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Chateau de Peyrepertuse

The Chateau is found in a very strategic position, which enables one to see far around the valleys encircling it. Built over the entire hilltop which separates Duilhac from the town of Rouffiac-des-Corbières, this complex fortification covers an area of about 300 metres in length and 60 metres in width, with boundary walls that run along the crest of the hill. A long rocky spur links the two structures of Peyrepertuse in the east at the lower end, and Sant-Jordi higher up to the west, separated by a broad plateau.

History

The name ‘Peyrepertuse’ derives from the Occitan words ‘petra pertusa’, meaning ‘pierced rock’, a term which perfectly describes the way in which the structure of the fortress is inserted into the rocky hill.

The fortress was built at the time when the Languedoc became a territory of the kingdom of France. The castle is first mentioned in the 11th century; in 1070 it was owned by the Catalan Count of Besalù and in 1111 it passed into the ownership of the Counts of Barcelona, after which the fiefdom was granted to the Viscount of Norbonne. At the time of the Crusade against the Cathars, it consisted of only a fortified village, probably stone houses built around a watchtower and enclosed by a way, similar to other castles of the day. In 1217, under attack from Simon de Montford, the local Lord Guillaume de Peyrepertuse surrendered without fighting. In 1249 the castle passed to the Crown of France. Around 1251 the central tower and Sant-Jordi Chapel were built, while the tower and Chapel of the Virgin in the lower part were restored. With the Treaty of Corbeil in 1258, Peyrepertuse became one of the French Royal fortresses defending the borders with the kingdom of Aragon. After the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, which defined the border between France and Spain, it lost its strategic importance. It was finally abandoned during the French Revolution and was sold in 1820 as a National Property. Since 1908 is has been listed as a historical monument by the French Ministry of Culture. It has been undergoing restoration and repair as of 1950.

Access to the chateau is gained from the north, at the end of a steep pathway, and is defended by a keep formed by two semi-circular towers. Inside the main enclosure on the south side were the store rooms and the latrines, situated overhanging the rocks below. Made from large slabs of stone set on jutting supports, the parapet walk is still visible. In the south-west corner there is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, dating from 1115. A square cistern stands at the end of the church, and there is an internal courtyard situated between the keep and the church, which already existed at the time of the Cathars. In the middle section of the fortress, the walls run along a chasm that flanks the hill.

The San-Jordi dungeon, which was built later than the original chateau, around 1251, is located in the upper part, 60 metres higher than the other buildings, and accessible only from the steep stairway which Louis IX ordered to be built on the northern side of the stronghold. Annexed to the castle are the defensive walls with a central tower, a cistern to collect rain water, and the Sant-Jordi Chapel. From the top, one can see a spectacular view of the Castle of Quèribus.

Today

The ruins of Peyrepertuse Castle are very popular, welcoming close to 10,000 visitors each year. Apart from hikers, naturists, and hang gliders, a famous Medieval Festival is notoriously held every year in August. As well as celebrating the troubadour culture and everyday medieval life, there is an unforgettable display of falconry when trained birds of prey wheel elegantly across the sky above the castle. Falconers in fact are known to visit this location, especially from early April to late August.

The walk from the car park to the castle itself is not long, however it can be a bit steep and slippery, particularly in cold weather. The trail is usually closed in the case of storms or bad weather.

Opening hours of the Chateau de Peyrepertuse:

Closed during the last 3 weeks of January
1st week of January, November and December – 10am – 4.30pm
February – 10am – 5.00pm
March and October – 10am – 6pm
April – 9.30am – 7pm
May, June and September – 9am – 7pm
July and August – 9am – 8pm
 
Text: Melisande Aquilina