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Château St-Ferriol
Restored Late Medieval Hill-top Castle in France

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The Château de St-Ferriol is a Late Medieval - Early Renaissance château fort in southern France. It is situated on a ridge, overlooking valleys to the North and South, in the heart of the village of St-Ferriol, near the towns of Quillan and Esperaza in the Aude Département and the Languedoc-Roussillon Région.

The Château de St-Ferriol was built in the sixteenth century towards the end of the period of medieval castle building. Gunpowder and firearms had rendered traditional castle building techniques obsolete, and medieval style castles were still being built only in remote areas - like Scotland and the Languedoc - where local wars still raged.

The Château was listed (inscrit as a Monument Historique) in 1999 and is currently undergoing renovation so is not open to the general public, but three estate properties are available for long or short rentals.

 


Address:
Château St-Ferriol
Château St-Ferriol
St-Ferriol 11500
France

Contact
Sophie Duncan
Telephone from the UK: 00 33 468 201142
Telephone from the US: 010 33 468 201142
Telephone from France: 0468 201142
Telephone from other countries: +33 (0)468 201142

Website: http://www.st-ferriol.com
e-mail: sophieduncanmcdonald@gmail.com

 

 

Google Maps

 

Small scale map showing the location of
Château St-Ferriol

Google map showing the location of
Château St-Ferriol

Large scale map showing
Château St-Ferriol

 

Architecture of the Château de St-Ferriol

 

The Château de St-Ferriol is a château-fort (castle), built in the sixteenth century towards the end of the period of medieval castle building. Gunpowder and firearms had rendered traditional castle building techniques obsolete, and castles were still being built only in remote areas - like Scotland and the Languedoc - where local wars still raged.

Like other castles in the area it is located at the highest point of a village, next to the church. The village would have built up around it, the villagers living in a symbiotic relationship with the Baron de st-Ferriol. They would have provided labour - perhaps fifty or more cooks, bakers, winemakers, foresters, farmers, gardeners, guards, blacksmiths, woodworkers, masons, cleaners, laundresses etc in exchange for food, accommodation, goods in kind, and monetary payment. In times of trouble the Baron would provide a safe refuge, everyone repairing to the castle for safety, and to share in its defence.

The Château de St-Ferriol used the latest military techniques of the period, notably bastions placed at the four corners of a rectangular building enclosing an inner court. These bastions are furnished with gun ports (cannoniers) to provide covering fire to all external walls. These cannoniers were the logical successors to traditional loopholes or arrowslits.

Later changes, made around 1600 made the building a more comfortable residence. Most of the old medieval windows were replaced by the latest Renaissance style mullioned windows, providing much more light. (A few medieval windows survive, including all of the windows in one room). A new stone staircase was put in, and six monumental fireplaces were build.

Very little seems to have happened to the château since this time, except that it seems to have been partitioned into two, once in the seventeenth century, and then again in the early twentieth century. There are a large number of architectural puzzles - walls that are clearly not original, others that appear to predate the present building, no sign of a well, certain work carried out in a different stone, an external door on the first floor leading nowhere, a particularly unusual fireplace on the top floor, and so on.

The Château is currently undergoing renovation so is not open to the general public, but three estate properties are available for long or short rentals

 

 

History of the Château de St-Ferriol

 

Château records were lost in a fire in the early eighteenth century, and whatever remained seems to have been destroyed during the French revolution. From the few remaining records and architectural clues, a reasonably good outline of the history of the Seigneurie, Village and Château of St-Ferriol has been established.

Some buildings existed on the present site before 1300, but the principal Château at that period was some distance away along a ridge called Le Dent. This Château seems to have fallen into disuse after the Cathar period, and according to a strong local tradition the present Château was build from stones removed from the old one.

From architectural clues, the present building has been dated to around 1570. The original style appears to have been late medieval - not that unusual in this area even at such a late date. The barons of St-Ferriol were caught up in the Wars of Religion soon after the Château was built, and it is possible that the building was damaged in those wars as it was comprehensively restructured soon after, around 1600, in the early Renaissance style.

From notarial records something is known about the barons of St-Ferriol, the family that built the Château. Their name was de Plaigne and their ancestors had been key participants in some of the major events of the Cathar Crusades.

One of the few historical documents surviving is a letter from the executors of one of the Barons de St-Ferriol, dated 1588 addressed to the local authorities, explaining that "françois de plaigne siegneur de st-ferriol", had died fighting in the wars, pointing out that his castle was now ungarded as his eldest child was only five years old, emphasising the castle's strategic importance in a raging war zone, and asking the local commader to provide a garisson.

The family died out in the following century, after which the Château passed through a number of hands, without ever being refurbished. It therefore retains many original features, and it was for this reason that it was inscrit as a Monument Historique at the end of the twentieth century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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