The Château Royal de Collioure is a massive French royal castle in the town of Collioure, a few kilometers north of the Spanish border. The Château is the juxtaposition of at least four castles. Roussillon was conquered by the Romans around 120 BC and then occupied by the Visigoths from 418. The first mention is about a fortified site in Collioure under siege in 673, by Wamba, king of the Visigoths who lay siege to the “Castellum Caucolibéri” to subdue a rebellion.
In the 12th century, Girard II, the last independent count of the Roussillon, bequeathed his land to Alfons II, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona. Concerned about the prosperity of Collioure, the kings of Aragon granted privileges and tax exemptions. An annual fair was established, and important works were undertaken in the castle, the port and the town. The Knights Templar built the castle around 1207 and integrated it to the royal castle in 1345.
A second castle was later built by the Kings of Majorca during the 13th and 14th centuries. In the 13th century, the Castle was annexed to the Kingdom of Majorca, which included the domain of Montpellier, the earldoms of the Roussillon and Cerdanya, the Conflent and Vallespir, and the Balearic Islands. The Kings of Majorca were itinerant. They travelled with their court, moving frequently from Maguelonne, near Montpellier, to Perpignan, to Palma de Majorca or to Collioure.
In the 16th century, after a brief occupation by Louis XI, the Spanish Habsburgs, starting with Charles Quint, again occupied Collioure. He and his son Philip II turned the castle into a modern fortress of the 16th century. It was imperative that the fortifications were adapted in line with the advances in artillery, and so the castle defences and its surroundings were considerably reinforced.
In the 17th century Collioure was at stake in the wars between the Spanish Habsburgs and the French Bourbons. In 1642, Louis XIII's troops lay siege to Collioure and the Château Royal. Ten thousand men including Turenne, d'Artagnan and the King's musketeers occupied the hills overlooking the town, while the French fleet blocked the port. Deprived of water due to the destruction of their wells, the Spanish were forced to surrender. In 1659, France annexed the Roussillon and Collioure and the castle passed definitively into French hands. Vauban built the bastions, reinforced the structure and upgraded Fort Saint-Elme.
In 1793, the Spanish again besieged and occupied Collioure, which General Dugommier took back the next year.
The castle was turned into a men's prison in March 1939 and became the first disciplinary camp for the Spanish refugees of the Retirada, the exile from the Spanish Civil War. Many others were sent to the camps of Argelès-sur-Mer and Rivesaltes. After 1941, French detainees were prisoners of the Vichy regime. The prison received men sentenced for indiscipline, attempted escape and incitement to rebellion from the camps of Argelès-sur-Mer, Saint-Cyprien and Le Barcarès. The detainees transited there before being sent to North Africa. Today the castle is one of the major tourist spots in Northern Catalonia.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.