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The first in a series of three articles following a journey from Carcassonne to Foix undertaken by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle and his wife Annick in 2018
The four castles of Querthinheux, Cabaret, Surdespine and Tour Règine stand high above the village of Lastours some 12km from Carcassonne. They are justly famous for the beauty of their situation and their connection with the Cathars (heretics) and the Albigensian Crusade launched to eradicate them.
Of the four castles three – Querthinheux, Cabaret and Surdespine – are ‘Cathar’ and date from the 11th century, while Regine (Royal) was built in the 13th century under the new regime.
In 1209 the castles successfully resisted the attacks of Simon de Montfort, who resorted to cutting off the noses and ears of prisoners and gouging out their eyes to expedite matters. Capitulation followed one year later.
A polygonal curtain encloses a circular tower with a raised entrance. Two cisterns supply water – the lack of fresh water was a serious weakness. Querthinheux was stabilised in 1966.
Seen in the foregound of the picture above, Tour Régine is a round tower built between 1230-1240 and originally known as The New Tower. It was financed by Lous IX, (St Louis) who died on crusade.
At Cabaret, visible in the background, a polygonal curtain encloses two towers, one (facing) is the donjon and has strong projecting ‘beak’ and fine groined vaulting.
Surdespine is the most ruined of the four. A curtain encloses two square tours. A large water cistern is situated between them
The castles did not stand in isolation for they were surrounded by villages the ruins of which are clearly discernible. Lastours hosted a sizeable population at the time.
A fascinating aspect of Lastours is that it is approached via a cave, broken through at either end.
To exit the dark cave and enter into the bright sun with the castles high above is an unique experience.
Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.
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