Originally devoted to Saint-Sernin, first bishop of Toulouse, the Saint-Hilaire abbey later took the name of Saint-Hilaire who was Bishop of Carcassonne during the 6th century, because relics of his mortal remains were apparently sheltered there.
It was during the medieval period that this locality grew in importance, the village spread around the abbey whose abbots were also the feudal lords.
Until the beginning of the 13th century, the abbey benefited from the protection of the Counts of Carcassonne. During the Crusade against the Cathars, however, the monks were accused of heresy and lost their autonomy and most of their property. The monastery itself was devastated by the Catholic Crusaders. In 1246, Saint-Louis, the French King, ordered the Seneschal of Carcassone to give back to the Abbot of Saint-Hilaire the lands which had been confiscated from Cathars.
By the 14th century, the abbey was in financial difficulty. Insecurity caused by the Hundred Years War meant the abbots had to finance the maintenance of the village fortifications, and the abbey started to decline.
According to tradition the abbey was the birthplace of the Blanquette de Limoux. During the 16th century, the monks elaborated a semisparkling wine which has become famous around the world.
During the 18th century, the French Revolution caused further financial problems for the Abbey and it was obliged to sell its land and possessions.References:
The Château Comtal (Count’s Castle) is a medieval castle within the Cité of Carcassonne, the largest city in Europe with its city walls still intact. The Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a 'Cathar Castle'. When the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209 they first attacked Raymond-Roger Trencavel's castrum at Bèziers and then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne.
The castle with rectangular shape is separated from the city by a deep ditch and defended by two barbicans. There are six towers curtain walls.
The castle was restored in 1853 by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.