Château d'Usson

Château d'Usson

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The Château d'Usson is one of the so-called Cathar castles
Cathar castles
Cathar castles is a modern term used by the tourism industry to designate a series of fortresses built by the French king on the southern border of his lands at the end of the Albigensian Crusade...

 in what is now southwestern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. It is located in the commune
Communes of France
The commune is the lowest level of administrative division in the French Republic. French communes are roughly equivalent to incorporated municipalities or villages in the United States or Gemeinden in Germany...

of Rouze
Rouze
Rouze is a commune in the Ariège department in southwestern France.-Population:Inhabitants of Rouze are called Rouzéens....

, in the Ariège
Ariège
Ariège is a department in southwestern France named after the Ariège River.- History :Ariège is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from the counties of Foix and Couserans....

 département. It is sited upstream from Axat
Axat
Axat is a commune in the Aude department in southern France.Axat is a pretty tourist town dituated on the D118 in the high valley of Aude. Surrounded by mountains and gorges, the narrowest Gorges St Georges is only 3 km away. The River Aude runs through Axat making a picturesque setting and a...

, along the Aude River
Aude River
The Aude River is a river of southwestern France. Its source is in the Pyrenees mountains and it then runs to Carcassonne and turns, reaching the Mediterranean Sea near Narbonne...

 gorge, carved out of the foothills of the Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

. It is situated at 920 m in altitude and dominates the valley of the Aude River. The Château de Puilaurens is 30 km away, Château de Puivert
Château de Puivert
The Château de Puivert is a so-called Cathar castle situated in the commune of Puivert, in the Aude département of France. This building, on top of a hill overhanging the village and its lake, reaches an altitude of 605 m. The site is in the Quercob region, south of Carcassonne and east of Foix...

 49 km and Château de Quéribus 60 km. Château d'Usson is listed as a monument historique
Monument historique
A monument historique is a National Heritage Site of France. It also refers to a state procedure in France by which national heritage protection is extended to a building or a specific part of a building, a collection of buildings, or gardens, bridges, and other structures, because of their...

by the French Ministry of Culture.

History


The castle dates from the 11th century (perhaps earlier) and during the Cathar
Cathar
Catharism was a name given to a Christian religious sect with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries...

 period marked the eastern boundary of the territories of the Counts of Foix
Counts of Foix
The counts of Foix ruled the independent County of Foix, in what is now southern France, during the Middle Ages. Later they extended their power to almost the entire Pyrenees mountain range, moving their court to Pau, in Béarn, until eventually the last count of Foix acceded to the French throne as...

. In the 12th century this was the capital of the Donezan region. Before the défilé was cut through the mountains to link Quillan
Quillan
Quillan is a commune in the Aude department in southern France.-Geography:Quillan is located at the foothills of the Pyrenees, on the road between Carcassonne and Perpignan....

 to Axat
Axat
Axat is a commune in the Aude department in southern France.Axat is a pretty tourist town dituated on the D118 in the high valley of Aude. Surrounded by mountains and gorges, the narrowest Gorges St Georges is only 3 km away. The River Aude runs through Axat making a picturesque setting and a...

, this was an inaccessible outpost providing succour for faidits and other persecuted Cathars. The Cathar bishop of Toulouse Guilhabert de Castres
Guilhabert de Castres
Guilhabert de Castres was a prominent Cathar theologian. Born in Castres, he became a Perfect and, between 1223 and 1226, Bishop of Toulouse in the Cathar Church...

 is known to have taken refuge here.

Towards the end of the wars against the Cathars
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

 this was one of their last sanctuaries, providing support for Montségur
Montségur
The Château de Montségur is a former fortress near Montségur, a commune in the Ariège department in southwestern France. Its ruins are the site of a razed stronghold of the Cathars. The present fortress on the site, though described as one of the "Cathar castles," is actually of a later period...

. The seigneurs of Usson, Bernard d'Alion, lord of the Château de Montaillou
Château de Montaillou
The Château de Montaillou is a ruined castle in the French village of Montaillou, in the Ariège département. The village of Montaillou, standing on the slope of Mount Allion, was made famous in Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's history, Montaillou, village occitan.At the top of the village is all that...

, and his brother Arnaud d'Usson sent arms and supplies to their besieged comrades there. On March 15, 1244, the day before 225 Cathar parfaits were burned alive at Montségur, four other parfaits left the castle there for Usson, where the Cathar treasure had been evacuated a few months earlier. This mystery has fed a number of theories about the equally mysterious treasure supposedly found at Rennes-le-Château
Rennes-le-Château
Rennes-le-Château is a commune in the Aude department in Languedoc in southern France.This small French hilltop village is known internationally, and receives tens of thousands of visitors per year, for being at the center of various conspiracy theories, and for being the location of an alleged...

 in the 19th century.

Bernard d'Alion was burned alive
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

 at Perpignan
Perpignan
-Sport:Perpignan is a rugby stronghold: their rugby union side, USA Perpignan, is a regular competitor in the Heineken Cup and seven times champion of the Top 14 , while their rugby league side plays in the engage Super League under the name Catalans Dragons.-Culture:Since 2004, every year in the...

 in 1258. The castle was rebuilt as a French border fortress, and given by Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 to the new Marquis d'Usson. Like other seigneural residences it was sold as communal property at the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, after which time it was used as a stone quarry.

Not far away is the Château de Donézan, where Cathars were still holding out eleven years after the fall of Montségur.

On display at the castle are parts of the wreckage of a Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 British Dakota transport aircraft
1944 Camisette Air Crash
On 5 December 1944 a British Dakota M.K.III aircraft number FL588 of the Royal Air Force crashed on the Pic de la Camisette, a mountain close to the commune of Mijanès, Ariège, in the French Pyrenees. It was on a military transport operation during World War II....

 which crashed on 5 December 1944 on a nearby mountain with the loss of seventeen lives.

See also

  • List of castles in France
  • Cathar castles
    Cathar castles
    Cathar castles is a modern term used by the tourism industry to designate a series of fortresses built by the French king on the southern border of his lands at the end of the Albigensian Crusade...

  • Cathar castles in French Wikipedia

External links