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 all over Languedoc, where vassals of the Count of Toulouse refortified a line of castles to protect themselves against Papal forces. Agel was one of that line of castles refortified to resist the Pope's forces.
The Crusade against the Cathars, led by Simon de Montfort, raged throughout the Languedoc. In Simon's bid to take nearby Minerve in 1210, the château d'Agel was almost entirely destroyed by fire. In July of that year, Minerve fell, and the 180 Cathars who had taken refuge there met their end on a burning pyre.
The Treaty of Paris, which annexed Languedoc to France in 1220, put an end to the Crusade. Guiraud de Pépieux, who had escaped the massacre, set about restoring the château for his descendants. Notarial records dating back to the year 1300 mention another Guillaume de Pépieux as Lord of Aigues-Vives and Agel.
The architecture of the Château d'Agel reflects its continued use over the centuries. Thus for example window styles, vary from the tiny windows of the stark 12th century fortress to the beautiful windows of the Renaissance with ornamental balusters and capitals. During the 17th century, Renaissance embrasures were replaced on the principal frontage by broad bays with small squares in the style of Trianon.
By the first half of the 20th century, the Château had fallen into disrepair, and the northern wing in particular had become a ruin. In the 1960s the Ecal family began the task of restoring the property and its gardens to their former glory. Today Château d'Agel is a grand hotel.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.