Aguilar, with Peyrepertuse, Termes, Queribus and Puilaurens were termed the 'Five Sons of Carcassonne' when they were fortified to protect the border between France and Aragon in 1483.  The name has since stuck and is often applied retrospectively.

The site was a fortress of the counts of
Besalu before 1021.  The previous year the will of Bernard-Taillefer had mentioned Aguilar as his fortress on the frontier between the counts of Narbonne and Roussillon.  His other castles in the region included Peyrepertuse, Queribus and Tautavel.

By 1210, only a year into the Albigensian Crusade, the castle was held by Raymond Termes (d.1213) from the Trencavel lordship of Carcassonne and was surrendered to the Crusaders when he fell with his castle of Termes, he being sent to a Carcassonne dungeon.  The castle was then given to Alan Roucy (d.1221) in 1215 with the nearby vill of Tuchan.  Roucy, who was also the Montfortian lord of Termes, was killed in 1221 defending Montreal.

Oliver Termes (d.1274), the son of Raymond, briefly retook Aguilar during the 1240 revolt, but probably gave it to Louis IX when he made peace in 1241.  By 1246 the castle held a royal garrison under Hugh Trinouillis to supervise the Aragon frontier. 
In 1245 Oliver had converted to Catholicism and went crusading and in 1248 King Louis IX returned Aguilar to him.  After the left it in his will to his son Raymond in 1257, King Louis IX (d.1270) purchased it in 1260/1 for £3,320 Tours (Tournois), the official coinage of Paris, later to be known as the Franc.  Such a figure probably equates to about £500 sterling.  In 1262 the castellan was Peter Mirepoix

By 1302 the garrison was recorded as 12 sergeants, a castellan, a chaplain, a porter and a watchman.  For the rest of its useful life the castle remained a royal stronghold until it was abandoned in 1659 with the treaty of the Pyrenees with Spain.  Earlier it had fallen into Spanish hands in 1525 and was only regained in 1543 after Tuchan had been burned and the castle besieged by 14,000 men.  It was described as ruined as early as 1630 and although it was ordered to placed in a state of defence in 1792, nothing seems to have been done.

The castle consists of an early polygonal ward, set on a rocky crag with a thin walled rectangular, 3 storeyed tower added to the north side.  Its ground floor appears to have been a water cistern.  The ward is about 100' long by 55' wide.  The surviving window embrasures have early Romanesque arches, while the masonry style suggests that the entire inner ward was raised a storey in height at some point.  Entrance was gained towards the west end of the south wall, via a ramp running up the side of the enceinte from the north.  This entrance was covered by many ground floor loops in the west and south walls.  Such loops also appear at possibly Adare and certainly Dunamase in Ireland as well as Beaumaris, Flint, Grosmont and Rhuddlan in Wales and in the early work at Goodrich and the 1220s work at Rochester in England.  The east apex of the inner ward formed a beak or spur up to 9' thick, some 3' thicker than the rest of the enceinte.  Traces of a hall block, using the west curtain as one side, remains to the west.  Another building lay to the south.

At a later date the inner ward was surrounded by a concentric defence with 6 open backed D shaped towers, equipped with crossbow loops, with shoulder headed embrasures.  These are probably thirteenth century, but surprisingly are only about 4' thick to the north, but increasing to a more reasonable 5' elsewhere.  Possibly this was built after the castle fell to the Crusaders in 1210 as building outer lines of defences and adding round towers does seem to have been one of the results of their activities, viz Carcassonne city walls, Peyrepertuse, Puilaurans and Termes.  The south curtain alone has larger blocks at its base.  The NW tower was slightly larger than its compatriots.  Entrance to the site was gained via an internal thickening in the west curtain which contained a guard chamber over which ran steps to the wallwalk.  Presumably the portcullis was operated from here.  A weak, semi-circular barbican protected the gate.  There was also a postern NE of the north tower, next to 2 internal buildings.  Access to the wallwalk was gained via steps to the north and south next to the N&SW towers.  

Beyond the castle to the west was a small Romanesque chapel of St Anne which had an eastern apse and was probably contemporary with the inner ward, although it has been suggested it actually dates to the thirteenth century and was a 'throwback'.  A town defence existed to the south of the castle, where a singular piece of curtain survives with two loops and a hole in the wall entrance.

Why not join me here and at other French castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry

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