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Chateau d'Arques
Chateau d'Arques

CHATEAUX OF THE CATHARS PART 2

CHATEAUX OF THE CATHARS  PART 2

After visiting Rennes-le-Chateau we continued out journey.

Return NORTH to Couiza & take the D613 12km EAST to:

 

Chateau d'Arques

The site of Arques represents a haven of peace bathed by its lake and surrounded by forests. The first manuscript mention of Arques probably dates from 1011. The village has the peculiarity of possessing two successive styles in the history of Middle-Age housing & there is also the Maison Deodat Roche in the village which houses a permanent exhibition on the history of Catharism.
A few hundred yards to the west of the village, the gold-coloured stones of Arques château rise from the summit of a rounded hillock. This XIIIth and XIVth century construction, dominated by an elegant, 25 metre high keep, is a masterpiece of Ile-de-France inspired Gothic architecture.

 

We continued EAST on the D613 for 12km before heading NORTH on the D212 thru the Gorges de l'Orbieu & then continued EAST on the D212 before turning off onto the D40 to:

 

Chateau de Termes

In the Hautes-Corbières, on land to which it gives its name (le Termenès), the village of Termes clings and extends prettily along the cliff side. It continues to remain under the protection of its château which dominates it from the spur of a rocky cliff, - an absolutely spectacular, protected site - which, moreover, provides an unique view of the Hautes-Corbières. These ruins are of a chateau that once belonged to one of the richest Medieval Lords in Lower Languedoc. The prestigious Termes family reigned there until 1228.

In 1210, during the Albigensian Crusade the fortress resisted four months against the Crusaders siege commanded by Simon de Montfort. Termes was defeatedin the end by sickness. This eagles nest, believed to be impregnable became a royal fortress in 1260 to hold an important strategic position facing the Aragon frontier.

 

Continuing SOUTH on the D40, we rejoined the D613 & turned NORTH to:

 

Felines-Termenes. There is little to see in this very rural village, but it does possess a very reasonable aire de service for which we were very grateful as there are very few in this area. The aire is next to the D613 on the outskirts of the village in a large tarmac car park with a borne & toilets. We passed a peaceful night here & woke refreshed before continuing the route.

Chateau de Villerouge-Termenes
Chateau de Villerouge-Termenes

 

We headed 4km NORTH on the D613 to:

 

Chateau de Villerouge-Termenes

The village of Villerouge-Termenès forms the Mediterranean gateway to the Hautes-Corbières. Located in the heart of the medieval village is the imposing rectangular castle flanked by four towers (built in the 13th and 14th centuries), the eastern wing of which houses, on three floors, a very original audio-visual exhibition: The World of Guilhem Belibaste, one of the last Cathar sympathisers. The display follows the life of Belibaste who was burned alive at the stake in Villerouge in 1321, as well as having exhibits on medieval life. There is also a restaurant in the castle offering authentic medieval fare. The castle is well preserved -- despite being another conquest of Simon de Montfort & its walls offer excellent views of the landscape.

Leaving Villerouge we headed NORTH on the D613 for 5km before turning LEFT onto the D23 7 following this road for 9km to:

 

The village of Lagrasse

Village of Lagrasse
Village of Lagrasse
, known as one of the Prettiest Villages in France arises from a vast ampitheatre in the middle of vineyards and small enclosed fields. At one time it was an important economic centre & the true capital of the Corbières, the village was fortified & surrounded by ramparts. From its rich past it retains an exceptional architectural inheritance, with its famous abbey and its medieval centre on the banks of the Orbieu River. The picturesque lanes, the many half-timbered houses, the covered market date from 1315, the private mansions, imposing 16th century Saint Michel's church with its rich interior decorations, the old bridge over the Orbieu dating from the 12th century....all reveal a prestigious past.

 

From Lagrasse we took the D3 WEST -- 30km to Trebes:

Aire at Trebes
Aire at Trebes

 

Trebes

Having spent the best part of the day exploring Villerouge-Termenes & Lagrasse, we thought it best to find a stopover & were pleasantly surprised to find an aire in this small town alongside the famous Canal du Midi. Whilst this is more of a lay by than a proper aire, it does have all the necessities in respect of the borne & the pleasant medieval town has a good variety of shops & restaurants. Our night was not as peaceful as the previous night due to traffic noise from the nearby main road to Carcassonne.

 

From Trebes we headed WEST on the D613 for 4km before turning NORTH on the D118 & the D411 to:

 

The Four Chateaux of Lastours

The Four Chateaux of Lastours
The Four Chateaux of Lastours

Protector of Cabardès since the early Middle Ages, the four châteaux on the site of Lastours achieved their highest peak of fame during the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars.
Built on the summit of a 300 m high rocky ridge, at equal distances from each other, this location ensured complete control over one of the main incoming routes to Cabardès and the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain).
Access to the châteaux mountain is from the heart of Lastours village via the former Rabier factory which the middle of 20th century manufactured textiles prior to its conversion to the tourist trade.
Today, the space adjacent to the former oven and chimney, remains of this industrial past, house the ticket office, a souvenir shop a permanent exhibition and a restaurant.

 

Returning SOUTH on the D411 & D118, we soon came to our final stop:

 

Medieval City of Carcassonne

The town enjoyed exceptional influence during the Trencavel dynasty (from 1089 to 1209), and it was during this period that Catharism developed. Crossed by the Canal du Midi, it is also washed by the Aude.
The jewel of the region, the Medieval City is the largest fortified town in Europe still in existence. It is composed of two gigantic ramparts each flanked by 26 towers, stretching over a length of almost 3 km. As a tourist, you can admire the remains of over 2000 years of History, left successively by the Romans, Wisigoths, Saracens and other crusaders.
Recommended visits include : the Château Comtal and it Musée Lapidaire, the Basilique Saint Nazaire the Portes Narbonnaises, the Tour du Tréseau as well as a walk around the Lices (outer bailey)

 

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