The true Cathar castles [change]
The Cathars built fortified homesteads. Some of them were Laurac, Fanjeaux, Mas-Saintes-Puelles. Certain sites like Lastours-Cabaret, Montségur, Termes or Puilaurens were castra before being razed to the ground and becoming royal citadels. The legend of Cathar architects and builders is no more than a myth. The only monuments which witnessed the events of the first half of the 13th century. The cathar church did not build anything. For this reason, the only ones which can claim the description "Cathar" are the small castles, often totally unknown to the public. Their unspectacular ruins are often far-away from tourist routes.
The royal citadels [change]
Because Raimond II was unable to recapture Carcassone in 1240, the city walls were strengthened by the French King. He also destroyed small castra in the Corbières region and built citadels to protect the frontier with the kingdom of Aragon.
These five castles are often called the cinq fils de Carcassonne (five sons of Carcassonne):
These five fortresses resisted various assaults led by the Aragonese army.
The abandonment of the citadels [change]
In 1659, Louis XIV and the Philip IV of Spain signed the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The French king also married the Infanta Marie Therese. The treaty changed the borders. It gave Rousillon to France and moved the frontier south to the crest of the Pyrenees, where it is now. The fortresses therefore lost their importance. Some maintained a garrison for a while, a few until the French Revolution, but they slowly fell into decay, often becoming sherpherds' shelters or bandits hideouts.
Other "Cathar castles" [change]
- Château d’Arques
- Château de Durfort
- Châteaux de Lastours
- Château de Montségur
- Château de Padern
- Château de Pieusse
- Château de Puivert
- Château de Roquefixade
- Château de Saissac
- Château d'Usson
Sources and further reading [change]
AUÉ, Michèle; (trans. Pleasance, Simon) (1992). Discover Cathar Country. Vic-en-Bigorre, France: MSM. ISBN 2-907899-44-9.