Château de St-Ferriol lies in the foothills of the Pyrenees,
a short drive away from the Mediterannean coast, from the Spanish
border, and from Andora.
St-Ferriol is a small village, in the Aude Departement (Languedoc-Roussillon Region) of France. Historically the area was called the Razès, part of an independent state under the Viscounts of Carcassonne, until it was annexed to France following the war against the Cathars. Some people here still speak Occitan, the Langue d'oc as, just a few miles away, the people of the Rousillon still speak Catalan.
The area best known for its Cathar history. In the twelfth century a gnostic religion rivalling Roman Catholicism flourished in this area under the tolerant rule of the Counts of Toulouse. The Roman Church, fearing the rapid spread of a rival faith launched a full-scale crusade against the local population. As direct consequences, the Dominican Order and the infamous Inquisition was founded, and the Languedoc was annexed to France. Click on the following link to open a website on Cathars in a new window.
The château is within sight of Rennes-le-château, the focus of numerous mysteries involving hidden treasure, and features in some of the theories concerning the geometric arrangement of important buildings in the area.
The area has many features of interest. For Walking and various sports see the section on Activities. This section coveres things to see in the area.
Carcassonneis the largest surviving medieval walled city in Europe and a World Heritage site. Inside is the castle of the viscounts of Carcassonne. The whole city was restored in the nineteenth century. It is best visited out of season. Although rarely claimed as such, Carcassonne has as a good a claim as any to be a Cathar Castle.
Cathar CastlesSt-Ferriol lies in the heart of Cathar Country, within easy reach of many Cathar strongholds including Montsegur, Puivert, Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse, Aguilla, Queribus and Usson. Just up a local path are the ruins of a Cathar castle where Cathar bishops are known to have taken refuge during the Cathar persecutions of the thirteenth century, and there are others within walking distance including Le Bèzu and Caustoussa.
Cathedrals, Abbeys and historic ChurchesIn addition to the spectacular medieval cathedrals in nearby cities, there are also a number of other cathedrals at St-Papoul and Alet. There ae also famous abbeys such as Lagrasse, St-Polycarp and St-Hillare - where sparkling white wine was invented and from where the inhabitants of Champaigne got the idea for their wine. Within walking distance of St-Ferriol is a village (Campagne) which belonged to the Knights Templar.
Historic VillagesUnusual villages abound in the area. Since ancient times people here have build defensible settlements on hill tops. Greek, Pheonician and Roman oppidans have been excavated, and many medieval bastides survive. Perhaps the most spectacular examples are the "circulades" - villages built around a hill top church or castle, their circular road plan most obvious from the air.
Roman RemainsThe area was long a Roman colony and there are many vestiges of their occupation. A notable example is the Via Domitia a road which once joined Rome to the Iberian Peninsular. The route follows the one by Hannibal and his elephants on their way to the Alps, and is in turn largely followed by the modern Autoroute (The "Languedocienne"). Within driving distance you can find the Oppidum at Enserum, the tallest Roman aquaduct ever built, and a spectacular area still used for bullfights.
Natural FeaturesThe area is rich in geologically features, including ancient caverns and hot springs. There are dinosaur fossils and evidence of occupation by prehistoric peoples (the earliest known in Europe). Some unique dinosaur finds have been made at a local village (Campagne) and a local town (Espéraza) boasts the only museum in the world dedicated to dinosaurs.
Wildlife and Countryside
The surrounding countryside is beautiful and varied. To the
South are the foothills of the Pyrenees, then the real Pyrenees,
and the Spanish border, about an hour's drive away. One of the
minor pilgrimage routes to Santiago (St-Jacques) de Compostella
passes through Limoux, Espéraza, the Gorge de Pierre-Lys, through
the mountains and on into Spain. To the East are the Corbières,
one of the few remaining wildernesses in Europe, where boar
still roam wild, and beyond it the Mediterranean coast, including
Perpignan and a number of holiday beaches.
To the West lies the Plateau de Sault, a high plateau of forests and rolling countryside, and beyond it Andorra. To the north are vineyards and historic cities like Carcassonne.