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Château de Hautpoul
Ruined Medieval Cathar Castle in France

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Built on a rocky spur, the original fortress of Hautpoul, overlooks surrounding valleys and controls access to the Black Mountains. The original castle here was supposedly built in 413 by the Visigoths on the side of a mountain, defended by almost inaccessible cliffs. This fortress controlled the Arnettte and the Thoré valleys, overlooking the plain where the town of Mazamet now stands. Hautpoul takes its name from the contraction of alto pullo, roughly "high-chicken" or perhaps "high-perch".

The castle and town was besieged by Simon de Montfort in 1212 during the Crusade against the Cathars of the Languedoc. It fell after four days, but the survivors seem to have returned to Catharism as soon as the Crusaders left. It was besieged again during the wars of Religion between Catholics and Huguenots.

Today only vestiges of the medieval castle remain.

See separate sections below on:

Location
History
Family of Hautpoul
Catharism
Siege of Hautpoul in 1212
Church at Hautpoul
Photographs

The modern village of Haupoul

Address


Address:
Château de Hautpoul
Hautpoul
Mazamet 81200
Tarn
France


Contact
Cathar Castle Tours
Tel from the US: 010 33 468 201142
Tel from the UK: 01 33 468 201142
Tel from France: 0468 201142
Tel other: + 33 468 201142
www.catharcountry.info
e-mail catharcountry@gmail.com

The Château d'Haupoul

 
 

 

 

Google Maps

 

Small scale map showing the location of
Château de Hautpoul

Google map showing the location of
Château de Hautpoul

Large scale map showing
Château de Hautpoul

Location

 

Hautpoul is small village constructed along a single winding road on a hillside near Mazamet in the Tarn département in the Midi-Pyrénées région of France. It is accessible by foot from the D118 above or the D54 below, or via an extensive network of forest footpaths.

As in the medieval period, it overlooks the Anette and the Thoré valleys and the plain where Mazamet now stands.

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

History

 

The site was probably inhabited from an early period, and later by the Volsques (a Gaulsh tribe) and by Romans. According to tradition, Athaulf I, King of the Visigoths, founded Hautpoul in 413. He allegedly abducted Placidle, the sister of the Roman Emperor Honorius, having successfully besieged Narbonne, then brought her to his fortress at Hautpoul. The walls of the Château are consistent with a Visigothic foundation - in particular the distinctive herringbone pattern of stones in a surviving lower wall. The Visigoths in the old Roman province of Septimania were defending themselves from incursions by the Franks in the fifth century, so the walls of the castle might date from then.

The seigneurie of Hautpoul extended to a large area around Hautpoul, known as the "Hautpoulois". It extended from Labruguière to Saint-Amans-Soult and from shepherd's fields of the Thoré to the crests of the Sambrès hills. The Lords of Hautpoul were vassals of the Viscounts of Carcassonne.

Pierre-Raymond de Hautpoul is the first lord of Hautpoul of whom we have historical validation. He was lord here in 1084. He rebuilt the castle, constructed the town walls and built the fortified church of Saint-Pierre d'Hautpoul. He accompanied his suzerain Raymond IV of Toulouse on the First Crude to the Holy Land in 1098, where his actions brought him renown. At the siege of Antioch in 1098, after the Crusaders had taken the city, with a force of some 500 he repulsed a force of 7000 Moslems attacking the entrance to the city. He died of plague and is buried in front of the door of the church of Saint Peter in Antioch (where his suzerain, Raymond IV, famously unearthed the Holy Lance).

In the 13th century, the lord of Hautpoul and Auxillan, was Izarn d'Hautpoul. He was a powerful lord with a number of barons as vassals including the lords of Aiguefonde, of le Roquerlan, of Négrin and of Bousquet. At this time, the village of Hautpoul included some 200 households surrounded by town walls with watch towers. Izarn d'Hautpoul reputedly adopted the Cathar faith, leading to the siege of Hautpoul during the Cathar Crusades. Beziers, Carcassonne and Minerve had already been taken. The castrum of Hautpoul, built along a single winding road down the hillside, was successfully besieged by Simon de Montfort's crusader army in April 1212. The battle was hard because of the nature of the terrain and the position of the village its fortifications. The castrum was bombarded by trebuchet. The so-called "nest of heretics" at Hautpoul fell to Simon on 11 April after a siege of four days. Izarn d'Hautpoul and his troops fled, taking advantage of a fog, abandoning the town. The town was occupied and burned. Its fortifications were destroyed. As elsewhere, surviving inhabitants were moved down into a lower indefensible settlement on the banks of the Arnette - giving us the town of Mazamet which is now much larger than the village of Hautpoul. They took with them their textile work which continued into modern times.

