13th century the castle had become part of the inheritance of the Levis family, the new lords of Mirepoix. From 1331 to 1412 it passed to the family of Isle Jourdain. In the 15th century the barony was held by the family of Caraman. The fortress changed ownership repeatedly until 1565, passing through the hands of Bernuy, a rich man, and the house of Clermont-Lodevy. In 1568 and again in 1580 the surrounding village was destroyed and pillaged by Protestant troops who were unable to enter or pacify the impregnable fortress. From 1715 the property was held by the Luyness family and fell into ruin after the French Revolution, repeatedly looted by treasure hunters lured by the castles romantic aspect.
Termes – the lords of Termes were vassals of the Trencavels. Simon de Montfort had to make them surrender. The task was not easy because the castle seemed impregnable with its rocky peak protected to the north by the Terminet Gorges with the Sou river which joins the Orbieu near Durfort Castle, a possession of the lords of Termes and home of the Dufort family, of which one member, the co-lord of Fanjeaux was a troubadour. Raymond de Termes was certainly elderly, but resolute, and was afraid “neither of God nor Men”, as wrote Des Vaux-de-Cernay. The siege began in August 1210. On both sides mangonels went into action. Occupying the advanced position of Le Termenet, the besieged were able to subject Simon de Montfort’s troops to crossfire. However, as in Minerve, the besieged suffered from thirst. Termes was gong to surrender when a storm refilled the stocks of water, but the badly maintained cisterns polluted the supply. Dysentery ravaged the ranks of defenders who fled during the nights of November 22 and 23. The siege had lasted four months. Raymond de Termes was captured and imprisoned in Carcassonne where he died in 1213. On November 23 , 1210 Simon de Montfort put one of his companions, Alain de Roucy, into the castle that he had fought so hard to take. In 1244 the defeated Amaury de Montfort gave it to the archbishop of Narbonne. Five years later Termes passed to the French crown. A lord of the manor and a garrison of twelve men-at-arms occupied it for four centuries until it lost its strategic importance and was abandoned. By order of the King, Termes was blown up and destroyed in 1653 to put a stop to brigands who were using it for a hideout and holding the region for ransom.
Among the dismantled walls you can just make out the shape of the original building. There were two enclosures separated by a jousting ground. In the middle stood the castle and the keep. Little remains of the huge building; a section of wall with a strange cross-shaped window, a buttress which must have supported a corner tower near the Northern gate, channels running down inside the Western wall, emerging behind two round arches, possibly a defense structure, but more likely outlets from the latrines above.
Usson – at the confluence of the rivers Aude and Bruyente, on a rock cliff, stand the remnants of the walls of the castle of Usson. The castle once commanded the valleys leading to the Rousillon and the Donezan. The building is now in a state of decay. Among the mass of stones it is easy to pick out the elaborate defensive system and former access to the gateway. The gun emplacements in the walls show that the castle was extensively rebuilt, the alterations occurring in the 17th ad 18th centuries.
First mention of the castle goes back to the early 11th century when it belonged to the Alion family. From 1232 to 1244, protected by its isolation, this castle was practically an annex of Montsegur. The bishop of the Cathar Church of Toulouse, Guilhabert de Castres, and some Good Men stayed there under the protection of the Lady of the chateau, the comte de Foix’s illegitimate daughter, Esclarmonde the bastard. During the siege of Montsegur the Lords Bernard d’Alion and Arnaud d’Usson sent arms and endeavored to resupply the fortress. Reinforcements came by the way of band of Aragonese militia men lead by the Spanish mercenary Corbario, who was paid 150 ‘livres Melgorian’ by Bernard d’Alion. Whether they got lost in the gorges or absconded with the money is impossible to know but either way the reinforcements never arrived at Montsegur. The lord of Usson, Esclarmonde’s estranged husband Bernard was arrested, tried by the inquisition and publicly burned in the town square at Perpignan. The Pays du Donezan passed to the French crown in the 17th century. Louis XIII sold the fortress to a descendent of the Usson family who made extensive alterations. It was confiscated during the French Revolution and sold off as public property. The castle is currently privately owned by the Patrimonie of Donezan.
Villerouge-Termenes – former summer residence of the archbishops of Narbonne, Villerouge-Termes was virtually untouched by the Albigensian crusade. Since then a thriving village has grown up around the castle. This may be why the basic building has been preserved. The four corners of the enclosing wall were guarded by towers, and the South-East one, the most impressive, was once the castle keep. Belibaste, the last parfait left in the Languedoc was burnt at the stake here on August 24, 1321.
Original Page: http://shadowtheatre13.com/gazetteer.html