BULLETIN OF THE SOCIETY FOR SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF THE AUDE
Volume 31, pp.198-202 (1927).
(*Gavoy. Excursion. Bulletin Soc. Sc. St. of the Aude, 1907.)
The tourist bureau of Rennes-les-Bains organized an excursion to the ruins of the castle of Bézu on 10 September 1926. At 832 metres the castle looks northwards over the valleys of the Blanque, the Sals and Rennes-les-Bains and southwards over a small valley which takes in the village of Saint-Just and the hamlet of Bézu and which leads to the valley of the Aude towards Saint-Just-de-Parahou and the Roussillon.
Under the direction of the secretary general of the tourist bureau, M. Abadie, and with M. Baron junior as guide, we undertook the ascent of the rock which supports the ruins of the mediaeval castle starting at 6 in the morning. In less than an hour we had reached the spur upon which the fortress was built, the foot of the citadel, from which might be seen the shapeless traces of the ancient walls which constituted the ramparts and the castle keep.
The facing was of cut stone. A final assault up the slope to the top and we had reached a level platform without too much effort. This was blocked off to the south by bare constructed walls of between 1m. and 1m.50 thickness, broken now and again by traces of what had once been square towers with strong cornerstones artistically enhanced with quarrystones, which made it possible to ascertain their shape and strength.
Towards the north the natural line of rock was interrupted by an artificial opening, which connected the platform to the outwork, a square tower among others whose foundations weighed upon the rock which plunged down a hundred metres to descending slopes above the river Blanque.
It is not without interest to recall that this castle was captured in 1210 by Simon de Montfort’s army without meeting any resistance.
Cant saubo per la terra que Terme an forcat,
Tuit li melhor castel foran dezamparat.
Donc to pres Albezu que no foc asetjat.
Los garnisos del comte quell castel mais i vengo crozat.
“When it was known that the crusaders had taken Termes all the best castles were abandoned. So Albezu fell without a siege. The garrisons of the Count (of Toulouse) left the castle thinking only of saving their skins, and they later returned.”
Thus runs the translation of Meyer but in place of Albezu he wrote Albiges, translated into Albi.
Once the stronghold of Termes, in the heart of the Corbiere, was taken in 1210, the soldiers of Simon de Montfort proceeded to lay siege to the castle at Podioviridi (Puivert), according to the account given by Pierre de Vaulx-Cernay they could have arrived by only two routes: via Paradis pass, Arques and Coustaussa (the castle fell without a blow) and/or via Tuchan, the valley of Verdouble, Cucugnan, Queribus, Pierre Pertuse, Linas pass, Bugarach, le Bézu (Albedunum-Albezu) and Saint-Just. It is therefore not foolhardy to replace Albiges with Albezu in the text of the song. Taking Albi (Meyer, Fauriel) or Albas (dom Vaissette) made no sense. Albezu however would stop an army coming from Termes and heading for Razes and Puivert.
After its destruction the fortress was never rebuilt while the five daughters of the city of Carcassonne – Aguilar, Queribus, Pierrepertuse, Termes and Puylaurens, were.
Dismantled, Le Bézu was too far from the Aragon frontier and thus of no further value. Disintegrated to the point of ruination it affords today only a simple souvenir of an episode in the Albigensian war.
The panoramic view from the rock of Bézu is truly splendid. It stretches to the south-west from Coudoms pass to Saint-Barthelemy and Montsegur. It encompasses the plane of Nebias and the château of Puivert.
To the north lies the blur of the Black Mountain, to the east the gigantic Corbieres: the peak of Bugarach (1.231m.); the road from Rennes-les-Bains to Tuchan winds ribbon-like on the green slopes of Linas pass. The eye travels thence to the rocky platform, which supports at 797m the castle, keep of Saint-Jordy, citadel of the fortress of Pierrepertuse. Nearer to hand and all about the rounded hillocks which are lost in the distance one can detect the whole area of old Razes, with the villages of Rennes-le-Château, Antugnac, la Serpent, Rennes-les-Bains, Montferrand, the village of Bugarach and at the very end of the valley flows the Blanque, the most interesting river in the Sals, broadening out before it arrives at Bains. Towards the Midi and parallel with the rocks of Bézu stretches that crest of rocks and wooded slopes, which demarcate the little valley with its roman road, complete with ancient flagstones.
One gets little warning from the height of the platform of the citadel (832m.) that the rock of Bézu and its castle has any obvious visual communication with the fortress of Pierrepertuse (797m.) and of Puivert (583m.), which played such an important role from the Middle Ages to the Revolution.
Towards the west one can see with the naked eye the ancient fortifications of Podio-viridi, and eastwards the keep of Pierrepertuse. Le Bezu served as a unification point between these two fortresses and signals could be exchanged between the three. The distance between Bezu and Pierrepertuse and Bézu and Puivert was not much over 15 to 20 kilometres as the crow flies. If on the other hand one considers that Pierrepertuse could communicate by signals with Perpignan via Queribus and Tantavel, that le Bézu is visible towards the west from Puivert and Montsegur, one realizes that all these fortresses, held and defended by the vassals of the king of Aragon, were able to exchange serious signals.
We effected our return via le Mas past the Tiplies from which we had searched in vain for the rest of the turrets mentioned by Fédié in his “Histoire du Comte de Razes”.
M. Abadie pointed out to us the length of roman roads, the hamlet of Jacotte in the midst of which rested the ruins of an old inn, where, it is locally reported, one robbed travelers suspected of carrying valuables. This roman road, linking Saint-Just, le Bézu and la Jacotte was the most used in the valley from Roussillon to the Aude, and the little village of Bézu with its Romanesque church also lay upon it.
From the pass at Bézu one descends the slope towards le Mas by way of the smallholdings of Gabignaud and Baruteau.
A morning was all it took to make this ascent of Bézu and we suggest this circuit to all visitors to Rennes as it is one of the most interesting excursions for both tourists and archaeologists alike.