Castles in Occitanie

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 i ...
Founded: 1204 | Location: Montségur, France

Château de Corbère

Château de Corbère was first mentioned in 1241, but it was built already in the 12th century. It was enlarged and remodelled in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 19th century it fell into disrepair before were completely looted. Today the castle is restored and privately owned.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Corbère, France

Château de Puilaurens

The Château de Puilaurens is one of the so-called Cathar castles. 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 Queen of Aragon in 1162. As Aragonese property it was outside the territory ravaged by the Crusaders durin ...
Founded: 1229 | Location: Puilaurens, France

Château de Florac

The Château de Florac was originally built in the 13th century and then rebuilt in the 17th century. It originally belonged to the Barony of Anduze and passed through a number of feudal families. The castle was entirely rebuilt in 1652 after the Wars of Religion. During the French Revolution, the castle was turned into a 'salt loft' for storing salt. It was then used as a prison in the 19th century. Since ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Florac, France

Château de Pieusse

The Château de Pieusse is one of the so-called Cathar castles. It is a 'true' Cathar castle in the sense that the site was never taken by the French crown during the annexation of Roussillon, but the buildings are mostly of more recent date. It is characterised by a keep, massive for the time, whose use was essentially defensive. The castle is currently private property and not open to the public. The cas ...
Founded: 1140-1145 | Location: Pieusse, France

Château de Montdardier

Château de Montdardier was built in the 12th century to the site of smaller fortification mentioned first time in 1099. The current appearance dates from the restoration made in 1860.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Montdardier, France

Château de Puissalicon

Château de Puissalicon was built in the 11th century. Two imposing towers lies over the dungeon which is now in ruins. The castle is privately owned, but can be visited in part during the Heritage Days in September.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Puissalicon, France

Château de Hautpoul

The original castle in n a rocky spur was supposedly built in 413 by the Visigoths on the side of a mountain, defended by almost inaccessible cliffs. This fortress controlled the Arnette and the Thoré valleys, overlooking the plain where the town of Mazamet now stands. Pierre-Raymond de Hautpoul is the first known lord of Hautpoul (mentioned in 1084). He rebuilt the castle, constructed the town walls and built the ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Mazamet, France

Château du Bezu

Château du Bezu, also called Les Tiplies, was a Cathar castle located on a hill top near to the village of Le Bézu. In the popular imagination Le Bézu is an old Templar fortress, from where the Templars treasure was rescued when they were persecuted by the French King Philip le Bel in 1307. There is very little evidende that it was ever a Templar fortress, but plenty that it was a Cathar stronghold at ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Le Bézu, France

Château de Puivert

The Château de Puivert is a so-called Cathar castle on top of a hill overhanging the village and lake. The construction of the present chateau dates from the 13th century. The first mention is in 1170 when it belonged to the Congost family before the Albigensian Crusade. These lords practised Catharism and were accused as heretics. Then, in November 1210, the castle was subjected for three days to a siege by the arm ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Puivert, France

Château de Bertholène

Château de Bertholène history dates from early 12th century. The enclosure, several meters high, was equipped with numerous defensive elements. The castle was conquered and destroyed several times during its long existence. Since the early 19th century it has been abandoned and ruined.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Bertholène, France

Château du Colombier

The square tower is the oldest part of the Château du Colombier but the exact date of construction is unknown. It was enlarged during the 13th and 14th centuries. In 2001-2002, the opening of the Hall of Frescos completed the tour of the chateau and allowed visitors to experience the refinement of its Renaissance decoration (XVI century)
Founded: 13th century | Location: Salles-la-Source, 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 Pagax

Château de Pagax was built in the 13th century, the oldest mention dates from 1259. During the Renaissance the castle was rebuilt, and large windows were pierced to the walls.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Flagnac, France

Château de Saissac

The Château de Saissac is a ruined castle, one of the so-called Cathar castles. It was once the residence of the powerful vassal family of Trencavel. The castle dominates the rocky headland and the ravine of Vernassonne, at an important strategic position at the entry of the Montagne noire. Based on historical texts, it can be dated to at least 960. It was bequeathed by the bishop of Toulouse to the Count of Carcas ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saissac, France

Château de Saint-Alban

The first mention of the Château de Saint-Alban dates back to 1188. It was besieged several times during the Hundred Years" War. The three existing towers were added in the 15th century. Since 1824 the castle has been used as psychiatric center.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, France

Château de Lordat

Château de Lordat castle dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries (mentioned first time in 970 AD). Around 1244 it was occupied by the Cathars during the crusade against the Albigensians. Lordat family abandoned the castle at the time of religious wars of France. Dismantled by the order of Henry IV in 1582, the castle fell gradually in ruins. The entrance is protected by a square tower which still has its original a ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Lordat, France

Fort de Valros

The Fort de Valros is a ruined small castle or fortress. The site has no visible trace of occupation from antiquity, but archaeological digs have uncovered the remains of a necropolis used from the 8th to the 10th century. The promontory on which the fort stands is a strategic observation post. It dominates the valley of the Thongue and controls two very ancient communication routes: the roads from Béziers to Pézenas ...
Founded: 1199 | Location: Valros, France

Château de Lussan

Château de Lussan is square castle with substantial towers at each corner and was built here in the 15th century for the Lords of Audibert. There is a large clock and iron campanile on one of the towers which was added in the 19th century. The castle was in private ownership until it was seized during the Revolution: since that time the castle has had several different owners and uses and is now used for local council of ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Lussan, France

Château de Roquefixade

The Château de Roquefixade is a ruined castle built on a cliff overlooking the village of Roquefixade. There are records of a castle on the site going back to 1180, though the present ruins are more modern. While marketed in the tourist industry as one of the so-called Cathar castles, the ruins are later than this. Despite this, the site did provide a place of refuge for the Cathars at the time of the Albigensian Cr ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Roquefixade, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.