Colpach Castle was originally a small medieval stronghold surrounded by a moat, similar to the castles at Ell and Everlange. The earliest reference dates from 1303. From 1628, it belonged to the Pforzheims who filled in the moat and converted it into a modest manor house around 1747 (the date on the entrance gate). In the 19th century, it was administered as a farming centre by Baron Edouard de Marches who lived in Guirsch Castle near Arlon. In about 1870, he laid out the gardens surrounding the castle. The lake with an island, the curved pathways, the ornamental bushes and trees can still be seen today. In 1874, his widow née Cécile Papier married the famous Hungarian painter Michael Munkácsy. They spent their summers in Colpach Castle and the winters in Paris. In 1886, Franz Liszt visited the couple in Colpach shortly before his death. After 1900, the castle was increasingly deserted by Munkácsy's widow who died in 1915.
Émile Mayrisch, head of ARBED, bought the castle and surrounding area on 27 January 1917. From 1917 to 1920, he had the castle enlarged and modified by the architect Sosthène Weis, lending it a simple but elegant style.
Together with his wife Aline, Mayrisch made the castle a centre of attraction for noteworthy politicians, economists, writers and artists between the two world wars. Guests included Walther Rathenau, André Gide, Jacques Rivière, Otto Bartning and Théo van Rysselberghe.
In 1947, Aline Mayrisch bequeathed the castle to the Red Cross for use as a convalescent home. The facilities have been constantly improved over the years. The park is open to visitors all the year round. It is particularly suitable for handicapped visitors.References:
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.