Le Château d’ Aguilar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the  order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.

 Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.

In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated  info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a royal fortress.

The castle is composted of two hexagonal walls. One composed of two rooms (upper and lower) and constructed in the 12th century. The lower floor was designated for the guards and light came through the vaulted narrow windows. The upper floor served as home to the castle keeper. 

The outer hexagonal wall added in the 14th century and is flanked by six semi-circular towers to impede invading armies. Outside its curtained walls to the east stands the Romanesque chapel of St. Anne.

A traditional Romanesque chapel dedicated to St Anne    stands on the outside of the curtain-wall, on the eastern side. The castle and the surrounding area obtained status as a Historical Monument in 1949.

Information is available in several languages at the bureau located at the foot of the trail. You can purchase books and postcards or grab a bottle of water. The castle is currently undergoing repairs and excavation to the subterranean levels which have long been inaccessible.

Bisous,

Léa

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

La Cité

The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. 

Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show the remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century.

There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally the palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi-circular barbican and a moat.

The genesis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time. The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion.
The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterized by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.

Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the medieval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité

La Cité is a must for most tourists to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.

Bisous,

Léa

L’époque médiévale

Just outside the city of Narbonne, on the Mediterranean, is the beautiful beach village of Gruissan.  Besides being my favorite swimming beach in the area, it also plays host to numerous events such as this Medieval re-enactment .

For the fifth year there is on offer a weekend commemoration of  the Days of Heritage. Participants in the ceremony and most of the vendors that I observed were dressed in period costume. All kitted out with bows, arrows, crossbows, swords, shields and more were the twelve troops of riders, knights and of course their ladies fair and other members of their communities. The Trencavel family faced off the armies of the Knights of Templar. The Cathar or Albigensian Crusades lasted from the 11th to the 13 century. The Cathars having their own beliefs and not conforming to the dogma of Rome were tortured, slaughtered and believed to be annihilated.

The Days of Heritage is a vibrant pageant of troubadours, dancers, jugglers, fire-eaters, twelve troops of riders, knights in full regalia. Across the estuary, spectators crowded in to watch the story unfold. It was clear as the re-enactment of   XIII century events that the loyalties of the spectators were with the Cathars and not with the Inquisitors. There were no cheers for the victors and the silence of spectators during the battle was erie.

Visitors quietly dispersed and moved into the center of the town where there was exhibition of Medieval life and vendors selling items related to the re-enactment and more. There was a woman making chain maille (a type of metal fabric used in several historical periods) and soldiers gave tips on sword-fighting.

Making Chain Maille

Bisous,

Léa

Deux demoiselles
Toy sized bows, arrows and shields for sale
Sword fighting tips
Simon de Montfort
Chain maille examples

Castelnaudary et Fete du Cassoulet Part I

The market town of Castelnaudary is located in the southwest of France, and the capital of the territory of Lauragais. It is situated 50km southeast from Toulouse about midway from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. While today you can ride along the motorway, the route has been popular since Roman times. The region also benefits from rail and canal links. Furthermore, Castelnaudary enjoys the position of being the main port for the Canal du Midi which experienced a period of prosperity during the 17th century.

Below are some of the events that helped to shape Castelnaudary:

* 1103 –  The first official documentation of a settlement at this location.

* 1211 – The Albigensian Crusade and Simone de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester is besieged by the Count of Toulouse and Count of Foix.

* 1235 – The Papal inquisition arrives and attempts to persecute the Cathars are thwarted by the solidarity of the towns people.

* 31 October 1355 – The town is being sacked by the Black Prince during the 100 Years War. While traveling east from Bordeaux, the Prince ravaged towns of Gascony, the Lauragais and as far as Narbonne. The people were murdered and the towns ransacked.

Bowls of white beans in shop windows! Everyone gets involved.

* 1477 – Louis XI declared the town as the capital of the comté (count) of Lauragais.

* 1632 – Henri II de Montmorency (French nobleman, military commander and governor of the Langudoc) is captured just outside town and executed at Toulouse by orders of Cardinal Richelieu.

* 1681 – The Canal du Midi is Commissioned.

Cassoulet

* 1754 – Construction of L’Ile de la Cybèle (Island of Cybele).

* 1814 – Marshal Soult withdraws here after the Battle of Toulouse and prior to the final surrender at Naurouze.

It was during the 100 Years War that cassoulet was created or became popular. The festival celebrating this famous dish is the reason for this particular visit. A casserole/stew made of of a special white bean and meats (usually duck confit and pork). One of numerous stories surrounding the origin is that villagers all contributed to a great meal made up of all that was left in the town to sustain them during the war. As a result, they were fortified with so much energy to fight that the English retreated back to the Northern French coast!

