Land of history and tourism, of warmth and authenticity, Aude is a department which knows how to deal with paradoxes. Whether it be the Cathar castles or the Canal du Midi, Carcassonne the warrior or Lagrasse the contemplative, in Aude lands, you're on a land with a unique character.
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The castle of Aguilar
The ruins of the castle of Aguilar crown a rocky outcrop in the middle of the famous vineyard of Upper Fitou, and scrubland. The oldest part is the upper chamber, directed towards the attacking side. It dates from the 12th century.
In the 12th century, the castle belongs to the lords of Termes. During the Albigensian Crusade, it is occupied by Simon de Montfort in 1210. King Louis IX establishes a garrison in 1246. The Royal Engineers alter the castle, in the late 13th century. This is one of the "five sons of Carcassonne ", who oversaw the border with Aragon. After several spanish attacks in the 14th century, it was finally abandoned in 1569.
The castle of Arques
Located 50 km south of Carcassonne, the site of Arques is a haven of peace washed by the lake and surrounded by woods. A few hundred meters west of the village, the golden stones of the castle of Arques rise on top of a hill.
This ensemble from the 13th and 14th centuries, dominated by an elegant tower of 25 meters high, is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, which combines luxury and military aspect. Fully restored, it is the witness of the technical and artistic expertise of the builders of medieval times, portraying the taste and wealth of the masters of the place.
The tour continues to the centre of the village of Arques, in the House Deodat Roché, museum of the Catharism.
The 4 castles of Lastours
The site of Lastours is an outstanding ensemble at the heart of the Black Mountain, with its four castles built atop a rocky outcrop. Cabaret (the largest), Surdespine, Tour Régine and Quertinheux, dominate the streams of Orbiel and Grézilhou, deeply stoked into the valley.
The access to the "mountain of castles" is the heart of the village of Lastours, through the former sheets factory Rabier. It now houses the ticket office, a permanent exhibition and a restaurant.
It is also possible to discover the castles from the Belvedere of Montfermier which offers an incomparable view of the site and its surroundings.
The four castles of Lastours became important during the Albigensian Crusade, for they controlled at that time the access to the Black Mountain. At the time of the Cathars, the lord of Cabaret is closely linked to the followers of the new religion and was assaulted by the Crusaders as soon as 1209.
The castle of Peyrepertuse
Peyrepertuse stands on the top of a great promontory on the southern Corbières. This huge fortress equals in size the City of Carcassonne. The extent of its remains and the quality of its constructions make this castle the most important ensemble and the most outstanding example of medieval architecture in Languedoc.
Built on a ridge overlooking a vertiginous drop, the castle has three enclosures spanning over 300 meters long which enclose within their walls more than a hectare of buildings: homes, chapels and garrison halls.
Each year hosts the largest medieval festival in southern France : many troupes enliven the castle and a restored medieval village.
Peyrepertuse became a french stronghold in 1240 : Louis IX makes it a formidable stronghold in the southern border of the kingdom of France. This huge fortress was part of the "Five Sons of Carcassonne".
The castle of Puilaurens
Strategic site, about 700 m height, the castle of Puilaurens stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Lapradelle, amidst a pine forest.
The castle has two distinct architectural ensembles. The first chamber houses the dungeon and a tower called "Tour of the White Lady." After a rocky path, the first defensive elements of the Cathar castle arise, with a device and a chicanery which complicated the access to the castle in case of attack.
The castle hosted many Cathars personalities, who lived in hiding. Puilaurens was for four centuries the most southern fortress in France. It was locking the access to Fenouillèdes and was one of the "Five Sons of Carcassonne".
The castle of Puivert
Among the buildings from the first half of the 14th century, the castle Puivert, in the hinterland called the Quercorb, has certainly been one of the best preserved.
Puivert gives an impression of serenity, everything is harmony, quiet power and grace. The imposing tower with five levels, peaking at 32 meters, is visible throughout the region, and retains several vaulted rooms. The sculptures in the Musicians Hall (salle des Musiciens) show the refinement brought to the decor of the castle: legend has it that Puivert hosted, in the 12th century, troubadours meetings. In the 12th century, the lords of Puivert are protective of the Cathars. The castle was conquered by Simon de Montfort in 1210.
The village houses the Museum of Quercorb where Instrumentarium devoted to medieval music can be found.
The castle of Quéribus
This ancient royal fortress, one of the "Five Sons of Carcassonne", stands on an impressive rock. During the Albigensian Crusade, the castle, ruled by Chabert de Barbaira, hosted many persecuted Cathars. In 1255, eleven years after Montségur, this last bastion of the southern resistance falls to the Crusaders.
The castle is renowned for its polygonal tower and Gothic hall whose roof rests on a circular pillar blooming like a palm tree.
From the tower, perched at 728 meters, one can admire great views: the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean sea, and the plain of Roussillon and the Corbières.
The castle of Quéribus is close to Cucugnan, famous for "The sermon of the priest of Cucugnan", a book by Alphonse Daudet. This story is brought to the theater Achille Mir, in the village.
The castle of Saissac
At the heart of the Black Mountain, northwest of Carcassonne, the castle of Saissac stands in front of a unique landscape, crossed on its horizon by the Pyrenees.
In the Middle Ages, powerful lords dominate Saissac and the entire Black Mountain. Protectors of the troubadours, they are also Cathars believers. They are great vassals of the Viscounts of Carcassonne, and support them in their struggle in the famous Albigensian Crusade.
Erected below the village, the fortifications of the castle stand vertically to a staggering ravine. The ruined tower still stands proudly in the centre of the enclosure. Two restored rooms house a museum on the Monetary Treasure of Saissac composed of 2000 deniers of the 13th century.
The castle of Termes
In the Hautes Corbières, the village of Termes clings picturesquely against the side of a hill. It remains under the protection of its castle which dominates the village, on the top of a rocky ridge, in an absolutely magnificent protected site, offering a unique view of the entire region.
Who could imagine today that the remains that lie here are those of one of the largest medieval lordships of Languedoc! In 1210, during the Albigensian Crusade, the fortress withstood four months to the Crusaders, commanded by Simon de Montfort.
This impregnable eagle nest, became a royal fortress and held an important strategic position, facing the Aragonese border. It was one of the "Five sons of Carcassonne ".
The castle of Villerouge-Termenès
South of Carcassonne and Narbonne, Villerouge-Termenès is the Mediterranean door to the High Corbières. Located in the heart of the medieval village, the imposing rectangular castle with four towers commands respect.
The eastern wing of the building houses a very original audiovisual tour: "The World of Guilhem Belibaste, the last Cathar Perfect ". The tour puts you directly in the Middle Ages: The destinies of Bélibaste (burned in 1321 in Villerouge) and the archbishop of Narbonne, Bernard de Farges (lord of the domain) mention the Cathars, the power of the archbishop of Narbonne and the daily life in the 14th century.
To extend this journey through history, have lunch in the Medieval Grill (Rôtisserie Médiévale), located in the castle. It is unique in France, by its historically restored decorum and plates, and its recipes from the Middle Ages specially restored and translated for Villerouge by leading specialists.