Monday, 29 May 2017

Carcassonne Day 4

Today Antoine picked us up to take us to Lastours. The hub of the Cabardès since the height of the Middle-Ages, Lastours is a harmonious site with its four castles at 300 metres high, at the top of a mountain spur. Cabaret, Surdespine, Quertineux and Tour Regine overlook the Orbiel (the river of olive trees) stream and the Grézilhou torrent, which are deeply embanked in the valley, in a wild landscape bristling with cypresses.

The castles of Cabaret, Surdespine and Quertineux already existed before the Crusade against the Albigensians, but they looked different. During the time that Catharism flourished, the lord Pierre Roger de Cabaret seems to have had close links with the adepts of the new religion. He was the object of attacks by the Crusaders as early as 1209.

Between 1223 and 1229, Cathar activity was intense at Cabaret and the castles were besieged, vainly, a second time in 1227. It was not until 1229 that the fortress definitively surrendered and the last ‘perfectii' taking refuge there fled to the Pays de Sault.

After the Crusade, the King of France took over the lord's properties, and razed the village and castles. He had them rebuilt on the crest of the spur, and added a fourth tower: Tour Régine.
At the end of the 16th century, during the Wars of Religion, Cabaret was an important stronghold for the Protestants who adapted it for fire-arms. They were dislodged in 1591 by the troops of the Maréchal de Joyeuse.

At the French Revolution, the castles of Lastours were definitively abandoned. They were listed as an Historic Monument in 1905.

The Hole in the City is the largest cave in Lastours of about forty. This underground tunnel, many times overhauled, has had to be used many times as a reserve, refuge or sheepfold. In the Middle Ages, associated with a set of platforms, it could have corresponded to a fortified settlement. In 1994 was observed a medieval construction consisting of a wall, a pavement and a series of five steps. This rustic device made it possible in particular to reach a bay with an excellent view on the outside.

It may be supposed, then, that the castle of Quertinheux, mentioned in 1129, was an advanced fortification, intended to keep an eye on the pass which was the main road of communication at that time, the road to Carcassonne. The integration of the cavity of the "hole of the city" like room-bass of this castle, cellar or store, seems very probable. 

The most ancient remains go back to the Middle-Bronze Age at around 1500 years B.C: the tomb of a young girl known as "the princess with the necklace” was found in a cave. Her body was covered with objects such as amber pearls and jewellery evoking Mycenaean or Egyptian art. 
The sepulchral function of the site of Lastours is the first known. The burial of a little girl called "Princess of Lastours" discovered in 1961, is chronologically the first witness. Attributed to the Bronze Age, it rested in the "shelter of the collar", cavity annex of the "hole of the city" in the necklace shelter. Her body was covered with objects among which were amber pearls and jewels reminiscent of Mycenaean or Egyptian art. These adornment testify the exchanges carried out by the people of Cabardès with the Mediterranean world.

These castles controlled one of the main ways of penetration in the Cabardès and the Black Mountain and took all their importance at the time of the Crusade against the Albigenses.
This ancient fortified settlement called " castrum ", included a hundred dwelling houses and numerous forges. These places were abandoned brutally without the inhabitants being able to carry away any object.

Of a complex structure, Quertinheux castle evokes a synthesis of Cabaret and Tour Regine. It has a circular tower surrounded by a large polygonal curtain wall containing, lean-to slabs. An advance in chicane defends the main access. 

Built on a piton in the southwest of the castles, a primitive building called Quertinheux appeared in the texts shortly after 1100. It was probably located lower, in connection with the "Trou de la Cité". The clear view embraces, to the North the three other castles, and to the South, the village. 

Like the other three castles, Quertinheux was adapted after 1500 to the progress of artillery. The tower was erected in the middle of the XIIth century by the royal power. It is inspired by Tour-Régine for its plan, its dimensions, its system of archers, its staircase with screw in ruins, its door of entry located above the level of the ground and surmounted by a rectangular window. Now in ruins, it is seen through an opening in the reinforced concrete slab, the purpose of which was to ensure the general stability of the tower in 1966.

Quertinheux is equipped with two cisterns according to the same organization scheme as Cabaret. In the East, a first work adjoining the tower probably collecting the water from the roofs thanks to a tiled roof. A second cistern, destined to receive water from the walkway, was built on the edge of the eastern curtain, probably in the 16th century.

Surdespine is compact in appearance, the monument is dominated by a square tower separated from a quadrangular house and attached to a cistern. A trapezoidal curtain protects the whole. Excessively ruined, the missing parts of this curtain were enhanced during the last restoration campaign. 

