Visit the Chateau Foix in Ariège, Midi-Pyrénees
Dating back to the 10th century, the chateau de Foix is in the Ariege department of the Midi-Pyrenees. It sits high on a rocky spur, overlooking the valley and town below. There had been an earlier Benedictine monastery in the same location.
The location was chosen due to its important strategic position protecting the valley of the Ariege River behind the castle. The two square towers, with the open protected area between them, date to the 10th century. The third, round, tower and chapel were added much later - in the 15th century. There is also an additional defensive wall around the entire castle.
Like many castles in the region, during the 12th century Foix was occupied by the cathars, being pursued by the Albigensian crusade of Simon de Montfort. However the strong position of the chateau meant he was unable to capture it, despite laying siege to the castle on two separate occasions.
Sixty years later the castle was however successfully seized by King Philippe. The easiest way to capture a castle is always by betrayal rather than force, and it was because of this that the castle was later captured, in 1486.
Primarily built as a defensive fortress, the castle was less than ideal as a residence and in the 15th century, having occupied the castle for several centuries, the Counts de Foix largely chose to live in their nearby Governors palace in preference, although the castle continued to play an important role in defending the region until the end of the Wars of Religion.
Unusually, the castle continued to be used for important gatherings and receptions, and also as an army garrison, hence it escaped the neglect that led to the ruin of many castles after the wars had finished. For almost a hundred years after the Revolution the castle continued to be used, now as a prison.
The castle now also contains a museum on the history of Foix and region - the Ariege Departmental Museum.
Map showing location of Chateau Foix