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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.