Castles in Occitanie

Château d'Avensac

Château d"Avensac was built in the 14th century and rebuilt in 1830 .
Founded: 14th century | Location: Avensac, France

Château de Caumont

Château de Caumont consists of two buildings on a vast esplanade overlooking the Save river valley. The old castle built on the site of a fortified castle that belonged to Gaston Phoebus. The present Renaissance castle whose construction lasted from 1525 to 1535. The castle sits on two levels of underground vaults, it is flanked by four strong towers so that openings and slits control the facades. Two octagonal towers a ...
Founded: 1525-1535 | Location: Cazaux-Savès, France

Château de Beaumont

The Château de Beaumont was constructed in the 14th century. Significant building work was carried out in the 15th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Gers, France

Château de Herrebouc

The Château de Herrebouc is a castle in the commune of Saint-Jean-Poutge. Though an older building, the present look of the castle is the result of a major campaign of construction work at the start of the 17th century. On the ground floor, the 17th century ceiling is partially conserved. The farm buildings date from this period. The pigeon loft is characteristic of the architecture of the time of Henri IV (reig ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Saint-Jean-Poutge, France

Château de Durfort

Château de Durfort was erected on a rocky piton which overlooks the valley of the Orbieu. The present ruins are those of a strengthened habitat, including a chapel, dwellings with rectangular windows and a tower. High thick walls, cellars and wells, arched rooms of square buildings, corner turrets, watch towers and a main tower are still visible. There is no documentary evidence for the initial construction of this fort ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Vignevieille, France

Château de Calberte

Mentioned in documents from 1092, Calberte was one of the numerous feudal castles standing in the Cévenol valleys. It was hold turns by turns by Anduze and Budos families and was under the jurisdiction of Château des Portes. Abandoned at the end of the 14th century or at the beginning of the 15th century, it faded from memories until nowadays. Nobody could remember that the very name of Saint Germain de Calberte stems f ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Germain-de-Calberte, France

Château de Miral

The Château de Miral overlooks the confluent of the Runes River and Tarn River. It belonged in the 13th century to the Cahbrieres family and from the 14th century to the Malbosc family. Its keep was built towards the end of the 13th century as the seat of the Malbosc-Miral family. Its ramparts defended access to the upper Tarn valley. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, the Lords of Malbosc-Miral constructed t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bédouès, 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 des Bourines

Château des Bourines was built as fortified barn in the 13th century. The courtyard is protected by a curtain wall flanked by four corner towers.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bertholène, France

Château de Galinières

Galinières was originally dependent on the Bonneval abbey of Bonneval, constituted from donations of noble families of the region and the bishops of Rodez between 1163 and 1181. The current structure was built mainly in the late 14th century and 15th century.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Pierrefiche, France

Château de Loupiac

Château de Loupiac was built in the 13th century. It is flanked with four round towers. The castle played an important role during the wars of Religion where it was caught and taken over by both sides. It was also conquered during the Revolution and burned down. Today it is privately owned.w
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lapanouse, France

Château de Montalègre

Counts of Montalègre have been known since 1268 and the castle was probably built also in the 13th century. The castle dominates the Valley of the Sorgues. The feudal castle consists of an almost square square building with two floors, flanked by four round towers.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Versols-et-Lapeyre, France

Château de Castagnac

Château de Castagnac was built in the 12th century to the site of older moated stronghold. The oldest document of castle dates from 1162. The current castle has a rectangular plan with four round towers at the corners. At the beginning of 19th  century, the castle was completely restored by the owners.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Castagnac, France

Château de Courrensan

The Château de Courrensan was built in the 13thm 15th, 16th and 18th centuries. It has been protected as a monument historique since 1979 and is noteworthy especially for its 15th-century columned chimney in a second-floor room. A ground-floor room in the 18th-century wing contains impressive wood decoration.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Courrensan, France

Château de Mérens

Construction of Château de Mérens castle dates from the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries. It was altered in the early 17th century. The hub of the castle corresponds to the original Gascon structure; the south west square tower belongs to this period of construction. At the start of the 17th century, the castle was furnished with a new system of defence, including a round walk. At the same time, wi ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mérens, 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 La Commanderie

Château La Commanderie in Plaigne is one of the rare Cathar castles still inhabited. La Commanderie was built in the 12th century by Guillaume de Plaigne, a Cathar Lord, who took an active role in the massacre of Avignonet and afterwards joined the besieged stronghold as a member of the garrison, along with his brother, at the famous siege of Montségur. In the 16th century, Barthelemy de Plaigne extended the ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Plaigne, France

Château des Guilhem

The Château des Guilhem was built for the Guilhems, lords of Clermont-l’Hérault, at the end of the 11th and beginning of the 12th centuries. The castle stands on Puech Castel hill, overlooking the town and surrounding country. The strategic site permitted control of the Hérault valley and the road to Bédarieux and the higher cantons, as well as the feudal town which was itself fortified so ...
Founded: c. 1100 | Location: Clermont-l'Hérault, 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 Cuxous

Château de Cuxous was built in the 11th century and mentioned first time in 1119. It was then rebuilt in 13th, 18th and 20th centuries.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Cassagnes, Cuba

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.