Puilaurens Castle

AN ELEGANT HILL

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Alone on "le Mont Ardu", 697m above sea level, the castle watches over the village of Lapradelle-Puilaurens and the surrounding forest of Fanges. Its battlements remain almost entirely intact, and dominate the steep slopes. It is one of the best-preserved royal fortresses, and also the setting for an enduring legend.

HISTORY

In the 10th century, Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa Abbey received the valley of Boulzane as a gift. The Abbey founded the Saint-Laurent Church there, attached to a fortified building. The Abbey kept control of this castrum (fortified village) of "Puèg Laurenç", "Puilaurens" in French, until the Albigensian Crusade. During this period, the castle provided shelter for exiled and heretical lords. The village, located on the side of the mountain right next to the castle, also played its part. Alongside Quéribus, it was a final refuge for exiled Cathars. Saint Louis took control of Puilaurens in 1255, at the same time as Quéribus. A course stone tower, curves in the road and ramparts increased the active defences against Aragon. This well-armed castle remained a rear base, (a point of support), far from the battles that raged in the middle of the 14th century. Puilaurens was only captured once, in 1637. Returning into the French fold, the fortress continued to be improved and its garrison was well-maintained until the French Revolution.

Curves in the road

The extra twists and turns in the road defends the paths which have led to the castle since the 16th century. It is impossible to go fast, whilst avoiding the loopholes that watch over each floor. Up above, the Tower of the White Queen looks increasingly impressive.

Les créneaux

The great court of the castle is enclosed with a curtain wall that is 10m high and 1.2m thick. Its battlements will catch your eye, and they are what give Puilaurens such a beautiful silhouette. At the end of the outer wall, a vast panorama shows Canigou to the south and the buttresses of Corbières to the north.

Underground galleries

The galleries can be accessed near to the North Tower of the second outer wall, and were hollowed out by the water which filters through the permeable limestone ground. These natural galleries could be accessed from outside, on the side of the cliff, but have been closed off by walls to serve as shops and stores.

Tower of the White Queen

This circular tower, made from coarse stone, overlooks the winding road from dozens of metres up above. You can see a window with a stone bench from which the land can be surveyed. It also has a beautiful, rib-vaulted room, called "Saint Louis' room".

An unusual megaphone

The Tower of the White Queen is comprised of two floors: a listening channel dug in the wall allows communication between the two floors It's an unusual service.

Things to explore

As you walk

About

La Boulzane

Legend has it that the White Lady sometimes appears during winter nights near to the tower that bears her name. These old stones remember Blanche de Bourbon, the great-niece of Philippe le Bel, and the unhappy wife of Pierre the Cruel. Apparently, she sought refuge in our mountains...

The Legend of the White Lady