The Château d'Arques is one of the so-called Cathar castles. In the 12th century, there was a conflict between the viscount of Carcassonne and several seigneurs, including Arques and Lagrasse. The estates at Arques became the property of the seigneurs of Termes.
In 1231, after the defeat of the Château de Termes during the Albigensian Crusade, Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester, attacked Arques. After having burned the village, situated on the banks of the Rialsès, he gave this part of Razès to one of his lieutenants, Pierre de Voisins. In 1284, Gilles de Voisins began work on building a castle, with the intention of defending the Rialsès valley and controlling the transhumance routes leading to the Corbières. In 1316, Gilles II de Voisins altered and completed the castle.
In 1575, the castle was besieged by Protestants during the Wars of Religion and only the keep managed to resist the assault. By the start of the French Revolution the castle had fallen into ruin. It was sold as a national asset and subsequently suffered severe damage.
The castle consists of an enceinte and a high square keep with four turrets. It was built after Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century. The almost square enceinte encircles the castle with a gateway furnished with machicolation and surmounted with a keystone bearing the arms of the Voisin famil. Numerous buildings must have existed the length of the enceinte. Two well-preserved residential towers remain.
The square keep, 25 m high, is a work of military architecture inspired by castles in the Ile de France. It has four levels served by a spiral staircase. The various rooms were constructed with extreme care. The top floor was given over to defence of the castle. Forty soldiers could defend it thanks to numerous murder holes and rectangular bays set symmetrically into the walls.
It is a good example of the progress in military construction in a strategically important region.
The castle is owned partly by the commune and partly privately. It is open to visitors.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.