Cathar Castles
Château de Castelnaudary ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about Occitan. Castèlnòu d'Arri)

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Castelnaudary is a commune in the Aude department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in south France. It is in the former province of the Lauragais and famous for cassoulet of which it claims to be the world capital, and of which it is a major producer.

September 1211 saw the first Siege of Castelnaudary during the Cathar (or Albigensian) Crusades. Simon de Montfort was besieged in Castelnaudary by the Count of Toulouse and his ally the Count of Foix. The outcome was inconclusive. July 1220 to March 1221 saw a second siege of Castelnaudary

Today there are no remnants of the Cathar period to see at Castenaudary. En 1623, Louis XIII had the château de Castelnaudary demolished. At the end of the XVII century a prison was built on the site which functioned until 1926. Today the building on the site is known as the Présidial a primary school, prison, and museum, also a small prison chapel chapel Saint-Pierre

The Présidial

 

 

 

Castelnaudary is a market town, and the capital of the territory of Lauragais. The town is located 50 km southeast of Toulouse, about midway along the route from that city to the Mediterranean. This route has been used since at least Roman times, and today carries road, motorway (A61), rail and canal links.

Castelnaudary is the main port of the Canal du Midi to which it owed a period of prosperity in the 17th century when agricultural and manufactured produce became easier to export. The Grand Bassin in the town is at 7ha the largest open area of water in the canal, and is today its major pleasure port.

Inhabitants of Castelnaudry are called Chauriens.

The name Castelnaudary comes from the Occitan Castèlnòu d'Arri, in Latin Castellum Novum Arri, or Arrius' new castle.

Google map showing the location of

 

 

Events of 1211.

 

The Meridional forces (under Count of Toulouse and his allies the Count of Foix and Savaric de Mauléon) were besieging Castelnaudary where Simon de Montfort and his French Crusader army were holed up. The meridional's encampment was strong but did not entirely surround the walls of the town.

Following the advice of Hugues de Lacy, Simon sent some knights, among them Guy de Lévis and Bouchard de Marly, to seek as many reinforcements as possible. Martin d'Algai and his mercenaries rode to reinforce them, but the Count of Foix planned to ambush them near the castle of Saint-Martin, 3 miles from Castelnaudary. Simon got wind of this and sent Guy de Lucy, Simon de Neauphle, Roard de Donges and 40 other knights to their rescue.

The Count of Foix returned to Castelnaudary bringing more troops which, when the battle started, he organised in 3 battallions (heavy cavalry at the centre, lighter cavalry on one wing, infantry on the other). It appears that the Count of Foix acted on his own, without support from the other lords.

Outnumbered, Martin d'Algai's mercenaries fled, which incited some of Foix's troops to plunder the baggage train and leave the battlefield while the fierce cavalry battle continued.

Simon, who had seen this, dashed out of Castelnaudary with 60 knights leaving only 5 knights and the infantry to defend the castle against de Mauléon's attacks.

Now the Count of Foix was in danger and his troops fled in disarray.

Severe losses had been inflicted on both sides. 

The following day, Simon left Castelnaudary, leaving only a small garrison.

A few days later, the Meridionals raised the siege.

Both sides claimed victory.

 

 

Google map showing

 

Some Key Dates

 

1103. First official mention of a settlement at Castelnaudary.

1211. During the Albigensian Crusade, Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester is besieged in Castelnaudary by the Count of Toulouse and the Count of Foix.

1235. Arrival of the Papal inquisition whose initial attempts to identify and persecute Cathars were unsuccessful due to the solidarity of the townsfolk.

31 October 1355. During the 100 Years War, the town is sacked by the Black Prince who travelling from Bordeaux, ravaged the weaker towns of Gascony and then the Lauragais as far as Narbonne. The town was pillaged and the inhabitants massacred. The town's walls were not rebuilt until 10 years later.

1477. The town becomes the capital of the comté of Lauragais under Louis XI of France.

In January 1477 Louis XI elevated the Lauragais area to the rank of County, which he exchanged against that of Boulogne-sur-Mer (which then belonged to Bertrand VI de la Tour d’Auvergne). Catherine de Medici, his grand-daughter and Queen of France inherited the County of Lauragais.

In 1554 – with the King’s agreement – she made Castelnaudary the seat of the Sénéchaussée (governor’s jurisdiction) for the County. The civil and criminal court of justice – also called Présidial – was then built next to the castle and completed in 1585.

 

Modern Arms of Castelnaudar(with the arms of "France Modern" in chief - a common feature of towns that have become French since Medieval times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Medieval seal of the Castrum of Castelnaudary

 

 

The Siege of Castelnaudary, 1211, illustrated by Forester Roberts

 
 

 

 

Towns all along the Canal du Midi have roads named after Pierre-Paul Riquet, Baron de Bonrepos (1609 - 1680) was the engineer and canal-builder responsible for the construction of the Canal du Midi.

