The earliest history of the Navarrenx date to the first century. The village is reported in a cartulary of the eleventh century under the name of Sponda-Navarrensis.
In 1523, the Castilians seized the city and destroyed its castle. Henry II of Albret, the king of Navarre, decided to reinforce defences on the right bank of the mountain stream of Oloron. From 1538 to 1546, fortification works were carried out under the direction of Béarn master builders François Girard and Arnaud de Mirassor, as per the design of Italian architectural engineer Fabricio Siciliano. Navarrenx was thus transformed into a modern fortified town 'Italian-style', based on the citadel of Lucas in Tuscany. Later, a powder magazine would be built that would store up to 11,000 kg of gunpowder.
The fortifications were tried and tested during religious wars under the reign of Jeanne of Albret, when the garrison under the command of the Baron of Arros successfully resisted a three-month siege in 1568. The town was re-equipped in the 18th century, in particular with the Saint-Antoine gate built by engineer De Salmon on the ruins of an old church. Facing Spain, the gate owed its name to a chapel that welcomed pilgrims and was destroyed during the construction of the ramparts. With three massive arcades, the town was accessed via a drawbridge, the passage of the chains of which can still be seen today. In the 19th century, work on road and rail infrastructure led to the destruction of the old Saint-Germain gate which faced France.
Over the centuries, the fortified wall of Navarrenx has retained its main features. It outlines a reinforced firing range at each of its five corners with a bastion. Two of the five are fitted with anti-mine galleries, while a glacis and ground structures reinforce the town to the east, ahead of the moat. Several barracks have been built inside the walls to house the garrison, one of which nowadays is used as the tourist information office. From the top of the ramparts (for example, from the crenellation platform overhanging the Saint-Antoine gate), there is a pleasant view of the Pyrenees and, below, the arches of the bridge of Navarrenx (13th century). Visits There is free access to the 1818-metre perimeter of the town. The walls of the city contain bilingual (French-English) descriptive plaques that trace the history of each structure. Information on guided visits can be obtained from the Navarrenx district tourist office.References:
The Château de Foix dominates the town of Foix. An important tourist site, it is known as a centre of the Cathars. Built on an older 7th-century fortification, the castle is known from 987. In 1002, it was mentioned in the will of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne, who bequeathed the fortress to his youngest child, Bernard. In effect, the family ruling over the region were installed here which allowed them to control access to the upper Ariège valley and to keep surveillance from this strategic point over the lower land, protected behind impregnable walls.
In 1034, the castle became capital of the County of Foix and played a decisive role in medieval military history. During the two following centuries, the castle was home to Counts with shining personalities who became the soul of the Occitan resistance during the crusade against the Albigensians. The county became a privileged refuge for persecuted Cathars.
The castle, often besieged (notably by Simon de Montfort in 1211 and 1212), resisted assault and was only taken once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during the war between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less and less time in the uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace. From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre and the last of them, made Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean lands to France.
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century, the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region, it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
Until the Revolution, the fortress remained a garrison. Its life was brightened with grand receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville, captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers. The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent, the two square towers having been built before the 11th century. They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until 1862.
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.