Cathar Castles
Château de Peyrepertuse ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about Occitan. Castèl de Pèirapertusa)

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Peyrepertuse is a ruined fortress and one of the Cathar castles of the Languedoc located in the French Pyrénées in the commune of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, in the Aude département.

It was associated with the Counts of Barcelona, later kings of Aragon.

The name Peyrepetuse is derived from Pèirapertusa, Occitan, meaning Pierced Rock.

The lower part of the castle was built on a strategic location by the kings of Aragon in the 11th Century and the higher part by the French King Louis IX later on, after the area was annexed to France. The two castles are linked together by a staircase. The castle lost importance as a strategic castle when the border between France and Spain was moved in 1659, causing the castle to be abandoned.

The castle ruins are impressive, set high on a defensive crag.  From the approach road it is difficult to see where the rock stops and the castle starts. 

The castle was built in the 11th century on a site dominating the Corbières and the sea.  The main part, resembles the prow of a ship, running along the top of an 800m (2,600 ft) high crag.  It houses the church of Sainte-Marie and the governor's residence.

It was never subjected to attack during the Crusade against the Cathars.  Nevertheless, it was surrendered to the French Crusaders 22nd of May 1217, reclaimed again as the balance of power changed. Guilhem de Peyrepertuse, was excommunicated in 1224 because of his refusal to submit to the Catholic Crusaders. He surrendered after the siege of Carcassonne (the Viscount of Carcassonne, Guilhem's suzerain, having failed to retake Carcassonne from the French invaders in 1240). Peyrepertuse became a French possession the same year.

In 1258, the Treaty of Corbeil defined the border between France and Aragon for four centuries : Peyrepertuse became a royal French fortress at the southern border of the French kingdom. At the end of the 13th century, it was a powerful stronghold with strong defences. During the winter of 1367-1368, Peyrepertuse was the refuge of Henri de Trastamare, claimant to the crown of Castille.

 

 

 

 

 
 
Peyreperteuse.
 
 

 

 

Louis IX ("Saint Louis") appreciated the value of its defensive position.  He built the higher castle of San Jordi. (Saint George) further along the ridge.  It includes the chapel and the donjon San Jordi.  The two buildings are linked by the staircase of Saint Louis and surrounded by a curtain wall.  The staircase has a flight of more than 60 steps carved from the rock, winding from the curtain wall to the citadel. 

This is one of the "Five Sons of Carcassonne", along with QueribusTermesAguilar, Peyrepertuse and Puilaurens: five castles strategically placed to defend the new French border against the Spanish. (This border corresponds roughly with the present border between the Aude and Pyrenees Orientales departements)

The fortress was garrisoned with only fifteen or so men (governor, sergeants, lookouts, and men-at-arms). It lost all strategic importance after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 when the border was moved even further south to its present position along the crest of the Pyrenees.  Its importance declined and it was abandoned altogether at the time of the French Revolution. 

Google map showing the location of Château de Peyrpertuse

 

 

The castle of Peyrepertuse was listed as a historic monument in 1908.  Self-guided visits (Audioguide optional and extra), guided visit by prior arrangement (duration: 1h30)  February to April 10am to 6pm.   
May to June and September 10am to 7pm.   
July and August 9am to 8pm.   
October to December 10am to 6pm.   

The castle lies on a 730 meter high rock and when the weather is clear you can see the Mediterranean Sea from it.

People have been living on the site of castle Peyrepertuse since Roman times. The castle is first mentioned in 1050.

Peyrepertuse lies at   42°52'01" N,   2°33'25" E.


Google map showing Château de Peyrpertuse

 

Further details or booking: +33 (0)6 71 58 63 36.  A track leaves the village and leads to the foot of the impressive cliff on which Peyrepertuse was built (1 hour's walk).  Alternatively you can reach the car-park at the foot of the castle by car.  From the Car park (and ticket-office) you walk for 20 minutes on a winding path through box trees and evergreen oaks. 

Falconry. Throughout the summer season (and during the annual medieval festival in August) Patrice Potier flies his birds up at the top of the hill in the castle here. Click on the following link for more information on hawking in the Languedoc.

 

Curtain Walls - "enceinte" - exterior
   
Inner staircase
Gateway with murder hole
   
Tower with arrow loop
Interior view of a tower "ouvert a la gorge" - literally open at the throat. Such towers provide protection to defenders, but if taken by a besieging army offer no protection to the attackers from the next ring of defence
   
   

 

 

 

 
 
 
Castle Walls are only the last line of defence
after the natural rock
 
Close up of the Murder Hole
 
Close up of the Murder Hole
 
 
 
 

 

 

 


GUIDED TOURS OF CATHAR CASTLES OF THE LANGUEDOC

You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of www.cathar.info)

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Beliefs.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Visit the Cathar Tours Website for more information

 

Peyreperteuse.
 

The lower castle and its natural defences

 
 

The upper castle and its natural defences

 
 

The lower castle from San Jordi

 
 
 
 

A latrine - apparently still in use

 
 

The front gate of the castle - note the holes on the battlements for hourds

 
 

The raised front gate of the castle - note the assomoire or murder hole above it

 
 

The missing bit of interior walls appears to represent an early fireplace and chimney

 
 

Gate into the lower keep

 
 

The San Jordi Staircase cut into the living rock

 
 

The lower castle from San Jordi

 
 

Exterior of a defensive towe, giving covering fire for the curtain walls

 
 

Interior of the "tower". It is ouverte a la gorge ("open at the throat") - not to save money but so that attackers
who succeed in taking it are still vulnerable to defensive fire from the next inner ring of defence.

 
 

Queribus seen from Peyrepertuse - Castles were deliberate built within sight of each other
so that they could signal to each other

 
 

The lower castle from San Jordi

 
 
 
 

Duilhac sous Perpertuse, a circulade village seen from the castle

 
 

The upper castle and its natural defences

 
 

 

The upper castle and its natural defences

 

Plan of the site showing the two castles

 

An idea of what the original castle might have looked like

 

An idea of what the governers quarters might have looked like

 

The sharp end

 

Photo of the old Occitan castle from the new French castle

 

2004 French Stamp

 

Closeup of vestiges of of the chimney

The San Jordi Staircase cut into the living rock

 

Another, more detailed plan, showing the "new" French castle to the left and the original Occitan castle to the right.

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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