Duilhac Things to Do

  • Eerie vision
    Eerie vision
    by iandsmith
  • So old, and then there's the walls...
    So old, and then there's the walls...
    by iandsmith
  • Momentarily the fog cleared
    Momentarily the fog cleared
    by iandsmith

Most Recent Things to Do in Duilhac

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    Daily life in Peyrepertuse

    by iandsmith Written Jun 22, 2012
    The toilet at Peyrepertuse
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    As you can clearly see (unlike us on the day) it was a tad misty and the famed views over the valley never eventuated. Still, it leant an eerie atmosphere to our visit up the tricky path to this old citadel.
    It's quite extraordinary to wander through places like this and think that people actually lived their daily lives in places like this. I just find it hard to imagine dragging all the food up here, going to the toilet (there is a seat that has a hole over the side of the cliff - see picture) and keeping yourself occupied throughout the day; extraordinary.

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    Peyrepertuse

    by iandsmith Written Jun 4, 2012
    Climbing to Peyrepertuse
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    The first mention we have these days of this site was from back in 842. The name purportedly came from a pierced rock that was destroyed during work on the site in 1250.
    Being vassals of the viscount of Fenouillet who, in turn, was himself vassal to the viscount of Narbonne who paid homage to the Count of Barcelona who became King of Aragon in 1162.
    This tenuous, but real, connection meant that the castle enjoyed a relative immunity until the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade when the Cathars were ultimately wiped out.
    Peyrepertuse surrendered after a three day seige in November 1240.

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    Gorges de Galmus

    by iandsmith Written Jun 4, 2012
    Looking down the gorge
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    This road, only constructed in the late 19th century, is literally cut into the cliff face and, in most places is only just over one lane wide. This means that caution and low speeds are advised.
    At one point there's a chapel down in the gorge that you can walk to. Some of it is tunnelled into the cluff.
    Definitely a place worth a look.

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    Circling the village

    by iandsmith Written May 29, 2012
    The village
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    Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, to give the village its full title, is nestled beneath the wind battered chateau of Peyrepertuse that dominates the sky above.....well, that is when you can see it, not on a day such as we had.
    Before we climbed I poked around the seriously narrow streets of the tidy village looking for some special gems but I suspect my attention was really focused on what lay above.

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    Montsegur: Lou Prat des Cramats

    by kokoryko Updated Mar 10, 2010

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    Lou Prat des Cramats
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    Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix who lost his county at the beginning of the crusades and Raymond de Pereilhe were the leaders of the “faydit knights expedition” who killed the envoys of the pope and the inquisitors in Avignonet, near Toulouse in 1242. The faydits were nobles who either were Cathars or protected the Cathars, and therefore were considered as heretics and lost their castles and territories. They gathered in some places of Languedoc and led raids against the crusaders.
    This expedition to Avignonet took off in Montsegur, and the Holy Catholic Church and the King of France decided to attack Montsegur, one of the last Cathar fortresses.
    Many faydits, “perfects”, “bons hommes” died during the siege of Montsegur and when the survivors surrendered, they were asked if they wanted to renounce their faith; most did not renounce, and they were burnt on stakes.
    A big field from where the dark smoke elevated in the sky for several days, this is “lou Prat des Cramats”, the field of the burnt. Somewhere here, on this meadow (picture 1) were the smoking stakes were more than 200 people were burnt.
    A few monuments have been erected at the Prat des Cramats in the second half of the 20th century, like this one (picture 2), showing a Cathar cross, with all branches having the same length. It is erected by the “society of souvenir and Cathar studies. Souvenir, remembrance? Yes remembrance, as this other monument with flowers and a flower flag in Occitan colours (but also looking like the Catalan flag) has been deposited by officials (picture 3); this has a political meaning, to me, trying to keep Occitany alive and paying a tribute to Cathar and Occitan martyrs. To the Cathars, martyrs of the pure Christian love is written on the stele; a bit strange as the Cathars did not consider themselves as Christian, or does it have a double sense, and could mean that they have been victims of the infinite love of the Christian?
    On the stones of picture 4 the words (in French) : “they did not renounce to their faith” is engraved.
    That is what remains of Cathars and Catharism, or is it still alive in some way in this region? May be not, but the feeling of being Languedocian is still alive, even under the dark evening sky over this beautiful country (picture 5).

