Axat, Occitania, France
The 13th century Château de Puilaurens is one of the so-called Cathar castles in the commune of Lapradelle-Puilaurens in the Aude département. The castle is located above the Boulzane Valley and the villages of Lapradelle and Puilaurens. There is a path from Axat to the castle.
About Puilaurens Castle
The 13th century Puilaurens Castle or Château de Puilaurens is one of the Cathar castles in the commune of Lapradelle-Puilaurens in the Aude département. The castle is located above the Boulzane Valley and has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1902.
Puilaurens Castle history
Puilaurens Castle was built 697m high on top of Mont Ardu, dominating the village of Puilaurens in the middle of an evergreen forest. It was the southern-most fortress in France, preventing access to the Fenouillèdes. The castle was built to defend the border with the Kingdom of Aragon in the 13th century. As a Cathar castle, Puilaurens’ inhabitants were likely persecuted by the Catholic Church, who did not recognise Cathar unorthodoxy.
The Cathar castles in the Languedoc region offered refuge to dispossessed Cathars, but many were conquered by French crusaders. Puilaurens Castle belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxa before it was acquired by the King of Aragon in 1162, which meant it was spared ravaging by the Crusaders during the Cathar wars. Some of those taking refuge at Puilaurens included high nobles such as Guillaume de Peyrepertuse, who had a castle of his own until the conflicts.
Puilaurens was ceded to the French some time before 1255 when the Aragonese border was moved south, and was later garrisoned by twenty-five sergeants. In 1659, the border was moved further south, and the castle lost all strategic importance.
Puilaurens Castle today
The castle seen today is predominantly French in design, and is open to the public. Following a short walk you find yourself in a large courtyard surrounded by tall walls and two round towers. Points of particular interest for visitors willing to climb the uneven steps up to the castle – take good footwear – include the heavily defended and steep zigzagging approach path, remains of a barbican (fortified gateway), murder holes, and a spectacular keep.
One of the towers is reportedly haunted by a White Lady, said to be Philip the Fair’s grand-daughter who stayed in Puilaurens but was murdered by her husband, King of Castile, Peter the Cruel.
Getting to Puilaurens Castle
There is a path from Axat to the castle, a 2 hour walk. If driving, there is a car park at the bottom of the steps up the castle. It takes 2 and a half hours to drive to Puilaurens from Montpellier via the A9.
Discover the best castles in the historic region of Occitanie, from Château de Foix to Château Royal de Collioure and more.