Besieged in 778 by Charlemagne, Château Fort de Lourdes became the residence of the Counts of Bigorre in the 11th and 12th centuries. In the 13th century, it passed into the possession of the Counts of Champagne, part of the kingdom of Navarre before coming under the crown of France under Philippe le Bel. It was ceded to the English by the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360, before returning to France at the start of the 15th century after two sieges. In the 17th century, the castle became a royal prison, and a state prison after the French Revolution, continuing in this role until the start of the 20th century when it became the Pyrenean Museum (1921) which it remains.
The castle's origins go back to Roman times. Various remains from this era (fragments of sculpture, votive offerings, wall foundations) were brought to light by military engineering work in the 19th century. However, a consequence of these works was the destruction of the greater part of the ancient walls. The finds are exhibited on the site.
Today, the oldest remains date from the 11th and 12th centuries and consist of the foundations of the present fortifications. The castle was reinforced in the 13th and 14th centuries (construction of the keep), and again in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Notre-Dame-du-Château chapel houses the furniture of the former parish church of Saint-Pierre de Lourdes, destroyed in 1904. The present chapel is constructed with recycled material from Saint-Pierre de Lourdes.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.