Chateau de Peyrepertuse, Aude visitors guide
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The Château de Peyrepertuse is one of the famous 'cathar castles' of southern France, situated in Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse in the Aude department of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
The castle is at the top of a steep rocky ridge, at almost 800 metres altitude. As well as the obvious defensive advantages of this position it also allowed a large amount of the surrounding region to be watched over and controlled.
One of the most visited and most dramatically situated of the cathar castles, and also the largest among them, the Château de Peyrepertuse is one of the five castles classed as the 'Cinq fils de Carcassonne' that formed a band of protection between France and Spain.
History of Château de Peyrepertuse
The site was occupied as early as 100 BC, with the Château de Peyrepertuse itself dating from the 11th century.
At the time of the Albigensian crusade against the cathars (from 1209-1229) the castle was owned by Guillaume de Peyrepertuse. The castle was never actually besieged but was handed over to the crusade forces in 1217. It subsequently returned to the control of Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, who then refused to surrender to the crusaders so was excommunicated in 1224. The castle subsequently became the property of the French crown in 1240, after a revolt against the King and crusaders in Carcassonne had failed.
Shortly after, in 1242, the castle was substantially reinforced and extended due to its position on the frontier with Aragon and Spain to the south.
In 1258 the border between the two nations was fixed with the signing of the Treaty of Corbeil. This border was a short distance south of Peyrepertuse so the castle was used as one of the series of castles called the 'Sons of Carcassonne' that were fortified in order to protect the border.
This situation continued broadly unchanged until 1659 when the Treaty of the Pyrenees established the border with Spain further to the south, and the military need for Château de Peyrepertuse had passed. Unlike most of the Cathar castles, a small garrison of soldiers actually remained at Peyrepertuse until the French revolution in 1789, after which it was abandoned.
Visiting Château de Peyrepertuse
The castle now receives about 100 000 visitors a year, a quite remarkable number given its isolated position - but quite understandable when you see the castle which is in a very dramatic location high above the village of Duilhac. The access path from the car park follows up the slope and around the eastern end of the castle.
Although the castle is essentially in ruins there is plenty to see to evoque the original castle. The castle ruins extend over a length of almost 300 metres with most of the circumference being directly above steep cliffs. Substantial amounts of the walls and towers are still intact as are parts of the donjon, some of the rooms and the chapel.
The oldest part of Château de Peyrepertuse is the lower part and includes the church, some living accommodation and water cisterns. The newer part, further to the west, was the part of the castle added after 1242 (hence it was not here at the time of the crusade against the cathars), and its position on a raised rocky section reached by a staircase cut into the rock means that this 'new' part could be defended even if the 'lower' castle was taken. This section also includes water cisterns and a chapel.
Of course, the views from the castle are also one of the principal highlights of a visit.
The castle is open all year except for January. Admission costs 9 euros for an adult in July and August, 6.50 euros the rest of the year. Children under 15 years old pay 3.50 euros.
You will also enjoy a stroll around the village of Duilhac, and the shady valley that follows the Gorges du Verdouble makes a lovely scenic contrast to the hot hilltop castle.
A visit to Château de Peyrepertuse will often be combined with a visit to Château de Quéribus, only a short distance to the south and another of the most important cathar castles in the region. If you are staying longer in the area you can also discover more of the best known cathar castles in France.
Map of Chateau de Peyrepertuse and places nearby
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Gorges de Galamus: site of natural beauty (7 km)
- Gorges de l'Orbieu: site of natural beauty (13 km)
- Chapelle de Casenoves (Ille-sur-tet): religious monument (23 km)
- Orgues d'Ille-sur-Tet: site of natural beauty (23 km)
- Eglise de Sainte Marie de Marcevol (Arboussols): religious monument (23 km)
- Lagrasse: most beautiful village (25 km)
- Eus: most beautiful village (26 km)
- Mosset: most beautiful village (28 km)
- Gorges de la Pierre-Lys: site of natural beauty (29 km)
- Prades: recommended detour (30 km)
- Prieuré de Serrabone (Boule-d'Amont): religious monument (30 km)
- Castelnou: most beautiful village (30 km)
The French version of this page is at Chateau de Peyrepertuse (Francais)