Château de Termes

Termes, France

The Château de Termes is one of the so-called Cathar castles. Built on a promontory, defended on three sides by formidable deep ravines, the crumbling ruins of the castle cover an area of 16 000m². Held by the Cathar heretic Ramon (Raymond) de Termes, the castle only fell to Simon de Montfort after a siege lasting four months, from August to November 1210, the hardest siege of the first period of the Albigensian Crusade. Following an exceptionally dry summer and autumn, the empty water tanks led Raymond to offer surrender. However, as the crusaders advanced to possess the castle, they were met with a hail of arrows. A heavy storm overnight had replenished the cisterns and the defenders were able to hold out a little longer. Later, weakened from dysentery, and exposed to the fire of numbers of siege weapons, the garrison attempted unsuccessfully to creep out at night. The alarm was raised, the fugitives caught and killed, and Raymond surrendered the castle. After de Montfort's death, Raymond regained possession of the castle but was soon forced to give it up again, this time to the King of France.

Rebuilt in the 13th century as a royal garrison, the castle was one of the 'sons of Carcassonne' (five castles defending the border with Aragon and later Spain). When the border moved further south in the 17th century, the castle lost its function. It was taken over by a band of brigands who used it as a base from which to terrorise and pillage the surrounding country. To stop this, it was demolished by royal decree - a master mason from Limoux spent 1653 and 1654 blowing up the walls with gunpowder and reducing them to piles of rubble.

A short walk from the modern village of Termes are substantial ruins of the Château on a hill top nearby, including the vestiges of an extensive system of forward defenses. The ruins stand at an altitude of 470m on top of a hill surrounded on three sides by a ravine formed by the river Sou. You can see where le Termenet, the forward outpost, protected the fourth, most vulnerable, side. Few of the remains date from the Crusade only part of the southern face of the outer curtain wall, the inner wall and some of the buildings it protected. The rest is the work of royal engineers in the second half of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th.

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D40, Termes, France
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Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

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