    Some animations year long : http://www.montsegur.fr/TempSite/6044.asp?rang=
    Entrance fee: 5 Euros

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    Montsegur: mystics and mysteries

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    Donjon: is the Holy Grail somewhere beneath?
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    Montsegur was since 1236 the central place of the “Cathar Church”, and many Cathars and “perfects” took refuge in Montsegur under the protection of Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix, Cathar and military chief. Montsegur means “Safe Mountain” and at the end of the Cathar wars, when almost all Languedoc was “pacified” the last Cathars and their important leaders gathered there.
    For the Catholics, Cathars were fiends, and they accused them of lots of embezzlements and malpractices. . . .
    Right after the siege, the assaulters noticed that some people escaped and the Catholics were searching for the famous Cathar treasure, which people still dream to find nowadays. . . . Many historians wonder how they could stand a siege for ten months; the hypothesis of an unknown gallery in the mountain (supplies) is still strong. Find the gallery, and you find the treasure.
    Cathars were accused to have pagan practices, and indeed, at the summer solstice, one can observe that the sun is aligned with the arrow slits of the two sides of the donjon. . . . Is this by chance or built deliberately? My opinion is that Cathars had nothing to do with material world and they did not mind about the physical sun (except it represents light, the contrary of darkness, hell).
    Some people pretend the Holy Grail was hidden in Montsegur, and that some people who could escape took it with them and brought it somewhere in Palestina; for the Cathars, Jesus was an ordinary prophet, and they probably did not mind about a vase or a plate. . . . . The Grail was “used” by the Catholics as a pretext to fight the Cathars, according to Michel Roquebert.
    Many many legends and mysticism make Montsegur important, as important as the fact that almost all Cathar chiefs (civil and religious) died in Montsegur.
    Here is the donjon (picture 1), you have to begin there for your quest of the Grail, and this arrow slit is one of those through which the sun rays go to the opposite arrow slit in the donjon (picture 2)
    You can think in quietude about all this when visiting Montsegur and look at the old stones and the rugged landscapes of the Pyrenees.

    Some animations year long : http://www.montsegur.fr/TempSite/6044.asp?rang=
    Entrance fee: 5 Euros

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    Montsegur: like a coffin

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    Empty inside yard
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    Except the walls, there are apparently no military lay outs, and once inside, in this almost rectangular construction, you are like in a giant coffin (picture 1).
    This is the actual appearance, but there were houses, the donjon was inhabited, there was a water cistern. . . . . a few hundred of people besieged in this castle resisted more than ten months against the troops of Hugues des Arcis, seneschal of Carcassone, in 1243-1244 helped by Durand, bishop of Albi, who was also a military engineer (priests had apparently multiple skills at that time. . . ) and managed to built small promontories where he could install his catapults and other machines (picture 2).
    At the north western end of the coffin is the donjon (picture 3) which has been subject of many controversies about Cathar religion, the treasure of Cathars, and even the Holy Grail(next tip).
    The lower part of the donjon visible today had a vaulted ceiling (picture 4); beneath was a cistern, and above the vault, lived the important people during the siege.
    This fortress is by itself not spectacular, it is its location on the mountain, the beautiful views you have from there (picture 5) which give it its personality, and of course all stories and legends attached to it.

    Some animations year long : http://www.montsegur.fr/TempSite/6044.asp?rang=
    Entrance fee: 5 Euros

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    Approaching Montsegur. . . .

    by kokoryko Updated Mar 1, 2010

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    Le Pog de Montsegur, from East
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    When you talk about Cathars in southern France, immediately people think of Montsegur; this is the emblematic place of Cathars and Catharism. So many stories have been told about this castle, and when you discover it for the first time, in the grey sky of High Ariege you can understand that this fortress has something strange, even mystic, something special where the visitor becomes a pilgrim.
    When you drive up the gorges of the Lasset, coming from the East, on a road turn you suddenly discover “lou Pog”, this sugar loaf, a natural cenotaph, crowned by the ruins (picture 1); when you arrive, it is not the fortress ruins which are impressive, but the whole mountain (picture 2), the steep cliffs, the dark forest, and from the western side where you will walk up, it is as impressive (picture 3).
    After having walked through the “Prat des Cramats”, the “Field of the Burnt”, on the stepp grass covered slopes you have a view on the actual village of Montsegur (picture 4) built along the winding road.
    When you are almost up, at 1200m, after having walked through a thick box trees forest and on the stone trail near the summit, you may almost be disappointed by the grey walls, regularly built with their flat (no crenels) tops (picture 5), the low tower with a few arrow slits, and. . . . is that all? No, certainly not, but let us walk around first.

