Saissac Castle

The treasure of the Montagne Noire

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Saissac Castle is one of the oldest castles in the Montagne Noire. Perched at 450m above the edge of the plateau, barely connected to its village, it faces the Pyrenees above the plains of Carcassonne and Lauraguais. Its "treasure" refers to the first currency produced in the Midi by the Crown.


958. Gilabert, the royal agent of Saissac, bore witness to a donation given to Montolieu Abbey. Saissac, referenced for the first time, was thus a strategic point for the Carcassonne area. In the 11th century, the Trencavel family became viscounts of Carcassonne and overlords of Saissac. It was a hostile relationship, but at the end of the 12th century, Bertrand de Saissac was one of the most important vassals of the Trencavel family and the tutor of young Raimond Roger in 1193. Bertrand is a figurehead in Languedoc, protector of Cathar heretics. The castle was delivered to the French at the beginning of the Crusade, but the lords of Saissac fought until the bitter end. After the failure of 1240, their goods were scattered, and the bones of Pierre de Saissac were dug up and burned by the Inquisition. The original village on the slopes below the castle was abandoned in favour of its current location above the fortress. In the 16th century, Jean de Bernuy, the new lord of Saissac, transformed the medieval castle into a Renaissance home. Then came the Revolution, ruin and pillaging.


Buried in a field near to the current village lay a ceramic vase containing 2000 pieces of money: denarii and obols (copper and silver). This treasure discovered in 1979 is one of the largest collections of early royal money unearthed in Languedoc. Are these the savings of a Cathar believer pursued by the Inquisition? ...

The first terrace

At the end of the village roads leading towards the Pyrenees, a ditch is still visible. A drawbridge isolates the castle on its overhang. The first terrace, a sort of "cour d'honneur" (three-sided ceremonial court), represents the oldest part of the site. The 13th-century tower, which is around 20m high, hides the base of the original keep, which dates from the 10th or 11th centuries.

Aldonce's rooms

Aldonce was the daughter of Jean de Bernuy. Her husband, Guy de Castelnau, organised the construction of these rooms. Built at the end of the 16th century, this building has 3 floors, including an underground level. This fully-restored building contains an exhibition and historical story projected onto a big screen, exploring the treasure in all its mystery and majesty.

The South Towers

At the end of the castle, two circular towers lie at the end of the building's outer wall, the only ones on the site. Both have two floors, with a domed vaulted ceiling. In the 15th century, they were altered to store firearms.

The abandoned village

Although very overgrown, the ancient fortified village is still clearly visible. Ruined houses, a covered walkway with an arch saying "Porte de Toulouse" (Toulouse Gate) commemorate the displaced villagers after the Albigensian Crusade. On the waterways lower down, there are water mills that no longer turn.

Things to explore

As you walk


In 1209, Saissac castle was returned to a French knight, Bouchard de Marly, who became an advantage for the Lord of Cabaret. Pierre-Roger de Cabaret bravely resisted Simon de Monfort in his seemingly impenetrable château. However, the pressure was great. Unexpectedly, he managed to capture Bouchard de Marly. It was a strong argument to negotiate, in 1211, a favourable surrender.