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Arques Castle


Gallery of 21 photos for Arques Castle

The Chateau d'Arques is a fairly small castle with an enclosure wall, a residential tower and a tall donjon tower (castle keep) that has four round corner towers, all well restored and very picturesque. The castle sits on flat farming lands in a wide river valley, very different from the mountain-top sites of the other Cathar castles.

There was no castle here in the 12th century. At that time, the viscount of Carcassone was at war with several fiefs in the area, including Arques and Lagrasse, and Arques was taken over by the lords of Termes. The Albigensian Crusade began in 1209. In 1210, Termes Castle was attacked and captured by Simon de Montfort. He immedietly turned his attention to Arques, burned the village, and then gave the entire area to Pierre de Voisins, one of his lieutenants.

Donjon tower (keep) of Arques Castle Gilles de Voisins began construction of the Arques Castle in 1284, to defend the valley and control the Transhumance routes that pass through the valley to the Corbières hills to the south. Arques castle was completed in 1316, by Gilles II de Voisins, and remained active for the next two centuries. In 1518 the last of the Voisins married Jean de Joyeuse, which resulted in Arques being abandoned as the feudal center in favor of Couiza. A half-century later, in 1575, Arques was attacked by the Protestants during the Wars of Religion. Most of the original castle was destroyed, with only the central keep resisting (that's what the keep is for). Arques castle has remained in this state ever since. During the French Revolution the castle was sold by the State. In 1887 the castle was declare an historical monument, and has since been partially repaired. Today it's partially privately owned and partially by the commune.

Visiting Arques Castle

Arques is located in a wide farming valley 10 km east of Couiza (26 km SE of Limoux). It's a pretty drive out to Arques on a good road, the D613. If you're in a hurry, you can see the exterior of the castle well from the outside. The entry fee gets you access to the inner grounds, and the interior of the two towers. The tall center tower is the keep (dongon).

The main building is the castle keep (donjon), a tall square tower with four round corner towers. The southeast corner contains the spiral stairway with access to all the floors. You can visit all four floors, but access is via a tight spiral stairway, thus not available for reduced mobility.

Lord's apartment room (1ere étage) in While all four floors have defensive aspects, such as observation and firing slits in three of the corners, the first two floors are designed as living quarters. The ground floor is a large residential room, high arched ceiling and very nicely finished. The second floor (1ere étage) is similar, but a bit larger and a bit nicer, designed for the Lord of the castle.

Guards room (2eme étage) fireplace wall The third floor up (2eme étage) is the Guards Room. This has a lower ceiling than the two lower, residential floors. This room is for the relaxation of the guards, and has amenities such as a fireplace.

The top floor (3eme étage) is for defense of the castle. This has a lower ceiling even than the Guards Room, but was big enough to accommodate up to 40 soldiers at a time. There's direct access to the three defensive corner towers, with viewing windows and firing slits, and the most commanding view of the lands around the castle.

View from the top of the The lower, square building in the southwest corner of the castle enclosure is a Residential Tower (tour logis). It has a single, large room, high arched ceiling and fairly large windows on the two walls exterior to the enclosure.

A nice decorative touch (we thought) were the small sculptures at the lower ends of some of the arched ceiling ribs.

Page-boy sculpture head in the

Practical. (2019)
Cost. 6 euros; kids 6-15 years, 3 euros
Closed: Jan, Feb
Open. Feb, weekends, school holidays
        Mar-Apr, Oct-Nov: 10h--13h, 14h-17h or 18h (7 days)
        May-Sept: 10h-13h, 13h30--18h or 19h (7 days)

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