Termes Castle

The brave heart of Corbières

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The small road that descends to the Mouthoumet plateau seems to plunge into endless steep mountains. The enormous Termes Castle rises up at the top of its rock surrounded by ravines. It was the site of one of the most famous sieges in the Albigensian Crusade.

History

In the 10th century, 460m high, overlooking the dizzying gorges of Termenet, stands a square tower, originating from the first castle of Termes. In the 12th century, a village occupied the southern slope of this hill. Termes became a fortified village. The lords of Termes, rich and influential, were the powerful vassals of the viscount of Carcassonne-Béziers, Trencavel Termes was a key target for Simon de Montfort, the leader of the crusaders, and he laid siege in 1210. The taking of this strategic location, rumoured to be unassailable, was hugely significant, inspiring many chroniclers. After briefly regaining possession of the family castle, Olivier de Termes was forced to cede it to the King of France in 1228. During the second half of the 12th century, the castle was refortified and the village was moved further down. In 1653, an explosion shook the mountains. The Sun King, who had won La Fronde (series of civil wars in France between 1648-53), defeated Termes Castle, which had become strong enough to shelter potential rebels.

Overview

From afar, the structure of the twelfth-century fortified village can be clearly seen: it descends in a cascade, from the Northern summit towards the gentler slopes in the South. Above the centre of the fortified village is the main tower and the lord's rooms; just below is the walled lower court which prevents access to the castle; lastly, is the village, which is protected and defended by a winding road.

The outer wall

This first set of ramparts was transformed and reinforced by the royal architects during the 13th century. The entrance is well-guarded with a barbican, a coarse stone tower to the right, and a watchtower supported by a buttress to the left. There are arrow slits in the curtain walls, which have themselves been rebuilt or strengthened. Finally, two archways allow for a quick getaway.

The centre of the fortified village

This thirteenth-century inner wall built upon a base which is even older still, encompasses multiple buildings, including the main tower, seigniorial quarters, cisterns and chapel. This chapel, built by the King's craftsmen, is the best-preserved building on the site. Its small, cross-shaped window symbolises the place: beautiful, formidable and impressive.

Archaeological excavation site

There have been many archaeological excavations at Termes Castle. Lifting up the collapsed stones, its history has been revealed through uncovered tiling, or through the remains of buildings. It's a somewhat surreal place, connecting archaeologists and visitors to previous generations through the power of memories.On the site of the castle, you will find a wealth of information to help you understand the ruins. Video clips are also available on YouTube.

The Siege of 1210

This is one of the most famous events of the Albigensian Crusade. Numerous Medieval chronicles have provided the details of this siege, which took place at the beginning of the Crusade, and which made a lasting impression at the time.

Things to explore

As you walk

About

Jean le Picard, an artisan roofer, built the roof of the castle's church in 1280-1300, and left his signature, inscribed in the mortar: his personal stamp. This master craftsman left the North to enter the King's service, and ended up at the Palais des Papes in Avignon. His stamp is visible from the entrance to the castle, alongside other objects found on the site, including an undetonated bomb from 1653! Many years later, another man left his mark. Edouard Guittard (1890-1940) was the village hairdresser... and road-mender. Was that how he started off? He cut the box trees into creative shapes. His son followed in his footsteps until 1965, and today, it is the council that continues this unusual tradition. The trimmed box trees can be admired along the D40.

Memories of ordinary people