Discover Cathar country: history, culture and heritage
Cathar country is located in the south of France, in the Aude department (11). The region is famous for its many Cathar castles, also known as “citadels of emptiness”, clinging to rocky peaks offering breathtaking views over the Aude landscape. These medieval fortifications are important witnesses to the Cathar religion and the Albigensian Crusade, and attract many visitors every year. Cathar castles are not only important historic sites steeped in history, but also unique and fascinating tourist attractions. Book your stay at the campsite to start your odyssey through the Cathar countryside.
The origins of the Cathar religion and the Albigensian Crusade
The Cathar religion was a religious movement that emerged in 11th-century Europe in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 by Pope Innocent III to eliminate the Cathar religion, resulting in the destruction of many Cathar castles.
The Cathar castles: a journey through time
Discover the Cathar castles around Carcassonne
The Carcassonne region is famous for its medieval fortifications, but also for the Cathar castles that dot its landscape. Cathar castles are relics of the region’s turbulent history, bearing witness to the conflicts between Catholics and Cathars in the Middle Ages. Here’s a list of the most interesting Cathar castles to discover around Carcassonne.
Cathar country is a place full of history and mystery. The Cathar castles of the Carcassonne region, in the Aude department, are jewels of France’s historical and cultural heritage. Here are the 10 castles closest to Carcassonne, worth a visit for their beauty and history.
- Lastours castles (15 km)
The castles of Lastours, perched on a hill, offer breathtaking views over the surrounding valleys. These four fortified castles, Cabaret, Surdespine, La Tour Régine and Quertinheux, were built during the 12th century. They were the scene of numerous battles, notably during the crusade against the Cathars in the 13th century. The châteaux were restored in the 20th century and are now open to the public.
- Saissac castle (24 km)
Situated on a hill near the town of Saissac, the Château de Saissac was built in the 10th century. It was destroyed during the crusade against the Cathars, then rebuilt in the 13th century. Château de Saissac was listed as a historic monument in 1907. Today, it is open to the public and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
- Termes castle (29 km)
Château de Termes sits on a hill overlooking the Orbieu river valley. Built in the 13th century, it has been the scene of many sieges and battles. It was dismantled after the crusade against the Cathars and is now in ruins. Despite this, it remains an impressive site, with its ramparts and towers.
- Puivert castle (55 km)
Château de Puivert is located in the Quercorb region, close to the Pyrenees. Built in the 12th century, it was the meeting place of the troubadours, famous for their songs and poems. The château was abandoned in the 17th century and fell into ruin. It was restored in the 20th century and is now open to the public.
- Aguilar castle (58 km)
Château d’Aguilar sits on a hill overlooking the Roussillon plain. It was built in the 12th century to protect the border between France and Spain. It was destroyed during the Hundred Years’ War, then rebuilt in the 14th century. Now in ruins, it remains an impressive site, with its ramparts and tower.
- Montsegur castle
The Château de Montségur is one of the region’s most famous Cathar castles. It’s about 1 hour’s drive from Carcassonne, on a remote mountain in the Pyrenees. The château was the site of the last Cathar resistance before being captured by French royal forces in 1244. Today, the castle ruins offer spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
- Puilaurens castle
Château de Puilaurens is located about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Carcassonne, on a secluded hillside. Built in the 12th century, it was used as a refuge by the Cathars during the Wars of Religion. The castle is famous for its moat and cylindrical towers, which are in an excellent state of preservation.
- Peyrepertuse castle
Château de Peyrepertuse is located about 1 hour from Carcassonne, on a hill overlooking the village of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. It was built in the 11th century and enlarged in the 13th. The château was a refuge for the Cathars and resisted attack for many years. Today, visitors can explore the castle ruins and enjoy views of the surrounding mountains.
- Quéribus castle
The Château de Quéribus is located about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Carcassonne, on a secluded hill near the Spanish border. Built in the 11th century, it was used as a refuge by the Cathars during the Wars of Religion. The château was the last Cathar stronghold to fall to French royal forces. Today, visitors can explore the castle ruins and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
- Château d’Arques
Château d’Arques is located about 30 minutes from Carcassonne, on a hill overlooking the village of Arques. Built in the 12th century, it was used as a refuge by the Cathars during the Wars of Religion. The castle was abandoned in the 17th century, but visitors can still explore the ruins and admire the view.
In conclusion, a visit to the Cathar castles around Carcassonne is a real journey back in time. Each of these castles offers a breathtaking view of the Aude and Cathar landscapes.