As with all events here in France, there is music. There are strolling bands to Large bands with grand staging and lights…

There is more to this story and much more to Castelnaudary. However, this post is about the festival and Cassoulet.

Bisous,

Léa

La Grande Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary
The music is everywhere!

Château Termes Part II

Surrounded on three sides by a deep ravine, the castle appears to be floating when you reach the summit and look out windows or doors. You can only access it from the south. The north door provides a sheer drop and not recommended.

Village de Termes
Village de Termes

While much of the structure has been destroyed, there is still a great deal to see and experience.

The donjon or main tower is no longer standing and the perimeter walls are seriously damaged you can see the form of several rooms and have the most amazing views from remaining doors and windows. The south-west corner, destroyed, has been replaced by a later building. In the south-east corner lies the remains of an access ramp and gate with what appears to have been a water tank.

Northern entrance (interior wall)
Chapel entrance
Chapel entrance

The western side is marked by a rectangular construction whose vaulted ceiling has caved in. This wall was part of the castle chapel. There remains an opening in the shape of a cross. The chronicles of the crusaders record this castle as an advanced fortified city. As it stands, little remains of date back to before the crusade and what is visible is attributed to the later XIIIth century or beginning of the XIVth century. Demolition was order by Louis XIII in 1635.

Northern wall
Northern wall

With restoration planning under way, it is thrilling to think of what discoveries and treasures will be brought to light.

Bisous,

Léa

Château Termes Part I

Château Termes was first mentioned in records in 1061 in reference to Olivier Bernard. The village and castle wasunder the protection of the Lords of Termenés.

Their power over this ancient district in the feudal era emerging at the beginning of the XI century.

Their allegiance was to the Trencavels, Viscounts for Carcassonne-Béziers. Characteristics of the castle were documented in 1163. In an effort to settle a disagreement between brothers, Guillaume and Raymond de Termes, segments of the Château were appropriated to each. This allowed each of the brothers to append the structure of various portions of the wall. Records also mention the construction of the church below the château in the village. This same church is the present village church and that would place its beginning in the second half of the XII century. From the inception of the Cathar Crusade, Château Termes was under siege.  Due to the need of regulating the Christian faith and the foundation of doctrine. Distressed over the spread of the Cathar religion, the church began to eradicate the heretics. Cathars were also known as Bons Hommes (good men) and Bonnes Femmes (good women) but were referred to by Rome as Albigensians. This was part of the effort to mystify the people of the region believed to protect them. The Church was determined not to just stem the growth of Catharism but to eradicate it altogether.

In 1209 the first Holy war in Europe was initiated by Pope Innocent III. The Cathar or Albigensian Crusade was aimed at the nobility of Southern France who were viewed as protectors of the heretics. The battle raged on for twenty years. In 1229 The King of France moved to intervene. His offering of the Count of Toulouse . Despite the horrific slaughter, along the path of the crusaders, the religious Cathars flourished.

Simon de Montford accuses Raymond de Termes of heresy and declares war on the castle. The siege last four months resulting in the imprisonment of Raymond de Termes in Carcassonne and the property returned to the French crown.

Olivier de Termes, son of Raymond, defied the royal armies in 1228 and this siege lasted until 1240 becoming companion-in-arms to King Louis IX. Becoming part of the stronghold guarding the frontier with Aragon. For four centuries, the castle was occupied by a royal garrison.

The castle walls were demolished by a master stone-mason using explosive charges in 1653 and again in 1654 operating under orders by the King.

The site remained abandoned until the XXth century. Now property of the Touring Club of France it became common property with its protective measures. The hill where the castle stood became classified as a site in 1942 with the castle ruins not being listed until 1951 and later classified as a historical monument in 1989.

Bisous,

Léa

Le Château d’ Aguilar

Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the  order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.

 Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.

In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated  info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a royal fortress.

The castle is composted of two hexagonal walls. One composed of two rooms (upper and lower) and constructed in the 12th century. The lower floor was designated for the guards and light came through the vaulted narrow windows. The upper floor served as home to the castle keeper. 

The outer hexagonal wall added in the 14th century and is flanked by six semi-circular towers to impede invading armies. Outside its curtained walls to the east stands the Romanesque chapel of St. Anne.

A traditional Romanesque chapel dedicated to St Anne    stands on the outside of the curtain-wall, on the eastern side. The castle and the surrounding area obtained status as a Historical Monument in 1949.

Information is available in several languages at the bureau located at the foot of the trail. You can purchase books and postcards or grab a bottle of water. The castle is currently undergoing repairs and excavation to the subterranean levels which have long been inaccessible.

Bisous,

Léa

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

La Cité

The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. 

Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century.

There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi circular barbican and a moat.

The genisis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time.The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion.
The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterised by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.

Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the mediaeval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité

La Cité is a must for most tourist to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there, insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.

Bisous,

Léa