In 1218 an Occitan reconquest was led by Raymond VII of Toulouse. Hautpoul was retaken and became a refuge from the Inquisition for Cathar believers. The Cathars had no use for church buildings, but continued to exercise their traditional tolerance. A Catholic church here, Saint Sauveur d'Hautpoul, was mentioned for the first time in 1222.

Jourdan de Saissac, was lord of Hautpoul, Puylaurens, Dourgne, Caucalières, Aussillon, and Navès. He is known to have issued three charters, two of them in 1253 and 1276 granting liberties to the inhabitants of Hautpoul. In 1271 the Languedoc was annexed by the King of France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris-Meaux. Jourdan was summoned by the king's Seneschal in Carcassonne to swear fealty to the King. The lordship would now be administered by a bailli (very roughly equivalent to a bailiff or sheriff). Jourdan died in 1283, the last of the great lords of Hautpoul.

In the sixteenth century, around 1560, Huguenots (French Protestants) appeared in the region. Mazamet soon became overwhelmingly Protestant, a Catholic Sebastian d'Hautpoul appointed Governor and placed in charge of the area. A Protestant army liberated Mazamet and Sebastian d'Hautpoul took refuge in his old family home, the Château at Hautpoul. Saint Sauveur d'Hautpoul, mentioned for the first time in 1222 (in Arnaud Raymond Hautpoul's will). Legend says that the Protestants destroyed the church with a gun called "casse-messe".

Two brothers were now appointed as Governors, Robert de Rozet of Hautpoul, and Jacques de Rozet of Mazamet. Robert surrendered to Catholic forces on 5 March 1589. Less than three weeks later the Protestant retook the village and its castle. They held it until the Edict of Nantes in 1598 which granted freedom of religion to the Huguenots, and ended the French Wars of Religion.

Today, you can still see the long village of Hautpoul winding down the hillside, along with the vestiges of upper and lower castles. At its foot, the river Arnette still winds, and its waters are still perfect for making wool. The old lower town gate has been restored, with its meurtrière. The village is being rejuvenated: picturesque old houses are occupied by craftsmen and their workshops. In August, the medieval festival - period costume.

A medieval re-enactor wearing the hautpoul coat of arms.

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

 

Hautpoul Family

 

The Hautpoul name is attested in the archives from 930. In 960, Raymond-Bernard d'Hautpoul negotiated a treaty between the King of France and the principal lords of Languedoc. In 1096, Pierre-Raymond d'Hautpoul accompanied Raymond IV of Toulouse on the First Crusade. He died at the siege of Antioch in ???. One of the last known seigneurs of Hautpoul was Jordan de Saissac who died in 1283.

The Hautpoul family survived the vicissitudes of the middle ages and became a powerful family in France, one of the most ancient noble houses in the country able to trace its foundation beyond the first crusade.

At the beginning of the 18th century they were divided into three branches:

