Le Château de Puilaurens (circa 985), Les Fenouillèdes
My visit to the ‘Cathar’ château Puilaurens could not have been more impromptu, or dramatic, after fleeing rain in nearby Quillan. I was heading back south when I decided to take the turn-off to the château that had caught my eye earlier, visible above the village of Lapradelle-Puilaurens. As I ascended the mountain, a few souls were on the descent as heavy clouds loomed and the sky darkened.
When I reached the highest point of the ruins, a wind suddenly stirred the air and the ‘eye of the storm’ drew near. As chance would have it, a tower was at hand (I later found out it was the only roofed shelter in the entire château). I watched sheets of horizontal rain drench steep pine-forested slopes through an arrow slit, transported back in time as I waited for the tempest to abate. Grateful to be protected from the elements, I wondered about the story behind tower’s name plaque; I felt imprisoned, sensing a longing to join the trees that could only be glimpsed from this gloomy interior.
Emerging into daylight, I read the information panel for ‘La Tour de La Dame Blanche’: Blanche de Bourbon, Queen of Spain (1339-1361) was imprisoned (in another castle, Arévalo, then the town of Medina Sidonia) and then ordered to be assassinated by her husband ‘Le Roi Castille Pierre le Cruel’.
Today she offered shelter, and shared a vision that made me ‘appreciate my liberty’ as I admired the panoramic view and ‘flew above the peaks’ before making my way down the well-trodden path…
On the official website I have since discovered the following: Une légende rapporte que la Dame Blanche, petite nièce de Philippe le Bel, vient pendant les pâles nuits, promener ses vaporeux voiles sur le chemin de ronde des remparts démantelés.
The tourist brochure states that it is forbidden to visit during thunderstorms. I was wearing white (blanche) as I had not been prepared for the change in weather, leaving Céret on a sunny 27°C morning.