Paul Riquet was born in Béziers. As a youth, Riquet was interested in mathematics and science. As a fermier général ("farmer-general") of Languedoc-Roussillon, he was responsible for the collection and administration of the gabelle (salt tax) in Languedoc. He was also a munitions provider to the Catalonian Army.

Riquet is the man responsible for building the 240-kilometre-long artificial waterway that links the southern coast of France to Toulouse (linking to the canal/river system that ran across to the Bay of Biscay), one of the great engineering feats of the 17th century. The logistics were immense. Planning, financing, and construction of the Canal du Midi completely absorbed Riquet from 1665 forward. The high cost of construction depleted Riquet's personal fortune and the seemingly insurmountable problems caused his sponsors, including Louis XIV, to lose interest. Riquet's major engineering achievements included the Fonserannes Lock Staircase and the Malpas Tunnel, the world's first navigable canal tunnel. The canal was completed in 1681, eight months after Riquet's death.

 

The rather crudly worked figures of Raymond of Toulouse and Simon de Montfort at Castelnaudary (photos above) are accompanied by a plaque (below) commemorating the Siege of Castelnaudary in 1211. First a translation in English.

KNIGHTS OF CASTELNAUDARY
SIMON DE MONTFORT ( LEFT) FACES RAYMOND DE TOULOUSE (RIGHT )
These giants represent the two counts facing each other at the siege of Castelnaudary, in 1211.
They are the work of the association "Les Gauvois de Villeneuve-la-Comptal " based on an idea of Claude Quemerais, the association's president .
In 2011, these two figures took to the streets on the Chariot Villeneuve-la-Comptal during the festival of Cassoulet of Castelnaudary and participated in 800th anniversary of the Battle of Saint Martin Lalande - Lasbordes .

 

The Siege of Castelnaudary, a memorable episode during the Albigensian Crusade .
By September 1211, Count Simon de Montfort, leader of the Crusade had waged war for two years already, against the Cathars and Occitan lords who protected them. His troops were insufficient and the Languedoc was hostile. On the advice of his lieutenant, Hugh de Lacy, he took refuge with sixty knights and a few hundred armed men in Castrum of Castelnaudary , "el plus frevol Castel" (the weakest castle), according to the Canso [Song of the Crusade] by William of Tudela.

 

Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, along with Raymond Roger de Foix, Bernard de Comminges, Gaston de Béarn, the Seneschal [of King John of England] Savary de Mauléon, and a multitude of barons, knights and routiers [mercenaries] immediately sped to Castelnaudary to besiege Montfort. "They covered the plain like locusts". The citizens of Castelnaudary saw tents and pavilions erected on this plain, surmounted by a golden orb and and eagle of iron. They descended from the city to swear an oath of allegiance to the Count of Toulouse

 

At night, the Crusaders took their horses to Fresquel to water them. On the way they raided ripe grapes from the vineyards. The Occitan forces had to repel such sorties by Simon de Montfort. To defend their camp, the Occitan forces raised palisades and dug ditches, "so well that they could be called the besieged rather than the besiegers" according to [the Cistercian chronicler] Pierre des Vaux de Cernay.

 

The Occitans managed to erect a perrière [a huge catapult] on the Pech (la colline du Moulin de Cugarel ) to catapult stones, but the Lauragais stone was to soft and friable, and broke against the outer walls of Castelnaudary. Raymond Roger de Foix attempted an assault against the de Mauléon gate [of the City], but in vain. The Count was informed that an enemy column from Narbonne, was on the way to Castelnaudary, bringing supplies to Simon de Montfort. He left to intercept them between Saint Martin Lalande and Lasbordes. Learning that the French were retreating and taking flight, Simon de Montfort sped to their rescue. He left just five Knights and a handful of men to guard Castelnaudary.

 

The Count of Toulouse, refusing to take advantage, remained in his tent. Savary de Mauléon, belonging to the Occitan coalition, with his knights and routiers, led an assault on Castelnaudary. Finally, Savary de Mauléon was pushed back by the valiant French Crusaders who remained inside the City.

 

Simon de Montfort returned to Castelnaudary in the evening after the Battle of Saint Martin Lalande - Lasbordes. Barefoot, he entered the city church to give thanks to the Almighty for his favour, and sang a Te Deu , then he abandoned Castelnaudary, leaving it to raise new troops.

 

On the Occitan side, the Count of Toulouse immediately raised the siege, while the Count of Foix sent out messengers proclaiming that Simon de Montfort had been caught and hanged. Due to this stratagem, fifty fortresses held by the French Crusaders surrendered to Occitan forces immediately after the siege of Castelnaudary .

 

(Incidentally, this one vignette very neatly sums up the characters and military abilities of Raymond VI of Toulouse, Simon de Montfort, and the Count of Foix)

 

 
 

Text from the above

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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