Burg Stolpen is a castle built on top of the Schloßberg. The first defensive works were built about 1100 and it was first documented in 1222. Owned by the Bishop of Meißen for nearly 350 years, it passed to the Electorate of Saxony and was expanded in Renaissance style. By being converted into a fortress in 1675, Stolpen received increased military importance. After the end of the Augustinian Age in 1763, the garrison was dissolved. Two years later, Stolpen’s most famous captive, Countess Cosel, died at the fortress, aged almost 85. The most well-known mistress to Saxon Elector and Polish King Augustus the Strong had spent 49 years of her life at Stolpen against her will. Her burial place is located inside the Stolpen Castle Chapel.
The castle fell into disrepair towards the end of the 18th century. It became a museum in 1875, and has been partly restored since then. An average of approximately 100,000 visitors a year come and see Stolpen Castle today. Apart from the daily museum operation, an extensive program of events invigorates the castle. The historic Granary with its original wooden-beam architecture as well as the unique flair of the castle yards make each event a grand experience.
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 to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.