The Châteaux de Lastours are four so-called Cathar castles on a rocky spur above the village of Lastours, isolated by the deep valleys of the Orbeil and Grésilhou rivers. These four castles constitute a single entity, even though they are not a single structure. The natural layout of the site permitted the economy of a fortress of great height. Plans were adapted to the rocks on which they were built. The construction of each is different reflecting the range of alterations made to the castles.
In the Middle Ages, the site belonged to the lords of Cabaret, mentioned for the first time in 1067. Probably only three castles were built in the 11th century and their sites evolved over the years following demolition and successive rebuilding.
The castles existed through the Albigensian crusade. The lords of Cabaret were closely linked to the followers of Catharism and the villages surrounding the castles welcomed many Cathars. The fortress at this time belonged to Pierre-Roger de Cabaret follower of Raymond Roger Trencavel, who fought at his side during the defence of Carcassonne. In 1209, the site resisted the attacks of Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester. But the crusader Bouchard de Marly, then lord of the Château de Saissac, was taken prisoner by Pierre-Roger. His freedom was negotiated against the surrender of Cabaret in 1211.
In 1223, the lords of Cabaret repossessed their lands and Cabaret became the seat of the Cathar bishop of Carcassès. Pierre-Roger resisted Simon de Montfort's attacks for many years, but in 1227, the castles were again besieged by Humbert de Beaujeu. In 1229, Cabaret capitulated.
The villages and the castles were plundered and then rebuilt to become royal fortresses. The Tour Régine was built by order of the king to affirm his supremacy. They became the administrative and military centre of six communities forming the châtellerie of Cabardès. In the 16th century, the castles were occupied by Protestants. They were dislodged by maréchal de Joyeuse in 1591.
Cabaret is the main citadel with a barbican defence system. It consists of a north tower, a polygonal keep in the south and a group of residential buildings in the centre. The whole is surrounded by ramparts with a round walk. The crenellated wall is built with irregular material, with large stones forming the corners and openings.
The Tour Régine, closest to Cabaret, is the most recent fortress and the smallest. It consists of a round tower, surrounded by a small curtain wall which has collapsed. Below ground, the tower contains the largest cistern of the four castles. The tower has three storeys and is flanked by a spiral staircase. The white limestone used is identical to that at Cabaret. It is thought that this tower was built after the Albigensian Crusade: the name (Régine = Royal) suggests as much and there is no written evidence of its existence prior to 1260.
Also called Fleur-Espine (Thornflower), this castle is the least preserved of the four. On the highest part of the site, it consists of a square tower, a house and a cistern. A rectangular curtain wall gives protection. It is noted for the rarity of its murder holes and its four semicircular arched windows.
The Quertinheux is furthest south along the crest on an isolated rocky outcrop. It consists of a circular tower and a polygonal curtain wall. A chicane defends the entrance. It overlooks the remains of a destroyed Romanesque church.References:
The eight towns in south-eastern Sicily, including Ragusa, were all rebuilt after 1693 on or beside towns existing at the time of the earthquake which took place in that year. They represent a considerable collective undertaking, successfully carried out at a high level of architectural and artistic achievement. Keeping within the late Baroque style of the day, they also depict distinctive innovations in town planning and urban building. Together with seven other cities in the Val di Noto, it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1693 Ragusa was devastated by a huge earthquake, which killed some 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, and many Baroque buildings from this time remain in the city. Most of the population moved to a new settlement in the former district of Patro, calling this new municipality 'Ragusa Superiore' (Upper Ragusa) and the ancient city 'Ragusa Inferiore' (Lower Ragusa). The two cities remained separated until 1926, when they were fused together to become a provincial capital in 1927.