It is uncertain when the early Puivert castle was founded, but it had strong Cathar and troubadour links in the twelfth century.  Indeed a meeting of troubadours took place here in 1170.  Fifteen years later similar festivities were attended by the Viscount Roger Beziers of Carcassonne (d.1194) and Lady Loba, widow of Bernard Cabaret of Lastours and the parents of Peter Roger (d.1229+) and Jordan (d.1228).  When the Cathar Wars began in 1209, the lord of Puivert was Bernard Congost (d.1232), the widower of Alpais (d.1208), a Cathar Parfaite.  In November 1210, just after the fall of Termes, Puivert castle was besieged by Simon Montfort.  It fell after just three days, but the dispossessed Congost family carried on the fight from elsewhere.  Subsequently in 1213, the lordship was given to Pons Bruyeres by Simon Montfort (d.1218).  Bernard Congost, exiled from his castle, died after receiving the Cathar Consolamentum at Montsegur in 1232, while his son, Gaillard, helped defend that castle in 1243-4.  Thomas Bruyeres (d.1342+), the grandson of Pons, built the massive rectangular fortress adjoining the old Cathar castle to mark his arrival in the new world.  Presumably this happened after July 1319 when his niece, Jeanne Clermont (nee Dargies, d.1333/37) sold the land of Puivert (la terre de Puyvert) to him and his wife, Isabeau Melun.

Occupying a long hill, 2,000' high, Puivert castle consists of two distinct parts.  At the highest west end of the hill are the decayed remains of the original fortress.  This was originally roughly triangular with the round Treseau Tower towards the western apex.  This has now gone.  To the north was another round tower backed by a multitude of apartments which still sport Romanesque arches here and there, although these may be ‘refurbishments'.  There was possibly another round tower at the NE end of the old castle, but this has been demolished and replaced by the fourteenth century square keep. 

Roughly central in the possible east wall of the old castle, was a hole-in-the-wall gate, called Chalabre.  Just north of this the wall butts onto a rectangular building which housed a cistern.  A whole series of rooms and chambers stood here, protected by the later castle and keep.  The current entrance steps to the keep use these ruins for entrance.  At the southern end of the east wall was the Tour Vert - another round tower that seems to belong to the early fortress.  This too has almost disappeared.  The upper walls to the NW have certainly been rebuilt above the basement.  This would suggest that this part of the castle went through at least two stages before the new castle was built in 1310.

The later fourteenth century castle covers the rest of the hill top to the east.  The south curtain may relate to the older fortress as it lacks the ground floor loops that appear in th erest of the eastern enceinte.  Such loops are also lacking in the old, western castle.  The the south curtain currently terminates in a rectangular tower, the Tour des Cas ou Gaillard.  This appears to be later than the curtain wall which it is built against.  The rest of the outer castle defences may well be younger than the curtain, if not the Gaillard Tower.  This can be suggested as the N&E curtains are both penetrated by a plethora of shoulder-headed crossbow loops and have two round towers, the Tour du Quayre to the NE and the Tour Bossue to the north.  The upper floors of these towers are both entered via the wallwalk passing through them.  This is different to the Gaillard tower which has a singular door leading north from the tower directly onto the destroyed wallwalk.  The two northern towers appear of similar dimensions to those of the old castle and may possibly have been retained from the old enceinte.  Certainly the Tour Bossue is fully bossaged internally, but its northern external base is not.

Entrance to the new castle was gained through a rectangular gatetower called the Tour d'Hyere.  Access to the upper floors of this was again reached via the wallwalk and a stair runs up the curtain to this from south of the gatetower.  Another stair runs up to the walls at right angles underneath the base of the keep.  These are an addition to the original layout.  The SE tower of the outer enceinte was also round, but, like the Tour Vert, has been reduced to its basement.

The keep is a massive structure, 50' square and 115' high and accessed from the west through the old castle by a mostly destroyed series of forebuilding that led to 3 entrances on the first floor.  The tower contains four vaulted floors and is highly ornate with the ceremonial Musicians' hall containing finely sculptured images of musicians, bagpipers, flutists, tambourine players, rebec players, lutists, guitarists and organ players.  This is a unique display of profane carving, although occasionally single players can be found at other European sites.  In a keystone can still be seen the conjoined shields with the heraldry of the building families, Bruyeres and Melun, indicating Thomas Bruyeres and Isabeau Melun, the founders of the castle.

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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