When visiting the Aude department in the South of France, you will notice that the local history is closely interwoven with the Cathars. A good way to learn more about this interesting historical period is to visit some of the fortifications. Strategically scattered around the ‘Land of Cathars’, they were constructed as strongholds against the Catholic rulers. Château de Peyrepertuse is one of the most important Cathar castles that you can visit in the region.
Oldest and I were on an exploration quest in Cathar country. After visiting the nearby Château de Quéribus, we climbed the sometimes steep and rocky path to the remains of the impressive Château de Peyrepertuse. From afar, this invincible fortress looks like an enormous ship, nestled on top of a rocky ridge. It surprised me to discover that the surface of Peyrepertuse equals that of Carcassonne’s citadel.
Even on a Monday morning, Oldest and I weren’t alone at the Château de Peyrepertuse. Apparently quite a few people followed the same route as we had, as we recognized some of the faces from our earlier visit to Quéribus. Mentioned in historical records for the first time in the 11th century, the castle belonged to the Count of the Catalan county Besalu. After the Albigensian crusade in the 12th century, it was King Louis IX of France who turned Peyrepertuse into a royal fortress.
Château de Peyrepertuse is divided into three major sections. We started with the outer enclosure, which housed the remains of a chapel and the old keep. From the outer enclosure, we walked to the inner one to see the ruins of a polygon building used to lodge an army, if needed. Finally, from the third section of Peyrepertuse, we had some beautiful vistas of the San Jordi keep. To access this part of the castle, we had to climb the impressive Saint Louis stairs. The 60 steps, carved into the rock, run along a steep cliff while giving a magnificent view over the region.
As Oldest sometimes seems like a mountain goat, he was way ahead of me, urging me to go faster. I went as fast as I could, as I was very eager to climb to the highest possible point to get the stunning view over the Peyrepertuse site. And there, standing by the remains of the chapel, we marvelled over the breathtaking panorama in front of us. With the castle perched on its lonely cliff, we could only but imagine Peyrepertuse’s invincible position in long-gone times. Quest accomplished!