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

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The Château de Puilaurens (Occitan: lo Castèl de Puèg-Laurenç) is one of the Cathar Castles of the Languedoc in what is now the South of France. It is located in the commune of Lapradelle-Puilaurens in the Aude département.

The castle stands on a spur of rock above the Boulzane Valley and the villages of Lapradelle and Puilaurens. There is a path from Axat to the castle. The castle here had belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxa before it was acquired by the King of Aragon in 1162.  As Aragonese property it was outside the territory ravaged by the Crusaders during the Cathar wars.  Like Queribus it therefore provided a refuge for those fleeing from the invading forces.  Those who took refuge there included both Cathars and faidits, that is to say those who had forfeited their property because of their opposition to the invaders.  These faidits included high nobles, such as Guillaume de Peyrepertuse

Somehow, it is not known how, Puilaurens was ceded to the French some time before 1255.  After 1258 its possession by the French crown was ratified by the Treaty of Corbeil, when the Aragonese border was moved south. In 1260 it was garrisoned by 25 sergeants. 

This is one of the "Five Sons of Carcassonne", along with QueribusTermesAguilar, and Peyrepertuse: five castles strategically placed to defend the French border against the Spanish. It was taken by Spanish troops in 1635, but 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

The present building mainly post-dated the Treaty of Corbeil, and is thus principally French.  Some points of interest include the heavily defended steep zigzagging approach path, remnants of a barbican, meutriers (murder holes), and a spectacular donjon (keep).  Most impressive of all in the south-west tower (the White Lady's Tower) is a speaking-tube, built into the stonework and allowing people to communicate from one floor to another - exactly the same principle later adopted in ships to allow voice communication between decks. 

To find the castle head towards Lapradelle between Quillan and Perpignan.  at   42°48'20" N,   2°17'36" E

 
Puilaurens.
 
 
 
The Chateau depicted in a document of 1667
(fonds des Eaux et Forets, ADHG)

 

 

Google map showing the location of Château de Puilaurens

 

 

1 Stairway (scale in meters)
2 Barbican
3 Banister to the keep
4 Southern tower
5 South-eastern postern
6 South-eastern tower
7 Northern postern
8 Cistern
9 Keep
10 Dame Blanche ("White Lady") Tower

Google map showing Château de Puilaurens

 

In the 13th century it belonged to the Lords of Fenouillet. Defended by Pierre Catala and, more importantly, by Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, it withstood attack by Simon de Montfort and his successors until the end of the crusades. After 1243, its owner was Roger Catala, Pierre's son, but it was defended, like Quéribus, by Chabert de Barbaira, a Cathar military commander who was the last commander to defend the Occitan cause.

Numerous Cathar deacons sought refuge here after the fall of the Château of Montségur ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Montsegùr). It is thought that the castle was finally forced to surrender (probably around the same time as Queribus) c.1255.

The castle is open to the public, it stands on a spur of rock above the Boulzare Valley and the village of Lapradelle. After a short walk, you cross the barbican protecting the entrance and find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by tall walls flanked by two round towers. To the left of the courtyard is a second line of fortifications defending the keep. Two towers strengthen this wall, including the «White Lady » tower named after the lady who haunts the ruins (Blanche of Bourbon, Philip the Fair's grand-daughter who stayed in Puilaurens and was murdered by her husband, Peter the Cruel, King of Castile). The massive square keep crushes by its sheer weight a castle that is one of the best preserved reminders of the Cathar period in the area.

Puilaurens lies in the Aude departément

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Photo Gallery

 

Approaching the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Castle of Puilaurens - Keep (Donjon). Note the main gate just visible on the bottom right

 

The track up to the Castle of Puilaurens
(which is also a nature trail)

 

Looking down on the chicane

 

The main Gate at the Castle of Puilaurens
(from inside)

 

Arrow loops at the Castle of Puilaurens
(defending the the Courette)

 

Aerial view of the Castle of Puilaurens from the West
(ward in the front, Keep at the back)

 

A rare feature in the White Lady's Tower (Dame Blanche tower) in the keep of the Castle of Puilaurens. Next the vault is a tube cut into the stone leading from one level to the next through the vaulted roof. This is a speaking tube - similar to ones found on modern ships.

