Aude (11600) Population: 163 Altitude: 180 m
Lastours is a tiny village 15 km north of Carcassonne, on the southern flank of the Black Mountain (Montagne Noire). Lastours exists because of the group of four Cathar castle towers on the mountain ridge beside the village, and the name is derived from the Occitan "Las Tors" (the towers). This mountainous area by the Orbiel river is called the Cabardès, and is well know in the history of the Cathars.
A group of four defensive castles were built here, beginning in the 11th century. It was determined at the time that, given the mountainous terrain, a group of relatively small castles would be more efficient than building a single, huge castle.
The Cabardès is the name given to the area of hills north of Carcassonne to the Black Mountan (Montagne Noire), named after the Lords of Cabaret who defended the Châteaux de Lastours against Simon de Montfort in 1209.
The Cabardes region is very isolated, and Lastours has only had a road since 1863.
There is now (since 1999) an AOC Cabardès wine.
Ancient Mining at Lastours
The region around Lastours is rich in metals, including gold, silver, iron, copper and lead, and has been mined since antiquity.
Les Barrencs de Fournes mine was created by the Romans for extracting copper and silvered lead.
Les Caunettes mines produced iron and silver in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Salsigne-Villanière was mined for gold from the middle of the 19th century.
Cathars at Lastours
In the 12th century the inhabitants were sided with the Cathars. On 1 August, 1209, the Albigensian Crusade arrived at Carcassonne and began their siege. On 15 August, the city surrendered, and the people were allowed to leave, without any belongings at all,, departing "carrying nothing but their sins".
History of Lastours
Prehistoric: There are number of nearby caves where prehistoric artifacts have been discovered, including the Grotte du Prestil, the Trou de la Cité and the Trou des Morts.
Bronze-age items discovered the Grotte au Collier included the tomb of a little girl, named the "Princesse de Lastours". Objects found in the girl's tomb evoke Mycenaean (Greek) or Egyptian cultures, indicating the local Cabardes traded with the Mediterranean world.
Gallo-Roman: The Visigoths invaded Provence from Italy in the 5th century, eventually conquoring all across the south of France and most of Spain. In the 6th century, the Visigoth invasion northward into Languedoc-Roussillon ended at the Black Mountain (Montagne Noir) chain, 10-15 km north of Lastours. Ten Visigoth tombs have been discovered here.
Medieval: Pierre Roger de Cabaret ruled here in the 11th century (first mentioned in 1067), and at that time the castles were a Cathar refuge and defense against the Albigensian Crusade. Simon de Montfort attacked twice in 1209, unsuccessfuly. Cabaret finally surrendered in1211 because the position of the Cathars in the area were insupportable because of other defeats in the region.
During the 1209 attacks, the Albigensian Crusader Bouchard de Marly was captured and held prisoner for two years, until the eventual surrender of the castles.
At the end of the Albigensian Crusade, the three Lastours castles and the village were destroyed by the Royal troups in reprisal. The king showed his supremacy by building a fourth castle, the Tour Régine.
• GPS: 43.331759, 2.380394
IGN (1/25,000) #2345 E "Carcassonne"
IGN (1/25,000) #2344 ET "Montagne Noire E, Mazamet"
There are about a dozen great, half-day loop hikes in the area, but mostly from the villages surrounding Lastours.