This castle is thought to be the oldest on the
site of Lastours. In design it is rather Byzantine, like some
of the castles of Sicily. Cabaret occupies the northernmost summit of the ridge and is the largest of the 4 sites, consisting of 3 distinct wards.
The inner castle consists of a
pentagonal tower with attached hall or apartment to the
north. Unusually this structure or logis has exterior walls
some 3' thick, although the west wall with the entrance is more like 4'
thick. This entrance is protected by a square forebuilding
and a machicolation overhead. At ground floor level there are
3 odd loops in the north wall which have been blocked by the addition
of a later external staircase to the battlements. To the east, near the keep, is an
inturn of the wall where an angled crossbow loop has been
inserted. This slightly narrower section of the chamber has a
3' high raised stone floor before the central entrance into the
keep. Possibly this chamber was a great hall and this was a
dias, although the lack of lights makes this less likely and there is a
cistern under the ‘dias'. The curtain with the loop
in it was well meshed into the keep at the base. However,
above this, the heightened curtain merely butted against the
tower. The corners of the logis had fine
quoins and butted against the keep to the NW. In all
likelihood the keep is the older structure.
The tower or keep has its beak pointed down the ridge, the only
possible direction of artillery attack. In the NE corner is a
narrow stair in the thickness of the wall. As the wall is
only 5' thick this stair was very narrow. It gave access to
the upper floors and destroyed battlements, both surviving floors being
vaulted. The quoins have largely been replaced, but the wall
is made of well meshed barely coursed rubble, there being a total of 4
crossbow loops on 3 levels and a window in the SW face of the
tower. Quite obviously the lower of these loops were
installed before the outer ward was built as this blocks their already
limited arcs of fire. There is only 1 surviving crossbow loop
to the SE. The east face has no loops, while the west one has
a Romanesque doorway with drawbar at first floor level.
Presumably this is a later insertion and led onto the roof of the
building built against the outer curtain in the lower ward.
The base of the tower bears some resemblance to the layout of the early
castle at Urquhart in Scotland. Probably the original floor
levels did not match those of the later vaults. On the
northern summit of the tower are the remains of the base of 2 loops
with ball oillets. A singular base with ball oillet remains
to the west.
The inner castle was surrounded on all sides bar the east by an
irregular outer ward with a powerful square tower to the north, with a
supposedly seventeenth century cistern to its west. The
stonework of the tower appears different to the adjoining curtains,
while the thickness of the walls, the outer ones being 8' thick and the
inner two 4'. This is unusual in a tower and obviously shows
that it was built when walls were standing, or were planned, where the
current walls are. Otherwise the design would not make
sense. That said the loop through the think west wall makes
no sense at all pointing as it does at the inner face of the curtain
barely 10' away. The loop does, however, cover a cistern in
the narrow gap between the tower and the curtain.
The main ward was divided into an upper (north) and a lower section
(south). The southern ward was entered via a hole in the wall
gate which was overlooked by an open backed D shaped tower to the
north. The entrance was further protected by a long
barbican. A postern lay to the SE, but this looks much
rebuilt. Various buildings lined the curtain which was much
thinned by pointed blind arcades on its E&W walls which carried
the wallwalk. A stone staircase was inserted against the north face of the logis to allow access to the wallwalk.
At its summit the base of a singular loop with a fish
tail oillet survives to the west. The rest of the battlements
along this front give every appearance of having been restored.
The whole site of this narrow, ship-shaped fort
is quite cramped. Indeed the unusual design may again suggest
an early date. The idea that this ‘fort' is an
artillery structure from the age of Vauban (d.1633-1707) or even Henry
VIII's coastal forts (1530s-40s) seems quite strange.
Why not join me here and at other French
castles? Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly
Paul Martin Remfry