The castle was founded before 1034, but little is known of its early history.  In the early thirteenth century the lords of Roquefixade fought under the counts of Foix for the Cathar cause.  As a consequence, the castle was attacked unsuccessfully by Simon Montfort (d.1218) and the village burned.  After the treaty of Meaux/Paris in 1229, the castle became another retreat for Cathars.  In 1242, William Plaigne, one of the key conspirators in the massacre of the Inquisitors at Avignonet, lived here.  After this attack he helped to defend Montsegur castle in 1243.  However, it was only in 1270 that the French king bought the castle when attempting to stifle unrest in the Pyrenees.  In this he proved unsuccessful and in 1272, King Philip III (1270-85) lost the castle to rebels.  Finally he purchased it again in 1278 from the count of Foix.  The castle was eventually demolished at the order of Richelieu in 1633 after an unsuccessful revolt.

The castle is a complex mix of ages and styles.  The oldest part would seem to be the rocky crag above the main gatehouse into the inner ward.  This would appear to be a
defensive site of the first millennium AD.  The next fortification began possibly in the eleventh century when an irregular rubble wall was built along the eastern approach to the castle in what became the outer bailey.  This wall possibly included a dog-legged entrance where the current fifteenth century gate and barbican stands.  The wall then ran along the edge of the cliff and back towards the gate of the inner ward.  At some point, possibly in the fifteenth century, a new ashlar wall was built further south and the current entranceway made, although the gate itself appears thirteenth century.  At the same time in the fifteenth century the north front of the ward was enclosed with an ashlar wall and an irregular backless tower.  Possibly this overlies earlier work.

It was probably in the eleventh century that the castle keep was built, an oddly shaped rectangular tower, about 31' E-W and 29' N-S, with a ground floor entrance to the east.  Similar irregular keeps to this exist at
Miglos, PadernPuilaurens and Saissac.  Roquefixade keep stood at the western summit of the crag and probably had an irregular garderobe turret added to the NW.  A curtain wall was also made to form the inner ward at this time, but only fragments of this still survive just north of the keep.  In the thirteenth century the rectangular gatetower was added under the ancient boss of rock and on top of an older structure with has Romanesque arches within it.  This controlled egress to the main ward.  Later the entire summit was rewalled in ashlar masonry and a cistern built against the south wall.  This may simply have been a refacing of the older wall as the windows to the north are firmly Romanesque in character.

Why not join me 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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