Lastours Castles

One overhang, 4 towers and 40 caves

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Four royal fortresses join forces along a long, dry ridge which dominates the village of Lastours. The remains of the medieval village can still be seen on the slopes. This site is one- of-a- kind in France, where the history of Bronze Age settlers intersects with that of the Cathars, villagers, craftspeople and farmers... all seeking protection from this punishing mountain range.

History


Grégoire de Tours mentions Cabaret in 585, referring to the victory of the Visigoths over the Burgundians. In the 11th century, three fortresses were built: Cabaret, Surdespine and Quertinheux. In the 12th century, it was a powerful mining fiefdom, shared between various co-lords. A market was established, a sign of a prosperous economy, which developed at the same time as Catharism. In 1211, Simon de Montfort laid siege to this place, frequented by Cathar bishops from Carcassès. The lords of the area, led by Pierre-Roger de Cabaret, resisted for a long time, even after losing their castle, between 1229 and 1238. As with Corbières, the French king reinforced the defences of this newly-conquered region. The three feudal castles were refortified and the Tour Régine, a symbol of royal power, was built. The destruction of the original village in around 1240 has been discovered by archaeologists, who continue to reveal the extraordinary riches of the Lastours site.

Cabaret Castle

Cabaret, from "cap aret", meaning "ram's head" in Occitan, has given its name to the Cabardès region. The castle is at the summit of the rocky ridge. Its curtain wall protects the "corps de logis" (main building) and a keep. Limestone blocks add a dash of white to the main tower. Upstairs, a lovely window looks out towards the west, whilst arrow slits everywhere keep watch...

La Tour Régine

Simply majestic. This circular tower, flanked by a stairwell, has a very smooth outer wall. Like its neighbour Cabaret, the door to La Tour Régine is upstairs. Inside, the arrow slits and windows will immediately grab your attention, before your gaze settles on the impressive dome where the "voussoirs" (stones used to construct an arch) create a snail-shell pattern.

Surdespine Castle

Before the refurbishment of Cabaret, Surdespine was the largest castle. Inside its outer walls, the main building is connected to a tower via a cistern, recognisable due to being coated with pipes. Inside the main building, four arched windows surrounded by limestone voussoirs look over a ravine towards the east.

Quertinheux Castle

Located below the three other castles, Quertinheux looks like a real military outpost, surveying the scene, right up to the village. Its tower, main building, cisterns and outer wall are a mix of La Tour Régine and Cabaret. It is also associated with the biggest cave in Lastours - "the hole of the city".

The fortified village

Archaeological excavations brought the fortified village of Cabaret back to life, revealing houses, forges, roads and a Roman church. Village life is relaxed, and is famous for its metalwork. Cyprus trees, planted in 1930, add their scent and height to this timeless stroll.

Things to explore

About

As you walk

The Barrencs plateau is named after the many 'barrencs', or deep mines ('gouffres' in Occitan) that lie under its surface. There are many seams of copper, iron, lead and silver. There was a well-organised mining industry here in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC, perhaps even from the 3rd and 4th centuries BC. Explorations of this site have revealed the scale of these subterranean galleries, some of which are 100m deep. They are often no larger than 1m across, and have an oval shape due to digging techniques used. Archaeological excavations have revealed a uniquely well-preserved heritage, which allows us to understand the techniques used and to recreate the working conditions of these brave miners.

Barrencs Plateau