The Palace of Justice in Poitiers was the seat of the Counts of Poitou and Dukes of Aquitaine in the 10-12th centuries. The former Merovingian kingdom of Aquitaine was re-established by Charlemagne for his son Louis the Pious; in the 9th century, a palace was constructed or reconstructed for him, one among many, above a Roman wall datable to the late 3rd century, at the highest spot of the town. Louis stayed there many times as a king and then returned to the palace after becoming, in 839 and 840. The palatium was specifically called a palace in the reign of Charles the Bald. After the disintegration of the Carolingian realm, the palace became the seat of the Counts of Poitiers. The first palace of Poitiers was completely destroyed by a fire in 1018.
The palace was completely rebuilt, straddling the wall, by the Count-Dukes of Aquitaine, then at the pinnacle of their power. In 1104, Count William IX added a donjon on the town side. It is known as the tour Maubergeon, after his mistress Amauberge, wife of Vicomte Aimery de Châtellerault and grandmother of Eleanor of Aquitaine. The rectangular keep is reinforced with four smaller square towers projecting from each corner; it was greatly damaged when the southern portion of the palace was set ablaze by Henry of Grosmont in 1346.
Between 1191 and 1204, Eleanor fitted up a dining hall, the Salle des Pas Perdus, the 'hall of lost footsteps', where a footfall was silenced by the vastness of its space— 50 metres in length, 17 metres in width, perhaps the largest in contemporary Europe. The hall has not retained its original beamed ceiling; it has been covered by chestnut woodwork, constructed in 1862 by a team of marine carpenters from La Rochelle. The walls of the hall are daubed and painted so as to imitate stone facing. Their monotony is relieved by cusped arches resting on slender columns. A stone bench rings the walls of the hall.
In 1384-86 Jean I, duc de Berry, who was also appanage count of Poitiers, rebuilt the part of the palace which had been destroyed by fire. On the one hand, the donjon and the ramparts were reconstructed; on the other hand, the private apartments were restored in the Gothic Flamboyant style by Jean's court architect and sculptor Guy de Dammartin. These works were undertaken between 1388 and 1416, during pauses in the course of the Hundred Years' War.
The tour Maubergeon was reconstructed on three floors with ogival vaulting, illuminated by glazed windows and topped by nineteen statues. Of these, only sixteen pieces survive: they represent the duke's counsellors in clerical habits, while the statues of the duke and his wife are missing. In its unfinished state, the tower has neither machicolations nor canopies above the statues.
At the behest of Guy de Dammartin, three monumental stoves were installed in the grand hall; they were decorated with Gothic Flamboyant statuary and surmounted by a gallery. The southern wall of the hall was also overhauled: it was pierced by great bays which masked the pipes from outside view. The exterior of this wall was decorated with flamboyant ogives. The floor was tiled by Jehan de Valence, called 'the Saracen' in the accounts, with green and gold circular lustred maiolica tiles. When the project was complete, Jehan de Valence returned home to Valencia, and no further lustred tin-glazed faience was produced in France.
The count-dukes sometimes administered justice in the great hall. It was there that Hugues de Lusignan, comte de la Marche, publicly challenged Louis IX on Christmas Day, 1241. After the province of Poitou was reattached to the royal domain, la salle des pas perdus was renamed la salle du Roi ('the royal hall'). A judicial institution, le parlement royal, sat there from 1418 to 1436.
The palace was used for administering justice: on 5 June 1453 Jacques Coeur was tried there, and justice was dispensed in the Palais de Justice through the French Revolution. In 1821, a monumental staircase with a Doric portico was attached to the medieval building. Too soon to benefit from interest generated by the Gothic Revival, the duc de Berry's private apartments were gradually demolished to give room to the appellate court and its chancery.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.