Castles in Occitanie

Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, ...
Founded: 333 AD | Location: Carcassonne, France

Cháteau Comtal

The Château Comtal (Count’s Castle) is a medieval castle within the Cité of Carcassonne, the largest city in Europe with its city walls still intact. The Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a 'Cathar Castle'. When the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209 they first attacked Raymond-Roger Trencavel's castrum at Bèziers and then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne. The castle with rectangular ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Carcassonne, France

Palais de la Berbie

The Musée Toulouse-Lautrec is an art museum in Albi. It is dedicated mainly to the work of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who was born near Albi. The museum opened in 1922 and is located in the historic center of Albi, in the Palais de la Berbie, formerly the Bishops' Palace, an imposing fortress completed at the end of the 13th century. Older than the Palais des Papes in Avignon, the Palais de la Berbie, former ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Albi, France

Château Royal de Collioure

The Château Royal de Collioure is a massive French royal castle in the town of Collioure, a few kilometers north of the Spanish border. The Château is the juxtaposition of at least four castles. Roussillon was conquered by the Romans around 120 BC and then occupied by the Visigoths from 418. The first mention is about a fortified site in Collioure under siege in 673, by Wamba, king of the Visigoths who lay sie ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Collioure, France

Duchy of Uzès Castle

The Duchy of Uzès castle is built on an old Roman Castrum (camp) which became the residence of the Governor in the first millennium. The architecture of the Duke"s chateau, named the Duchy is a potted history of France. The Middle-Ages, the Renaissance, the 17th century, and modern times are all there. Despite this, the ensemble is pleasing to the eye. During the difficult times of the Revolution the building ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Uzès, France

Fort Saint-André

The treaty of Meaux-Paris, signed in 1229 at the end of the Albigensian Crusade, handed the French crown land to the west of the Rhone from Pont-Saint-Esprit to the Mediterranean and a joint interest in the city of Avignon. In 1290 the French king, Philip IV, ceded his claim to Avignon to his father"s cousin, Charles II of Naples who was the Count of Provence through his marriage to Beatrice of Provence. The Benedic ...
Founded: | Location: Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, France

Château Fort de Lourdes

Besieged in 778 by Charlemagne, Château Fort de Lourdes became the residence of the Counts of Bigorre in the 11th and 12th centuries. In the 13th century, it passed into the possession of the Counts of Champagne, part of the kingdom of Navarre before coming under the crown of France under Philippe le Bel. It was ceded to the English by the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360, before returning to France at the start of th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lourdes, France

Château de Peyrepertuse

Château de Peyrepertuse is a ruined fortress and one of the so-called Cathar castles located high in the French Pyrénées in the commune of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. The view of the castle from Duilhac (to the south) is impressive thanks to the 30 to 40 meter cliff on which the Castle is perched. The main entrance is located on the north side, but in the time of the Cathars, a secret passage through a ...
Founded: 806 AD | Location: Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, France

Château de Castelnou

From 990 AD, Château de Castelnou served as the administrative and military capital of the Viscount of Vallespir. Its irregular pentagonal plan follows the rocky outcrop on which it was built, this elevated position providing defence against enemy attacks. The castle was taken by the troops of James II of Majorca en 1286, and again in 1483. Largely demolished in 1559, it was no longer restored or inhabited and deteriora ...
Founded: 990 AD | Location: Castelnou, France

Château de Foix

The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control ac ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Foix, France

Palace of the Kings of Majorca

The Palace of the Kings of Majorca is a palace and a fortress with gardens overlooking the city of Perpignan. In 1276, King James II of Majorca made Perpignan the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. He started to build a palace with gardens on the hill on the south of the town. It was completed in 1309. In 1415, the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund of Luxemburg, organised a European summit in Perpignan, to convince the Avign ...
Founded: 1276-1309 | Location: Perpignan, France

Salses Fortress

Forteresse de Salses was built between 1497 and 1504, at the order of Ferdinand II of Aragon. It was designed by engineer Francisco Ramiro Lopez, the king’s commander and artillery master, to block access to France from Roussillon. It was originally destined to replace a previous château, from which the town takes its name (Salses-le-Château). The earliest records of this château, situated on a nei ...
Founded: 1497-1504 | Location: Salses-le-Château, France

Château d'Estaing

Château d"Estaing was built built around the medieval square keep in the 15th-17th centuries. The original chapel was built in the 15th century. The castle was the traditional home for counts of Estaing until 1794.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Estaing, France

Château de Quéribus

Château de Quéribus is a ruined castle in the commune of Cucugnan. It is one of the 'Five Sons of Carcassonne', along with Aguilar, Peyrepertuse, Termes and Puilaurens: five castles strategically placed to defend the French border against the Spanish, until the border was moved in 1659. Quéribus was first time mentioned in 1021 when it was one of the main Barcelonan strongholds north of the Pyrenees. ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Cucugnan, France

Lastours Castles

The Châteaux de Lastours are four so-called Cathar castles on a rocky spur above the village of Lastours, isolated by the deep valleys of the Orbeil and Grésilhou rivers. These four castles constitute a single entity, even though they are not a single structure. The natural layout of the site permitted the economy of a fortress of great height. Plans were adapted to the rocks on which they were built. The con ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lastours, France

Château de Beaucens

The Chateau of Beaucens is a former castle of the Viscounts of Lavedan dating mainly from the 14th century. The site was transformed into a zoo, the Keep of Eagles, where there are Birds of prey flying around the ruins of the castle with a view of the Gaves valley.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Beaucens, France

Château de Lavardens

Château de Lavardens dominates the skyline of surrounding lands. Originally built in the 12th century, it was later a residence of Counts of Armagnac. The present massive structure dates from 1620 onwards and it was built on the ruins of medieval castle (destroyed by King"s soldiers in 1496).
Founded: 1620 | Location: Lavardens, France

Château de Montségur

The Château de Montségur ruins are the site of a razed stronghold of the Cathars. The present fortress on the site is actually of a later period. The earliest signs of human settlement in the area date back to the stone age, around 80,000 years ago. Evidence of Roman occupation such as Roman currency and tools have also been found in and around the site. Its name comes from Latin mons securus, which evolved into mont s ...
Founded: 1204 | Location: Montségur, France

Château de Beaucaire

The Château de Beaucaire is a ruined castle in the commune of Beaucaire. Existing structures date from the 12th and 16th centuries, with other elements from various times in the Middle Ages. First built in the 11th century, the castle was torn down on Richelieu"s orders. It used to be protected by a wall, the trace of which can still be followed. It includes a strange polygonal tower perched on a rocky spur, t ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Beaucaire, France

Château de Larressingle

Château de Larressingle was built in the second half of the 13th century. The second and third floors were added by Arnaud Orthon de Lomagne, Bishop of Condom, between 1285 and 1305. Windows were added at various times in the 15th and 16th centuries, particularly between 1521 and 1545 when extra works were carried out for Monseigneur de Grossolles, including the construction of a hexagonal tower.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Larressingle, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.