  • The Rennes-le-Château branch, descended directly from Simon de Montfort's adversary, Izarn d'Hautpoul, via Pierre-Raymond who married Blanche de Marquefaves de Rennes in 1422. The Hautpouls of Rennes, who represented the senior branch, were less favoured in their relationship with fortune. Their archives disappeared, probably in the fire of 1212 which ravaged their home. However, at the end of the 14th century it was still possible to go back quite a bit to justify the possession of the fiefs since the 11th century. At that time a vitally important document existed establishing the Hautpoul genealogy. Before the revolution, François Hautpoul (1689-1753) was Marquis of Blanchefort, whose title came as part of the marriage dowry of his wife, Marie de Nègre d'Ables (1714-1781), lady of Niort, Roquefeuil and Blanchefort ; a monument in the name of Marie de Nègre d'Ables plays an important part in the conspiracy theories around Rennes-le-Château.
  • The Felines branch founded by Auger d'Hautpoul, 2nd son of Guillaume-Pierre and Hermeninde de Poudens, born around 1388. The Hautpoul-Felines lived in their Château at Felines in the heart of the Minervois region in the diocese of St. Pons (2). These fiefs came to them from their founder, Auger, who had acquired them by a deed of exchange dated 9th May 1418. To his nephew, Pierre-Raymond, the very same whose marriage four years later created the Rennes branch, he gave Hautpoul, Labruguiere and Ausillon in return for the Felines lands, Ventalou and Cassagnoles, which he coveted. The Hautpoul-Felines, whose fief was elevated to a marquisate in 1734, were wealthy lords.
  • The Salette branch, issuing from the main line by Pierre, 2nd son of Georges and Izalguier Germond around 1525. The Salettes hardly had any contact with the elder branch. Isolated in their own land between Gaillac and Lavaur, the Hautpoul-Salettes, who from the very first included several councillors to the Parliament of Toulouse, remained in that town.

The Hautpoul family is unusual in having remained a prominant noble family up into modern times.

Arms in French herald speak: or, à deux fasces de gueules, accompagnées de six coqs de sable, la patte droite levée, crêtés, becqués et barbés de gueules et la patte posée 3, 2 et 1

 

Arms in English herald speak:: Or two fesses Gules, accompanied by six cocks Sable, right foot raised, crests, beaks and barbs Gules, arranged three, two, and one.

 

 

In 1832 Alphonse Napoléon, Baron d'Hautpoul maried Caroline-Joséphine Berthier, princesse de Wagram, shown here

 

Le Général d'Hautpoul à cheval by Édouard Detaille, 1912

 

Catharism

 

Catharism, a Dualist Gnostic form of Christianity was strong throughout the Languedoc in the middle ages, wherever people were free to chose their own religion.

Hautpoul was one of many centres of Catharism, even after the crusade launched by Pope Innocent II to wipe it out. Hautpoul had a Cathar deacon, Arnaud Ros, in 1233 and continued to shelter Cathar Parfaits and Parfaites - including women such as Richarde d'Hautpoul.

The last known Cathar bishop, Aymeric de Collet, preached in Hautpoul in 1270.

As throughout the Languedoc, the arms of Counts of Toulouse are used extensively, reflecting an eight hundred year old attachment the the period before the Cathar Crusade and the annexation of the Hautpousois by the French Crown.

Siege of Hautpoul in 1212

 

During the Crusade against the Cathars, Simon de Montfort besieged Hautpoul in 1212. Pierre des Vaux-de-Cernay relates the siege in his Historia Albigensis:

[301] Siege of Hautpoul. The Count and his men spent some days at Albi and went on to Castres where we stayed for a few days more. After taking counsel, the Count [Simon de Montfort] decided to besiege a castrum between Castres and Cabaret [Lastours] known as Hautpoul, which had crossed over to the enemy at the time of the siege of Castelnaudary.

[302] We left Castres on the Sunday two weeks after Easter [8 April 1212] came to Hautpoul. The enemy, who had positioned themselves inside Hautpoul for its defence came out arrogantly to meet our men and began to harass them vigorously. They were at once forced back by our men, who then pitched their tents on one side only of the castrum, since they were few in number.

Hautpoul is situated on the slope of a very high and steep hill, over huge crags which are virtually inaccessible. Its natural defences are so strong - as I learnt from my own experience as an eyewitness - that even if the gates were opened and no resistance offered from inside, it would be impossible without the greatest difficulty to walk through the castrum and climb up to the keep. Our men therefore made ready a petrary, which they set up on the third day after their arrival, and started to fire at the keep.

The same day our knights put on their armour, went down into the valley at the foot of the castrum and tried to climb up in the hope that they might take it by a direct attack However, when they had penetrated the first bourg the defenders climbed on to the walls and buildings and began to throw huge quantities of large stones down on to us; others started a large fire at the place where our men had broken in. Our men saw they were making no progress. Since the place was almost inaccessible to human footsteps and they could not stand up to the barrage of stones, and retired in great peril through the fire.