 

A square Tower in the walls around the ward of the Castle of Puilaurens

 

A modern WC block - with vents modelled on medieval arrow slits.

 

Looking down the chicane at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Supporting ledge for a floor in a circular tower at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Round tower at the Castle of Puilaurens - Note the bossed stone

 

Medieval window at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Remnant of a sophisticated supporting structure at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

View of the interior of a round tower at the
Castle of Puilaurens

 

Murder Hole in front of an entry gate

 

Natural defences

 

Part way up the defensive chicane

 

Latrine (with modern safety grill)

 

Roofing - a primitive method suitable for small spans

 

The Modern Arms of Puilaurens

 

Approaching the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Castle of Puilaurens - Keep (Donjon)

 

This is the natural defense - before you get anywhere near the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Looking up at the chicane
(to the door in the centre of the photo)

 

The main Gate at the Castle of Puilaurens
(looking up at the murder hole)

 

Arrow loops at the Castle of Puilaurens - this is the exterior of the Courette within the ward

 

Latrines from above
(with a modern Health & safety grill)

 

Vaulted ceiling in the White Lady's Tower (Dame Blanche tower) in the keep of the Castle of Puilaurens

 

staircase leading up to a now vanished upper storey in the keep of the Castle of Puilaurens

 

View from Castle of Puilaurens (November 2010)

 

A twelfth century arrow slit in the Castle of Puilaurens

 

looking up at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Ward at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

View of the Pyrenees from the Castle of Puilaurens

 

View from the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Arrow slit at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Interior of a round tower at the Castle of Puilaurens
(the ledge once supported a floor)

 

View of the courette from the ward of the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Arrow slit at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

The arches here represent the top of a murder hole defending the entrance

 

Vaulted ceiling

 

another murder hole, viewed from underneath

 
 

 

Castle of Puilaurens - Keep (Donjon)

 

Castle of Puilaurens - Keep (Donjon)

 

Castle of Puilaurens entrance chicane. The track becomes steeper and so easy to defend

 

The main Gate at the Castle of Puilaurens
(from outside)

 

Once inside the main Gate at the Castle of Puilaurens
attackers are trapped in a killing area (the Courette) - note the arrow slots in the walls. The area would also be defended from above.

 

Medieval gateways often have very deep horizontal holes built into the walls. Great wooden bars fitted into the wall and could be extracted quickly to bar the door (fitting into a much shallower hole on the other side of the doorway..

 

Once inside the ward attackers still needed to get into the Donjon complex. The way in was up a flight of exposed stairs (left), across a wooden bridge (which would of course be removed) and through another heavily defended gate.

 

Entrance to the White Lady's Tower (Dame Blanche tower)

 

A rare feature in the White Lady's Tower (Dame Blanche tower) in the keep of the Castle of Puilaurens. Next the vault is a tube cut into the stone leading from one level to the next through the vaulted roof. This is a close up of the speaking tube.

 

Windows like this one in the Castle of Puilaurens are modern

 

Assomoire (Murder Hole) at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Courette at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

View from the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Postern Gate at the Castle of Puilaurens - seen from outside

 

View of the keep from the ward of the Castle of Puilaurens

 

View of the courette of the Castle of Puilaurens
(from above)

 

Souterrain under the keep of the Castle of Puilaurens

 

Arrow slit at the Castle of Puilaurens

 

The Basse Court

 

Plan view showing the defensive chicane

 

External staircase

 

at Sunset

 

 

 

 

Château de Puilaurens - Restoration work in 2013 - There is scaffolding on the White Lady's Tower

 

Château de Puilaurens - View from the South West showing the entry chicane

 

Château de Puilaurens - View from the South West showing the entry chicane

 

Château de Puilaurens - View of the Keep from the Basse Court

 

Château de Puilaurens - View from the South West showing the entry chicane

 

Château de Puilaurens - View from the East

 

Château de Puilaurens - View from the South West

 

Château de Puilaurens - The path up is not the only way in

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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