About Montaillou Castle
The Château de Montaillou is a ruined castle in the French village of Montaillou, in the Ariège département. It is most famous for its Cathar connections.
History of the Château de Montaillou
Built by the lords of Alion around the end of the 12th century, Montaillou sits atop the village. All that remains of the rectangular castle is three walls of a ruined keep and evidence of other walls and earthworks. Access was controlled by a dry moat cut into bare rock. The courtyard was surrounded by a curtain wall, the base of which is partially conserved. Further dry moats provided defence to the north and east, while to the south the steep slope of the site was sufficient. The plan of the castle was simple: a wall linked to a tower followed the contours of the hill.
At the start of the 12th century the fiefdom belonged to the Count of Foix. In 1244, after the Siege of Montségur, the castle was partly razed but must have been rebuilt because it is recorded in a document of 1272 in a list of the Count of Foix’s fortresses. In 1258, Bernard was condemned by the inquisition as a Cathar heretic and burned at the stake in Perpignan. The castle was taken by his father-in-law and became a frontier fortress, between the County of Foix, the French King’s lands and Aragon.
At the end of the 13th century, the Count doubled the thickness of the walls. The castle survived the Albigensian Crusade but fell into disrepair later. Montaillou is also known for the campaign conducted against it by Jacques Fournier, one of the leading Cathar persecutors. In particular, he waged a campaign against Béatrice, wife of the châtelain on Montaillou, Bérenger de Roquefort. Béatrice was tried by the Inquisition on charges of blasphemy, witchcraft and heresy and found guilty.
In 1638, the castle was demolished by order of Louis XIII.
Château de Montaillou today
The castle is the property of the commune. It was added to the list of monuments historiques in 1984. The ruins of Montaillou are not really accessible in themselves, but there’s plenty of good hiking in the area.
This part of France gets swelteringly hot in the summer, so go prepared with hat, suncream and sturdy shoes in the summer months.
Getting to the Château de Montaillou
Montaillou is in the Ariège department of France: it’s about 90 minutes south of Carcassonne via the D620 or just under two hours from Perpignan via the D117. Public transport in this area is non-existent. The roads are winding and narrow – drive carefully and expect it to take longer than the distance it looks like on the map as a result!