Cathar castles

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

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 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 access ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Foix, 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 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 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 d'Arques

The Château d"Arques is one of the so-called Cathar castles. In the 12th century, there was a conflict between the viscount of Carcassonne and several seigneurs, including Arques and Lagrasse. The estates at Arques became the property of the seigneurs of Termes. In 1231, after the defeat of the Château de Termes during the Albigensian Crusade, Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, attacked Arques. Af ...
Founded: 1284 | Location: Arques, France

Château de Villerouge-Termenès

The first historical data concerning the site of Château de Villerouge-Termenès dates from the 12th century. At that time and until the French Revolution, Narbonne"s powerful archbishops were the lords of the castle and village of Villerouge- Termenès. Even so, the castle was much coveted and occupied several times. Indeed, in 1107, Pope Pascal II had to confirm the Archbishop Richard as rightful ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Villerouge-Termenès, 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 Carcassonne ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saissac, 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 army of ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Puivert, France

Château de Termes

The Château de Termes is one of the so-called Cathar castles. Built on a promontory, defended on three sides by formidable deep ravines, the crumbling ruins of the castle cover an area of 16 000m². Held by the Cathar heretic Ramon (Raymond) de Termes, the castle only fell to Simon de Montfort after a siege lasting four months, from August to November 1210, the hardest siege of the first period of the Albigensia ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Termes, France

Château d'Aguilar

The Château d'Aguilar is one of the so-called Cathar castles. The design of the castle witnesses the practical military thinking of the 12th century. The castle consists of an inner keep built in the 12th century, surrounded by an outer pentagonal fortification from the 13th century. This fortification is oriented such that its point guards the side most favourable to attackers. The keep and the inner hexagonal fortifica ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tuchan, 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 forti ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Mazamet, France

Château d'Agel

Château d"Agel was first mentioned in 1100. In the early 12th century the area was rocked by the scandal of the Cathar Wars or Albigensian Crusade. A local form of Christianity was becoming ever more popular and according to some had already become the majority religion of the area. The Catholic Church regarded it as both a heresy and a threat. The 'heresy' was strongest in the county of Toulouse and ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Agel, France

Château de Miglos

Dependent on the counts of Foix, the chateau at Miglos is mentioned in 1213, at the time of the inventory of the strongholds given back to the king of France. Miglos was a place of passage and of residence for numerous Cathar Perfects and believers.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Miglos, France

Château Vicomtal Saint-Pierre

The Château Vicomtal Saint-Pierre de Fenouillet is a ruined 11th century castle in the commune of Fenouillet. In the 12th century, Bertrand de Saissac, Viscount de Fenouillet, was one of the major vassals of the Viscount of Carcassonne. Bernard is known for his Cathar beliefs, and his dislike of the Catholic Church. It is likely that the first Cathar preachers came to Fenouillet around this time. At the beginning of th ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Fenouillet, France

Château de Coustaussa

The original Château de Coustaussa was built by the Trencavels, Viscounts of the Razès, in the 12th century. It was the stronghold of Cathars until Simon de Montfort and his Crusaders conquered it during the Albigensian Crusade. After the Crusades, the Castle came into the possession of the de Montesquieu family. The present Château was apparently still in good shape until the 19th century, when an ente ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Coustaussa, France

Château d'Usson

The Château d'Usson is one of the so-called Cathar castles located in the commune of Rouze. It is sited upstream from Axat, along the Aude River gorge, carved out of the foothills of the Pyrenees. The castle dates from the 11th century (perhaps earlier) and during the Cathar period marked the eastern boundary of the territories of the Counts of Foix. In the 12th century, this was the capital of the Donézan region. Befo ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Rouze, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Trinity Sergius Lavra

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a world famous spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. It is the most important working Russian monastery and a residence of the Patriarch. This religious and military complex represents an epitome of the growth of Russian architecture and contains some of that architecture’s finest expressions. It exerted a profound influence on architecture in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe.

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, was founded in 1337 by the monk Sergius of Radonezh. Sergius achieved great prestige as the spiritual adviser of Dmitri Donskoi, Great Prince of Moscow, who received his blessing to the battle of Kulikov of 1380. The monastery started as a little wooden church on Makovets Hill, and then developed and grew stronger through the ages.

Over the centuries a unique ensemble of more than 50 buildings and constructions of different dates were established. The whole complex was erected according to the architectural concept of the main church, the Trinity Cathedral (1422), where the relics of St. Sergius may be seen.

In 1476 Pskovian masters built a brick belfry east of the cathedral dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. The church combines unique features of early Muscovite and Pskovian architecture. A remarkable feature of this church is a bell tower under its dome without internal interconnection between the belfry and the cathedral itself.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, echoing the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin, was erected between 1559 and 1585. The frescoes of the Assumption Cathedral were painted in 1684. At the north-western corner of the Cathedral, on the site of the western porch, in 1780 a vault containing burials of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family was built.

In the 16th century the monastery was surrounded by 6 meters high and 3,5 meters thick defensive walls, which proved their worth during the 16-month siege by  Polish-Lithuanian invaders during the Time of Trouble. They were later strengthened and expanded.

After the Upheaval of the 17th century a large-scale building programme was launched. At this time new buildings were erected in the north-western part of the monastery, including infirmaries topped with a tented church dedicated to Saints Zosima and Sawatiy of Solovki (1635-1637). Few such churches are still preserved, so this tented church with a unique tiled roof is an important contribution to the Lavra.

In the late 17th century a number of new buildings in Naryshkin (Moscow) Baroque style were added to the monastery.

Following a devastating fire in 1746, when most of the wooden buildings and structures were destroyed, a major reconstruction campaign was launched, during which the appearance of many of the buildings was changed to a more monumental style. At this time one of the tallest Russian belfries (88 meters high) was built.

In the late 18th century, when many church lands were secularized, the chaotic planning of the settlements and suburbs around the monastery was replaced by a regular layout of the streets and quarters. The town of Sergiev Posad was surrounded by traditional ramparts and walls. In the vicinity of the monastery a number of buildings belonging to it were erected: a stable yard, hotels, a hospice, a poorhouse, as well as guest and merchant houses. Major highways leading to the monastery were straightened and marked by establishing entry squares, the overall urban development being oriented towards the centrepiece - the Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra.

In 1993, the Trinity Lavra was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.