[303] A case of treachery. I feel I must record a vile and cruel act of treachery perpetrated by the defenders. Our Count had with him a knight of local origin, a kinsman of a certain traitor in the castrum who had been joint lord of Cabaret. The defenders of Hautpoul asked our Count to send this knight to them so that they could discuss terms with him and through him relay their own requirements to the Count. With the Count's permission he had approached them and was talking with them at the gate of the castrum when one of them fired at him with a crossbow and wounded him severely. What a savage betrayal! However, soon afterwards, on that very day or the next, it came about by God's just judgement that the traitor who had called the knight his kinsman to the meeting was himself seriously wounded by our men; our knight was struck in the leg, so also was the traitor. A just measure of Divine vengeance!

[304] Meanwhile our petrary maintained an unceasing bombardment of the keep. However, on the fourth day of the siege, after sunset, a dense mist formed. The defenders, seized with God-sent fear, took this opportunity to leave the castrum and take to flight. Our men saw this, raised the alarm, burst into the castrum and slew any of the enemy they found; others followed the fugitives through the intense darkness and caught some of them.

Next day the Count ordered the place to be razed to the ground and burnt. After this the knights who had come from France with Robert Mauvoisin ... and had stayed with the Count throughout the winter almost all left him and returned home.

Translation from the original Latin by WA Sibly & MD Sibly, The History of the Albigensian Crusade, Boydell, 2002, pp 148-149.

Although the town fell, like so many other towns, it seems to have reverted as soon as the Crusaders left.

Later a new castle was built at the top of the village, now converted into houses, but with a few vestiges of the past (including round towers and Renaissance windows).

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

Hautpoul Church - Saint Sauveur d'Hautpoul

 

The village church stood on a hill, some distance from the village, within a meander of the river Arnette, between Mazamet and the Moulin de l'Oule. Access is via the "Lou Cami Ferrat" ou chemin de la Jamarié.

The church is mentioned in 1222 and is first named as "Saint Sauveur d'Hautpoul" in 1253 by Joudan de Saissac, Seigneur d'Hautpoul. It was destroyed by Huguenots (Protestants) in 1574 during the War of Religion, using a couleuvrine (a canon) which the Catholics called "le Casse-Messe" or "break mass".

Today there are only ruins, now partly restored,

 
 

Saint Sauveur d'Hautpoul at Lat 43.478302, Long 2.375307

 


GUIDED TOURS OF CATHAR CASTLES OF THE LANGUEDOC

You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of www.cathar.info)

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Beliefs.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Visit the Cathar Tours Website for more information

 

Photographs

 
 
 

French expedition in Syria led by General Beaufort d'Hautpoul, landing in Beyrouth on 16 August 1860 (detail)

 
 

Hautpoul has a medieval garden open to the public

 

Medieval garden at Hautpoul

 

Medieval garden at Hautpoul

 

Medieval garden at Hautpoul

 
 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 
 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

Medieval garden at Hautpoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 
 
 

The modern village of Hautpoul

 
 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

This stone is an old boundary marker. It has a Hautpoul cock on one side, and a letter N (for the cannons of Narbonne) on the other.

Did you spot the Hautpoul cock?

 
 
 
 

The arms of Hautpoul

 

The arms of Hautpoul

 

The arms of Mazamet, featuring the Hautpoul cock.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 
 
 

Mazamet

 
 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saint Sauveur d'Hautpoul at Lat 43.478302, Long 2.375307

 

Hautpoul has no church,but it does have statues of Mary "Notre Dame d'Hautpoul". She watches over Mazamet like a tutelary deity.

 

Hautpoul has no church,but it does have statues of Mary "Notre Dame d'Hautpoul"

 

"Notre Dame d'Hautpoul" is probably a re-branded miracle-working ancient local goddess

 
 
 

Small offerings to ancient pre-Christian gods are still made, but to new, Christian, supernatural beings

 
 
 
 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 

The Château d'Haupoul

 
 
 

The Château d'Haupoul

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 
 

The modern village of Haupoul

 

The modern village of Haupoul

 
 

 

 

 

The plain of Mazamet

 

The modern village of Hautpoul

 

Mazamet

 

 

Mazamet

 

The modern village of Hautpoul

     

 

 

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