    Some animations year long : http://www.montsegur.fr/TempSite/6044.asp?rang=
    Entrance fee: 5 Euros

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    Montsegur; walk around

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    Look over to Lavelanet
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    Before entering the small main gate, lets walk on the narrow track around the walls of this temple; temple, as there are no defensive constructions or lay-outs, it does not look like a military fortress. . . . . Enjoy first the views over the high Ariege, the hills, forests , villages in the far, and a look to Lavelanet, the nearest city in the north (picture 1).
    Your breath can be taken here by the beautiful views (to the East on picture 2), or . . . the wind! High there above the hills, you even may enjoy to be higher than the eagles gliding above the valleys.
    The track is at the feet of the walls (picture 3), and in some places you have to be careful, and that makes the tour even more enjoyable and impressive. You can see, walking around, that almost all available space has been used for the building (picture 4), and from where ever the views are beautiful. Box trees, flowers are in the foreground(picture 5), and mountains, mountains, mountains in the background; the overall landscape was the same 800 years ago when the Cathars lived and died here.
    Some animations year long : http://www.montsegur.fr/TempSite/6044.asp?rang=
    Entrance fee: 5 Euros

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    Puivert, the “civilised” castle

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    Entrance to Puivert
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    A Cathar stronghold, among the firsts that fell to the Francs, but also a symbol of “courtly Languedoc”, according to the words of historians who study the high middle age of Languedoc. Here, it is almost a leisure castle where troubadours composed verses, tournaments were organised, where the high Languedocian society liked to enjoy life. And indeed, the first impression when discovering it is that it is very different from the high fortresses on their cliffs. It is located on a low hill, easily accessible, and its doors are like welcoming the visitor, not a defensive castle (picture 1).
    It was of course also a military building, but the style is different from the other Cathar castles, with its square towers (picture 2), built with regularly shaped stones.
    The windows in the towers are probably not original (picture 3), but I like to imagine people were not hiding here, had light, lived with some distinction. . .
    This castle is privately owned and today people live there, maintaining the castle and organising the visits. I did not visit inside, but websites show beautiful architecture, tapestries, furnishings. . . . .
    There is a path around the castle and you can admire it from all sides (picture 4), thinking of the vice countesses of Narbonne spending the summers here, their friends, the troubadours entertaining them, and think how beautiful the countryside is in that area of Languedoc (picture 5).
    Franc knight Thomas-Pons des Bruyères was probably happy to have been designated by Crusade leader Simon de Montfort to conquer this fortress, easy to take, and to establish there for some time; in 1210, it was done, and the troubadours became nomads walking from one castle to another, trying to earn their life with their poesy and writings, entertaining the high society.

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    Powerful Puilaurens

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    The crenels of Puilaurens
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    In the sixties, Catalan historian, Jordi Ventura-Subirats studied the ties between Catalonia and Languedoc during Cathar times and Puilaurens, located not far from the limits between the two countries was an object of his studies.
    Vice count Pierre de Puilaurens was a Cathar, and when he died in 1243, his lieutenant Chabert de Barbera was probably one of the last resistant fighting for the freedom of his country and his faith, under friendship and protection of Jaume 1st , (Jaime, James) king of Aragon and count of Catalonia.
    It was the end of the Cathar wars, and not a lot of their land was left to the Languedocians nobles, but Chabert (a faydit knight, a noble who lost his castle and land) was a strong and tricky fighter, and he defended many fortresses and threatened to take back Peyrepertuse in 1248.
    The rounded crenels (picture 1) are a characteristic of Puilaurens Castle, and like many other Cathar fortresses, it is built like an extension of the limestone rock (picture 2), seen from far, almost unassailable, a real stronghold, impressive when you discover it between the tree summits when walking in the nearby forest (picture 3). Some walls are embossed, (picture 4), for better defence, giving to Puilaurens a real personal character.
    Like Quéribus, Puilaurens fell in 1255, probably following some treachery, as it was resisting fiercely since months and as locals from Cucugnan and other villages provided food and other supplies to the garrison there, using secret paths known by them only; here again, it is difficult to imagine assailants getting up only with fighting, when you look how steep the slopes on the rocks are, to reach it (picture 5), and the Cathars here had a very strong and numerous garrison comprising many knights, military engineers, and “perfects” to support them. The destiny of this fortress was to become Franc too.
    Best views of the castle can be enjoyed by walking in the woods when you leave the parking at the foot of the hill, and when you walk up, notice the botanic track.
    In summer, some medieval attractions are organised in the castle.

