Monday, September 13, 2010

Tourist Excursion to The Château de Puilaurens

We are running out of Cathar castles to go to because we visited one more the other day. It was a gorgeous summer morning and we decided to take John and Eileen to visit one of the castles that we had not yet seen. The choice was between Queribus and Puilaurens and we chose the latter because it was closer. It was a very fascinating place, due mostly to the complexity of the fortifications. Its not as impressive as Peyrepertuse, nor in a situation as spectacular as Montsegur, but it's worth a visit.

The first defensive fortifications begin on the approach to the entrance, where you must climb through nine switchbacks. At each 180 degree turn in the assault, assuming you were attacking the castle, you would be assailed with arrows from above. In the photo, Nancy and Eileen round a switchback about midway through the climb. And below, Nancy's silhouette (a good French word) appears in the first defensible gate.

There were many places for the defenders of the chateau to pour boiling oil, drop rocks, and rain down arrows though arrow slits as the attackers worked to power though a stout wooden gate. Below is one of the defensive towers, which used to have several floors and a roof, but which now gives a lovely view of the sky.

Below is the view out of the south "poterne", down to the south east off towards Perpignan. I had never seen the word poterne used in connection with castle openings before, but lo and behold, Nancy and I spent a day and night in the English village of Poterne, not too far from the Cotswolds. What is the connection between the French word poterne and the English village? Will one of our informed readers please clue us in below in the comment section?

I did not recognize the contraption below as a latrine, but it is marked as such in the literature they hand out as you enter the chateau. I remember very clearly the latrine in Peyrepertuse, and it's function was unmistakable; bars over a hole at very comfortable seated height, and the drop into oblivion that would remove the flies and odors to an agreeable distance. But this latrine was a little more obscure. And remember kids, click on 'em to enlarge 'em.

I will now plagiarize from wikipedia to give you a little insight on the history of the chateau, and if you want to know more, you can always do the google:

Puilaurens was ceded to the French some time before 1255. After 1258 its possession by the French crown was ratified by the Treaty of Corbeil, when the Aragonese border was moved south. In 1260, it was garrisoned by 25 sergeants. It was taken by Spanish troops in 1635, but lost all strategic importance after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 when the border was moved even further south to its present position along the crest of the Pyrenees.

In the 13th century it belonged to the Lords of Fenouillet. Defended by Pierre Catala and, more importantly, by Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, it withstood attack by Simon de Montfort and his successors until the end of the crusades. After 1243, its owner was Roger Catala, Pierre's son, but it was defended, like Quéribus, by Chabert de Barbaira, a Cathar military commander who was the last person to defend the Occitan cause.

Numerous Cathar deacons sought refuge here after the fall of Montsegur. It is thought that the castle was finally forced to surrender (probably around the same time as Queribus) c.1255.

1 comment:

gabriele gray said...

Not as well known is the Chateau d'Usson--in the area where Ariege juts into Aude, past Axat, heading toward the ski slopes.
Even less known, and little to see, there was a chateau across the narrow river valley near Fontanes de Sault and a tunnel which went from there to Campagna de Sault. I've visted both villages (very narrow road) but didn't make the walk to the ruins or tunnel.
And for Usson, there's info on the site, as for all the chateaux.
Some histories say it was to Usson that the men who escaped from Montsegur went (and then to Spain).
The drive along D117/1188 goes through two nice gorges, de St Georges and de St Martin-Lys.
There was once a spa/hot springs at Usson-les-Bains, the old building is still there and further upriver, Escouloubres-les-Bains and Carcanieres-les-Bains.
If you have not been to the one at Roquefixade, when you do go, spare a thought for the late mayor of Roquefixade, Yves Maris (his site, still maintained:

There are supposed to be ruins of an old chateau (both Cathar and Templar) at Le Bezu (approach via the Aude river hwy). I kept getting lost trying to get there but in the process discovered a wonderful old roman church being somewhat restored, on the way. I went back to see the church, didn't bother with the castle ruins...there is a St Just et Le Bezu but that's not it. The chateau should overlook the Bugarach valley...
I do enjoy your blog...I can 'visit' my favorite part of France while I am stuck here in LA...thanks, Lynda