Lastours Castles

Lastours, France

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.

Four castles

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.

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Lastours, France
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Details

Founded: 11th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Nell Samples (2 years ago)
Challenging climb but worth the hike to explore the old ruins. Well placed signs share the impressive history of Lastours. Beautiful views along the route. Bring good shoes and plenty of water, recommend visiting in the morning to avoid heat and crowds. Treat yourself to a well deserved beer and meal at Auberge de l'Orbiel afterwards. Stop by the viewpoint on your way out of town to fully appreciate the climb you've just completed!
Cyrus Mower (2 years ago)
Stunning setting for fascinating ruins. Take water and good shoes and let your imagination run wild! (Very friendly, informative welcome, well maintained paths.)
Johnny M (2 years ago)
Be aware that visiting this castle definitely requires around two hours of hiking and there are steep steps. We started visiting the hilltop with a view over the castles. We then descended the hill through a Forrest path until we reached the entrance to the castle. The view is exceptional and I would definitely recommend this
Mk B (2 years ago)
The hike was quite nice. Not too strenuous though I wouldn't recommend it for those with low flexibility or mobility issues or small children as some of the steps are quite high or a bit tricky. The castles were beautiful and so interesting to see!
Geert Baeten (2 years ago)
Interesting place to see the 4 castle ruins. Although it evades me why this location would be strategically important enough to start building a defensive stronghold at that time. The walk up to and around the castles is quite intense: a 2 hour hike with some climbs, all using nicely laid foot paths and steps.
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