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    Queribus Citadel of vertigo, but not Cathar

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    Central pillar of the donjon
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    Cathars lived here, fought here, but the fortress is not a Cathar one; Cathars did not mind a lot about material wealth or even beauty, and this beautiful room in the middle height of the donjon, with this central pillar (picture 1) may not fit to their philosophy of life. . . . . But, “interviews” led by the Inquisitors state that this room existed when the Cathars were in Queribus; did they built the Gothic style arches? A “room with a pillar” was there in 1241 (Queribus surrendered in 1255), and the four groups of vaults (picture 2) may have been re built by the Francs. The ceiling is very impressive from beneath (picture 3), with the four “boxes”, each with crossed vaults; eight vaults are like nervures growing from the “blooming” pillar; I am not architect, it is just impressive and has this sober beauty (picture 4) . . . .
    This room has also stone framed windows located very high (picture 5).
    Impressive, powerful beauty when looking at Quéribus from outside, but also delicate inner beauty, in some way. . . . . The last “official” Cathars lived here, in this fortress, fought for their lives and freedom; nobody knows if they left the terrestrial, materialistic life with the joy of saints knowing they would meet their Creator, or with sadness leaving this beautiful place and the beautiful land were it was built. . . . .

    Animations and festivals in summer (July-August).

    Five Euros, comprising individual visit (Audioguide, 2 Euros) and a small show (18 mn) playing the Sermon of the Curé de Cucugnan.

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    Queribus: the archetype of citadel of vertigo

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    The Canigou crowned by the clouds
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    Probably the archetype of the Citadels of Vertigo, Quéribus dominates the plains by more than 600m, and from there, you discover the beautiful Canigou, the highest mountain of Eastern Pyrenees, like a fortress in the far, fringed by a crown of clouds (picture 1). You can see the mountains from the ramparts or enjoy the view from some window (picture 2); this window was “primitive”, “unframed”, but others are framed with roman bows (picture 3), and the landscape is not less beautiful.
    Queribus is a well preserved, partly restored fortress and from some places, you feel like a guard watching the valleys from the crenels, and have a glimpse to your Cathar friends in Peyrepertuse on the mountain on the other side of the valley (picture 4), and the perspective from the walls or stairs above the rocks and forests (picture 5with the Canigou in the background) makes you feel the king of the place, king of wind, king of vertigo. . . .

    Animations and festivals in summer (July-August).

    Five Euros, comprising individual visit (Audioguide, 2 Euros) and a small show (18 mn) playing the Sermon of the Curé de Cucugnan.

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    The most impressive: Queribus

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    The eagle's nest
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    Queribus is the last castle which surrendered to the Francs, the last Cathar stronghold in Languedoc, conquered by the seneschal of Carcassone in 1255, when Catharism was almost “eradicated” from Languedoc.
    Languedoc was already belonging to France and the Francs, and almost nothing is known about the siege which lasted (with interruptions) since 1228; who were the last Cathar inhabitants of the fortress, did they escape? Were they put on stake? Or made prisoners? . . . A mystery.
    We talk about Cathar castles but must not forget that these fortresses were all built before Catharism was deeply rooted in Languedoc, these are not Cathar castles stricto sensu, but Languedocian castles which later have been used by the Cathar resistants, and then rebuilt by the Francs; yes, knowing this could kill the dreams, or mystic thoughts, but these are facts, we admire Franc castles, but located on Cathar strongholds; however, we can imagine the older castle and the people living there.
    An eagle’s nest, this is what you see coming from Cucugnan (picture 1), a high dungeon, unviolable tower dominating the surroundings.
    A strong wind blows on the Pas du Maury separating Roussillon (French part of Catalonia) and Languedoc, and you feel it really, when approaching the fortress (picture 2). There are some places, stairs (picture 3) giving shelter from the wind, or very close to the high walls of the fortress (picture 4), but be careful, sometimes the wind stops without notice, you can look in the valley, reading your map or folder (picture 5), but without notice, it resumes violently. A real pleasure is to discover this fortress walking in the stairs like a small maze.

    Animations and festivals in summer (July-August).

    Five Euros, comprising individual visit (Audioguide, 2 Euros) and a small show (18 mn) playing the Sermon of the Curé de Cucugnan.

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    Languedocian Pyrenean villages. . . .

    by kokoryko Written Mar 1, 2010

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    Above Bugarach
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    Driving to the fortresses takes you also through quiet villages and rural landscapes, which deserve here or there some stops.
    These two locals above the village of Bugarach (picture 1) do not care about past Cathar history, neither probably the haymakers under the watch of Pech de Bugarach mountain (picture 2).
    The villages look nice and quiet in the valleys, like, here “Le Linas” (picture 3), where the bell tower above the church are not usual local style, like in Cubières (picture 4), where the bells are above the tower, in free air.
    In the south, in Roussilon, where the climate is milder and sunnier, the locals grow wine and they certainly enjoy working in the fields under the silhouette of Quéribus castle (picture 5).

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