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

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The Château de Puivert is a Cathar castle situated in the commune of Puivert, in the Aude département of the Languedoc. This building, on top a hill overlooking the village and its lake, reaches an altitude of 605 m.

n the twelfth century a castle stood on this site, which had strong Cathar and troubadour  links. A meeting of troubadours took place here in 1170, and in 1185 festivities attended by the Viscount of Carcassonne and Loba, Lady of Lastours (Cabaret)

The castle has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1902.The castle of Puivert is still in relatively good condition.  It is privately owned, but open to the public and undergoing restoration. 

At the meeting of 1170 a troubadour called Peire d'Auvergne penned a satirical Occitan poem which concluded with the words

Lo vers fo fats als enfobatz
A puich-vert tot jugan rizen
This poem was composed to the sound of bagpipes
At Puivert among song and laughter

 

At the start of the Wars against the Cathars, the so-called Albigensian Crusade, Puivert's seigneur was Bernard de Congost. His wife Alpaïs had become a Parfaite before her death just a year earlier in 1208. 

In November 1210 the Castle was besieged (just after the fall of Termes) by Simon de Montfort, and fell after three days.  The dispossessed Congost family carried on the fight against the invaders.

Bernard died after receiving the Cathar Consolamentum at Montségur in 1232. His son fought on, participating in the events of Avignonet in 1242 and helping defend the Château of Montségur ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Montsegùr) in 1243-4.

In 1213 the seigneurie, now in French hands, was conferred by Simon de Montfort on one of his lieutenants, Lambert de Thury. Later it was allocated to Pons de Bruyère.

At the start of the 14th century, probably around 1310,  Thomas de Bruyère, grandson of Pons, built the present castle, to the east of the old "Cathar castle". His wife was Isabelle de Melun, daughter of a Grand Chamberlain of France, whose arms are still to be seen in the building.

One room has fine carvings of minstrels, and tourists are often told that troubadours played in this room.  This is absolute rubbish, but if you look behind the castle you will find the foundations of the earlier castle where troubadours really did play. 

 

The castle, 600 meters (1970 feet) above sea level, is sited on a green hill top (Puig-Vert). Perhaps the significance of the name is that most castles in the area are not on green hill tops, but rocky mountain tops. Puivert: Portcullis.

Some points of note are:

  • the tower gate on the east side of the courtyard. You can see the de Bruyère arms (a lion rampant with a forked and knotted tail) carved in stone above the doorway. The bridge over the ditch would have been a drawbridge. You can still see the portcullis, and the two holes where beams would have projected to hoist the bridge.Puivert: Curtain Wall.
  • the courtyard is 80 meters long and 40 wide (260 x 130 feet), surrounded by a curtain wall and the remains of six towers. In the Northwest corner is a postern gate (used for surprise sorties against besiegers) called the Chalabre Gate
  • the donjon (keep) is 35 meters (115 feet) tall and 15 meters (49 feet) across each side. On the west of the keep are traces of an adjoining building. Each of the four stories contains a single room, with a defensive platform at the fifth level. The keep comprises:Puivert: Roof Vault in the Donjon.
    • two lower levels with barrel vaulting
    • the third floor is the chapel. It is decorated with columns, moldings and shields. The ceiling is rib-vaulted.   Note the keystone of the arch. In the wall is a piscina. It is not that usual to find chapels like this with rooms above them.
    • the fourth floor is a rib vaulted room, the culs-de-lampe sculpted with figures playing musical instruments. Puivert: Window. The Window seat is about 3 meters (20 feet) long.This is the so-called Minstrels' Chamber ("Salle des Musiciens"). The 8 musicians each play a different medieval instrument: bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, tambourine, lute, portable organ, psaltery, rebeck and cithern. The room is relatively well-lit - castle rooms typically have larger windows further up the walls.  Note the thickness of the walls, and the bench seats by the windows, the only part of the room that was really well let, where ladies would sew.
    • the fifth and top floor is a defensive platform and watch tower (guet), originally crenelated.

 

Medieval Musical Instruments
Hurdy Gurdy Portative Organ Cithern Psaltery
hurdy-gurdy portative organ cithern cithern
       
Lute Cornemuse Rebec Tambourine
lute cornemuse - bagpipes rebec or rebek tambourine
       

 

Of all the Cathar castles, Puivert is one of the best preserved. With its35 meters high keep in which four splendid rooms are superimposed, its towers incorporated in its enclosure wall, this castle dominates the old glacial lake of Puivert below.

You can climb to the top of the donjon (keep) from where you can see the Quercorb plain to north and the peak of Bugarach to the east. To the west you can just see Montségur with the the high Pyrenees behind it. The pall of black smoke rising from Montségur on the morning of 16 March 1244 would have been clearly visible from here.

The castle was classified as an Historic Monument (Monument historique) in 1907.

 

 

Entrance

 

Ruins of the Earler Chateau
adjacent to the existing chateau

 

Access to the Walls

 

Silhouette of the Chateau

 

Intramural tower
 
Gate with portculis
 
Vaulting in the Keep
 
Arial view of the Chateau of Puivert

 

The site is in the Quercob region, 60 km (40 miles) south of Carcassonne and 45 km (30 miles) east of Foix.

Phone : + 04 68 20 81 52 Fax : + 04 68 20 81 52. Opening times: April 1 to September 30. 8am to 8pm - October 1 to 31 March from 10am to 5pm

In the nearby village of Puivert you can visit the "musée du Quercorb".  (The Quercorb is the area around Puivert.)

Puivert lies at   42°54'44" N,   2°03'34" E

Google map showing the location of Château de Puivert

 

 

The curtain wall, pierced with arrow slits or loopholes (flecheres), extends some 175 m. In plan the grounds are rectangular with a surface area of around: 3,200 m². A moat which separated it from the plateau is almost indistinguishable today.

The main entrance to the courtyard is through a square tower situated in the canter of the east wall. Of the original towers there remain:

  • the keep (the best preserved part of the castle).
  • a smooth round tower in the northeast corner
  • a rough (bossed) round tower in the middle of the north wall
  • a square tower, with a windowed turret on the east side
  • the remains of a round tower in the southeast

As well as the central gateway in the east wall there are two other gateways: one in the northwest corner (defended by the keep) and another to the south of the keep giving access to the original castle on this site.

 

Google map showing Château de Puivert

 


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