The northwest corner of the enclosure probably housed the entrance of the castle, now replaced by a breach. A second access was made to the south-west. The tower of Surdespine was to be a dungeon, and the dwelling was probably a small dwelling. 

The castle, which is distinguished by the scarcity of its loopholes, is pierced by four semicircular windows. These showcases are made of white stones from Lassac. 

Dating in the middle of the XIIth century, the royal administration began to build the tower and the house of Surdespine. At that time, it was the largest of the four castles. At the beginning of the 17th century, the construction of the curtain wall and the various fittings it contained transformed the castle into a "fort".

The Tour Regine castle is composed of a tower girdled by a curtain. The circular tower is comparable to that of Quertinheux. The polygonal curtain of restricted area is essentially preserved in the South. The material used is the same as that of the Chateau de Cabaret, but arranged in regular layers. 

The Royal Fortress dates from 1230-1240, it would have been built thanks to the material and financial means of the King of France. The names "Tour Neuve" in the XIIth century and then "Tour Régine" confirm that this is a construction made by the royal engineers. Moreover, it is the replica of some towers of the enclosure of the Castle Comtal of the City of Carcassonne. 

The "stirrup" archers are among the most remarkable defensive elements of the tower. These openings have a slot with a triangular base dating from the middle of the 12th century. Made of white limestone, they have a particularly neat surroundings. The archers of the curtain, later on, are made of sandstone. 

The Tower in its upper part, a double row of bolt holes was used to receive hourds. It was accessed by rectangular bays today in the state of ruin. To the west, the tower is pierced by a door located on the floor, served by a wooden staircase. On the first floor there was a half-wooden floor with a new staircase leading to the ground floor. It basically houses a cistern. The second floor is served by a helical wooden staircase to the east and lit by loopholes. This second level largely perforated, is interesting for its circular low cupola paired in snail.   

Cabaret consists of three parts a five-sided polygonal tower, a rectangular main building, a polygonal curtain enveloping the whole.

There is also an old square tower partially confused with the north end of the curtain. 
The Keep in the South-East reveal the Gothic vault of the upper room falling on simple pits, while the lower room is covered in broken cradle. The keep is pierced by seven simple arches and a remarkable semicircular window to the west. 

An arc-of-circle defense device protected the main entrance to the west of the compound. A Bretche, defended the access to the house. A secondary gate opened at the southeast end of the castle. 

Three staircases remain in Cabaret, a staircase inside screw, restored during the last campaign, serving the dungeon located in the northeast corner. An external staircase fastened to the north wall of the house allowed access to the walkway. A third staircase is constituted allowing descent in one of the rooms constructed against the curtain wall to the South.

The Castral Village stretched out on the western slope, with eight to nine terraces, staggered to the bed of the Greenghou. A second suburb on the northern slope developed to the river Orbiel. 
Finally, a probable extension of the habitat was organized along the old road of Carcassonne, on the right bank of the Hailuzilhou, crossed by a bridge. 

These places were abandoned brutally without the inhabitants being able to take away their domestic objects: leaving the wood consumed in the home, the remains of the last meal, the culinary pottery still in place, etc. This highly diversified furniture predates the mid-twelfth century and coincides with the surrender of the fortress in 1229. The deliberate destruction of castrum by the royal administration must be around 1240.

In 1269, when the castral village must already have been deserted, a church known as Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul is mentioned below the castle of Quertinheux. It is presumed to have been a castle chapel before being erected as a separate parish. 

This "old church" ( " Vielha Gleisa ") of the late eleventh century, has undergone significant alterations in the twelfth century. The building, which was 15 m long and 11 m wide, had a single nave with a five-sided polygonal headboard lined with a series of semicircular niches. Its entrance now disappeared was arranged at the north-west corner, built of limestone stones.

Along the way was a cemetery limited by an enclosure, now confused in the walls of the terraces. 

A model of the child found in the cave of Lastours.

The history of Saint-Hilaire is closely linked to that of the abbey. A former fortified Benedictine abbey, founded at the end of the 8th century and placed under the name of Saint Sernin. In the 10th century, according to the will of the Earl of Carcassonne, the abbey changed its name and was dedicated to Saint Hilaire, first bishop of Carcassonne in the 6th century .

The monastery enjoyed a certain prosperity until the thirteenth century , but during the Hundred Years War it suffered devastation, the ravages of the black plague and periods of famine.

Placed under the command in 1540 , the abbey closed its doors in 1748 .

In 1531 , the monks of Saint-Hilaire discovered the first sparkling wine in the world: the blanquette.

La Cave the cellar where the wine was stored.

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