This seems to be another tenth century castle.  It was first mentioned in 1034 when Count Bernard of Carcassonne (d.1038) presented it to his son, Count Roger of Foix (d.1064).  The fortress was the centre of the lordship known as Lordadais which was first mentioned in 970.  It therefore seems likely that the castle was founded in the same century or earlier.  The lordship became part of the marches between the senior lordship of Carcassonne and that of Foix.  To the south lay the county of Cerdanya, which after their line of counts died out in 1117, was inherited by the counts of Barcelona who in 1157 became kings of Aragon.

By 1137 the castle was held by a family who took their name from the castle and were members of the count of Foix's council.  The castle's real trials began with the Albigsinian Crusade of 1209.  In 1213 Count Raymond Roger of Foix (d.1223), under pressure from the Crusaders, placed Lordat castle under Aragonese suzerainty.  King Peter of Aragon was killed the same year at Murat on 12 September.  The castle was occupied by Blanche of Castile, the regent and mother of Louis IX in 1226, but was then retaken on 16 June? 1229 and served as an asylum for the last Cathars after the fall of Montsegur in 1244, until it too was taken about 1249.  Count Roger Foix (d.1265) then methodically increased his rights in the district, only to find Lordat becoming a bone of contention between King James I of Aragon (d.1276) and King Philip II of France (d.1285).  Despite this, in 1272 the mayor of Lordat was recorded as Pierre Roger Mirepoix, the last joint Cathar lord of Montsegur in 1244.  In 1277 Count Roger Bernard of Foix recognised King Philip III as overlord of Lordat, rather than James I of Aragon.  Eventually the king of Aragon ordered the castle's destruction.  It was subsequently rebuilt and finally destroyed by the order of King Henry IV in 1582.  It may have been used as a refuge after that, but in 1672 it was described as in ruins.

It seems likely that the keep was built in the tenth century on the highest, NW part of the hill.  This rectangular tower was some 28' N-S by 18' E-W with walls only 5' thick at the base and decreasing as the wall gained height.  The west side of the tower is largely gone and little remains to the south.  The east wall is best preserved and backed onto a small hall about 35' long by 28' wide.  The crease of its roof still remains on the keep wall and above are 2 of probably 3 loops at first floor level.  Above this was probably the battlements of which one crenel and parts of 2 merlons survive.  The corners of the tower had flat quoins, while the masonry consisted largely of uncoursed rubble.  The ‘hall' is made of coursed rubble and is likely to be a later addition to the keep.  East of the ‘hall' are two further rectangular buildings, the last one being very trapezoid in shape.  All these structures are set on the highest ridge of the fortress about 45' N-S by 120' E-W.  The keep with associated logis draws comparison with the castles of Cabaret and Surdespine in Lastours.

Surrounding the core of the castle is the inner ward.  This has been heavily damaged, but still forms an eye shaped enclosure.  In style it is little different from a hillfort, with a curtain toping a scarped ridge to the north, south and west and a near cliff face to the NE.  To the south the defences consist of a thin, irregular wall with an inturned gate to the SW.  The base of the curtain contains some massive stones which again points to an early date of construction.  The gate is Romanesque and had neither portcullis nor drawbridge.  Internally the inturning of the curtain allowed for a wooden fighting platform with a single crenel over the gate for protection.  The wallwalk still survives leading up to this on the west curtain.

At the NW corner of the inner ward is a large rectangular tower almost twice the size of the keep.  This lies internally along the N&W curtains.  To the west in the south wall is a Romanesque doorway at first floor level which probably led to the wallwalk.  Another such door is to the NE and led into a long hall like building.  The NW tower has two basement loops facing west and a rectangular window on each of the two upper floors.  Surprisingly the inner walls are about a foot thicker than the outer ones, which were protected by a slope and then a cliff face to the north.  The walls of the tower are made of rubble which towards the upper floors virtually becomes herringbone in its disposition.

Beyond the hall like building is another hall on a different alignment.  The curtain then runs SW along most of its end wall before continuing along the top of the scarp, making its way to the NE rectangular tower.  Of this only a basement cistern remains.  There appears to be no corner tower where the curtain makes a sharp angle to join the south front of the inner ward.

The outer ward covers the main ward to west, S&E.  Starting from the NW is a Romanesque postern door under the NW inner ward tower.  Possibly there was once a turret beyound this at the NW apex of the outer ward, although now all that is there is a viewing platform.  From here the wall covered the west front of the castle which contained two posterns.  The northern one is near the viewing table, opposite the Romanesque one under the NW tower.  From here the wall runs half way to the SW postern.  This is an inturned gateway similar to the one into the inner ward, but slightly smaller.  This also has a fighting platform over the gate that was reached from the wallwalk, which is well preserved on this front, as too are the remains of the battlements.

The south curtain runs from the SW postern to the outer ward gatehouse.  This takes the form of a rectangular tower, the only such structure
in the castle.  It is not like a normal gatetower, which is almost always at right angles to adjoining curtain walls, viz. Hay on Wye and Llanstephan in Wales, but is slightly offset from the course of the curtain wall which abutts it on both sides.  Externally it stands over 40' high.  Internally it is not much lower and consists of 4 storeys.  The ground floor contains only the E-W entrance passage.  The rear arch is a large Romanesque one, while the internal rear-arch of the outer gate is a smaller Romanesque structure.  The outer arch is a later insertion and is very slightly pointed.  The outer gate arch is also not quite fully aligned with the rest of the tower, probably indicating that the whole thing is an insertion.  This idea is reinforced by looking at the format of the lower arch and comparing it with the high arch in the upper floor a storey above it.  Quite obviousy the area underneath the upper arch has been filled in.  Certainly the tower has been much refurbished in recent years. 

The room above the gate passageway appears to be blind, except for a lintel headed door to the north.  The next floor was entered from the north from the wallwalk, although the wall it fed has now totally gone.  In its place is a newer wall over three times the original thickness, being over 10' wide.  Access to the SE wallwalk was also gained from this level of the tower, although there is now little trace of any wallwalk.  A small loop commands the approach to the gate from the east.  The upper floor of the gatetower has no external access, but there is a similar window to the south as the east window below.  There is also a much bigger east window.  The summit of the tower still has traces of its battlements to E&W.

Externally the tower has a projecting string course over the entrance arch to the east.  This has been destroyed where the corner of the tower has been rebuilt.  There is also a projecting string course on the south face of the tower, running from roughly halfway down the gate westwards along the curtain.  The gatehouse irregular rubble build is different to the curtains that butt against the tower, that to the west being particularly gifted with herringbone masonry. 

At the end of the rebuilt east curtain is a small, backless, rectangular tower.  This has been infilled to first floor level, probably at the same time as the east curtain was enlarged.  At first floor level there is a rectangular window to the NE.  On the floor above is a loop facing south.  This would have covered the new curtain wall when it stood.  From here the curtain ran back up to the junction with the inner ward near the NE tower.  Beneath the flat tower to the NE was a small knife shaped ward with a curtain cut through with many ground floor crossbow loops.  Such a style is mimicked at Dunamase castle in Ireland and elsewhere as recorded under that site.  This design is generally thought to be late twelfth or early thirteenth century.

As the towers are all rectangular, most surviving openings are crude or Romanesque and herringbone masonry can be seen in many places, the implication is that the entire castle is very early.

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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