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:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.