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 narrow path behind a rocky overhang allowed entrance by means of a detachable ladder. Today, the secret passage's postern is closed off, but the path is still there.
The castle is one of the 'Five Sons of Carcassonne' along with the castles Quéribus, Puilaurens, Termes, and Aguilar, all situated atop rocky peaks. Peyrepertuse is the biggest of the five castles and it is as vast as Carcassonne. The site was occupied during Roman times from the beginning of the 1st century B.C., as recent archaeological excavations have shown. The first historical references to the castle appeared in 806. It was then Catalan and was called Perapertusès. It belonged to the Count of Besalú, a small city situated in Catalonia between Figueres and Olot according to a text from 1020. It then passed into the earldom of Barcelona in 1111, and then into the viscountcy of Narbonne. From 1180, the Count of Barcelona (Alphonse II, who later became the king of Aragon) secured his independence from vassalage to the king of France.
At the time of the Albigensian Crusade, it was the fief of Guillaume de Peyrepertuse who, not wanting to submit, was excommunicated in 1224. He did finally submit after the failure of the siege of Carcassonne, and the castle became a French possession in 1240. IN 1242, Saint-Louis decided to reinforce it and add a second part, the Sant Jordi dungeon, located higher up on the ridge. The Sant Jordi dungeon was then constructed in 1250-51 and the Old Dungeon as well as the Sainte-Marie Church were re-purposed. The situation in the region was unclear until the signing of the Treaty of Corbeil in 1258 which liberated Catalonia and Languedoc. It also fixed the border as just south of Peyrepertuse Castle. Like its neighbors, the castles of Puilaurens and Queribus, Peyrepertuse was one of the royal fortresses which was reconstructed at the end of the 13th century to defend the border against the Crown of Aragon and then Spain until the 17th century.
In 1355, the castle was restored to its defensive state and Henri de Transtamare, pretender to the Castillian throne, routed at Navarette, was authorized by the king of France Charles V to take refuge there. In 1542, Jean de Graves, lord of Sérignan, seized the castle in the name of the Reformation, but was captured and executed.
The castle was decommissioned as a border point with the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 having lost its strategic interest. Although the citadel was a lot less valuable after the annexation of Roussillon in 1658, a small garrison commanded by a junior officer was maintained until the French Revolution, during which it was abandoned. Sold as a National Property in 1820, its ruins remain today. The first campaign for the preservation of the monument began in 1950.
Today, the ruins of Peyrepertuse Castle welcome close to 100,000 visitors per year.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.