Peyrepertuse Castle

A royal building

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This is the "vertigo citadel" par excellence. Hugging the limestone cliff, the fortress of Peyrepertuse covers an area of 300m! The highest point of the castle is at an altitude of 800m, towering above the village of Duilhac and dominating the spectacular landscape. This magnificent building makes for a rich and awe-inspiring visit.

HISTORY

Inhabited since the Classical period, the site of Peyrepertuse first consisted of a small fortified settlement. The fortress is mentioned for the first time in 1020 in the will of Bernard Taillefer, the count of Besalù, a small Catalan territory. From 1162, it was part of the kingdom of Aragon's defensive line against the Occitan lords. Peyrepertuse did not play an important role during the Albigensian Crusade, but its destiny would change dramatically. In 1240, it fell under the control of the King of France, who made it a key part of his line of defence against Aragon. Louis IX and his successors wanted to demonstrate all their power here. The royal architects carried out a masterpiece of innovation and adaptation to the terrain. They created a wonderful piece of military architecture which, at the end of the 13th century, proudly defied the kingdom of Aragon. Its strategic importance ended with the Pyrenees Treaty in 1659, but until the French Revolution, men continued to watch over this beautiful castle, which had become a shadow of its former self.

In the lower wall

Passing through the castle gate, you will immediately notice the strength of these high walls. Two towers overlooking the gorge wait for enemies from the North; at the end of the overhang, the triangular tower sees off blows from catapults; arrow slits everywhere play with shadows to make the crossbow shots more effective.

The Old Keep

The oldest part of the castle is arranged around an enclosed courtyard defended by a postern (a secondary door or gate in a wall). The main building and its tower pierced with arrow slits suggest military anxiety. The Roman Chapel of Saint-Marie preserves the memory of the secret prayers of Dona Soria, the mistress of Du Guesclin, a prisoner of the Spanish during the 100 Year War.

Saint-Louis staircase

Saint Louis ordered the construction of this staircase in 1242, in order to link the castle to the Sant Jordi keep. Its 60 steps were dug out of the rock, on the edge of the cliff. Climbing up is an amazing experience.

Sant Jordi Keep

Sant Jordi, or "Saint Georges" in French, is often celebrated in high-up sanctuaries, alongside Saint Michel, another dragon-slayer... The Sant Jordi keep, where the remains of the chapel's choir stalls remain, is the highest point of the fortress. Perched on the steep hillside, you will take in a magnificent landscape which extends from Bugarach to the Mediterranean. Below, you can see the extraordinary size of Peyrepertuse.

Valleys and mountain passes

Peyrepertuse controls the area bordered by Fenolhedès to the south, Razès to the west, Termenès to the north, and Narbonnais to the east. The castle provides stunning views over all the surrounding valleys and mountain passes. The heath, the limestone crest, and the vineyards with plump grapes spread out under an enormous sky...

Things to explore

As you walk

About

'Petra Pertusa', or 'pierced rock', was once an important centre of power, as shown by the fact that an entire region is named after it! In this area, many regions are named after castles, simply by adding the suffix '-és' in Occitan. Therefore, you get Fenolhedés from Fenouillet Castle or Lauragués from Lauragais (French) from Laurac, Termenés from Termes, or, in this case, Peyrepertusés from Peyrepertuse. Today, unlike Fenolhedés, Fenouillèdes in French and Fenolleda in Catalan, the name 'Peyrepertusés' is no longer used.

Le Peyrepertusés