Château de Quéribus, French PyreneesSeptember 17, 2019 in France ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C
Along the parched and rocky outcrops of the Roussilon and Languedoc area of the French Pyrenees are dotted castles that were strongholds of the Cathars, an ultra-devout Christian sect who were persecuted during the 12th century and eventually crushed by the forces of Pope Innocent III (who obviously wasn't) during the Albigensian Crusade.
As we approached our destination on the bike, we both looked up high to see a building that seemed to have literally grown out of the rocks. That couldn't be it, but it was and so we started up the twisty road. On a rocky perch at 728m, with 360° views towards Spain, France and the Mediterranean, Château de Quéribus was once a Catalan castle of Lords before becoming a French royal fortress. It all depended on who was in power at the time. It had nothing to do with Catharism, except that it was the site of their last stand in 1255, though it was first mentioned in the 11th century.
You would think that it's location alone would be a good enough defence, but the entrance posed a real trap from any unwanted visitors. As well as three consecutive doors, lethal vents were incorporated on every side housing cannons and soldiers ready to pour hot oil. The King of France's engineers transformed the small castle into a fortress with two and later three sets of ramparts spread out on the ridge.
The most impressive room is known as the "pillar room" with high vaulted ceilings where each set of four crossed arches meets at the point of the enormous central pillar, with the weight being distributed among them, making the structure near indestructible. How did they manage to build such a structure with none of the tools and technology that we have today.
From there we ventured deeper into the Pyrenees riding through gorges, climbing high, twisty roads and almost got to Andorra before we turned right and continued our loop through small hamlets and fortified towns where we wondered what people did who lived there all year, especially in the depths of winter. They must be very hardy and self-sufficient.
Our base at Latour-bas-Elne on the coast was a good jumping off point for exploring the mountains, pretty coastal towns like Collioure and a nostalgic return to Port Vendres that we had visited on our journey into the Mediterranean on the boat 12 years earlier.
Having seen some of the Pyrenees from the French side, our next stop was to see them from the Spanish side.Read more