The castle was first mentioned in 825 and in 1096 its overlord was Count Raymond of Toulouse.  At the beginning of the thirteenth century the fortress marked the northernmost territory of the Trencavel lords of Carcassonne and therefore should have became a prime target for  Simon Montfort (d.1218) during the Albigensian crusade (1209-29).  However in 1212, Simon besieged Penne d'Agenais castle some 40 miles NE of Montauban.  This is sometimes confused with Penne castle which lay at Penne d'Albigeois some 20 miles east of Montauban.  During the siege of Penne d'Agenais, Simon's brother, Guy Montfort (d.1228), was storming various castrum around Toulouse.  Simon called Guy and his forces to him as his own troops were nearing the end of their 40 days service.  On their march thither they came across Penne d'Albigeois and its castle.  Surprisingly this had not been attacked, even though Baldwin Toulouse (d.1214), the Crusader brother of Count Raymond VI (d.1222), held nearby Bruniquel only four miles away.  The castle was held by a strong force of mercenaries who came out and attacked the Crusaders.  In reply Guy devastated the surrounding area and tarried there several days on his march to Penne d'Agenais.  The castle was mentioned as still garrisoned by Toulouse in early 1213 when the defenders of Puycelsi agreed to surrender if Penne was captured or surrendered.  Later a Bernard Penne came to support Raymond VI at the siege of Toulouse in 1218.  Presumably he was the lord of the castle during this period.
The overlordship of Penne castle passed from Count Raymond VII of Toulouse (d.1249) to his daughter, Jeanne (d.1271) and her husband, Alphonse of Poitou (d.1271).  On their deaths the castle passed to the French Crown.

During the Hundred Years Wars the castle changed hands several times between French and English forces.  It was finally slighted and abandoned by the Protestants in 1586.  The castle is currently being rebuilt with traditional methods.

The castle is another ‘ship-type' fortress, stretching along a cliff face south of the River Aveyron.  It is about 500' long E-W, but only 80' wide at its widest extent.  Most of the castle is under 50' in width.  The castle begins to the NW with a rectangular outer ward.  This protects the great gatehouse which consists of a D shaped tower to the south and a larger beaked tower to the north.  Beaked towers can also be seen at Carcassonne and in the North at Issoudun and Roche Guyon.  This is an unusual and unique twin towered gatehouse.  The exterior ashlar of the towers seems similar, which suggests the size differences are due to the fall of the ground from north to south and the desire to give the northern tower a beak.  The gate arch between the towers is pointed and contains a portcullis in its forward arch, while the long crossbow loops have fish tailed oillets.  The rear gate arch is low curved.

Within the gatehouse a walled path snakes up to the donjon on the summit.  This consists of a rectangular cistern attached to a shallowly projecting D shaped tower in an enceinte that curves around the exposed S&E sides of the crag in one of the most photogenic scenes in military history.  Note however, that the Romanesque window to the east, overhanging the latrine, is a modern insert.

To the north of the approach path to the donjon stood all the ancillary buildings of the castle, with a hall and square tower to the NW.  Centrally to the south were a pair of lower wards, making use of the lie of the land.

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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