Castelnou

This magnificent small medieval village is one of the most remarkable sites to be discovered in Catalonia, and has been classified among the most beautiful villages in France since 1984.

Surrounded by two limestone causses, the Causse de Thuir and the Roc de Majorque (alt. 443 m); nestled at the foot of the Aspres, this village founded in the 10th century seems to have been forgotten for more than three centuries, after having been the capital of the Viscount of Vallespir.

The village still retains its medieval appearance with its ramparts punctuated by 8 towers and 4 gates, arranged at the 4 cardinal points, its watchtower and its viscount castle built in 990 by the Lord of Castelnou to serve as a military base and ad The rugged appearance of this steep site built in stone and arranged in steps, contrasts in a very pleasant way with the privacy that emerges from its flowery alleys. It is organized around two parallel streets, the Carrer d’Avall and the Carrer del Mig, several staircases allow to pass from one to the other. During your visit you will notice the presence of bread ovens, corniches painted on the reverse side of the tiles and several houses also have beautiful cut stones from the castle.

The fortifications remain to a very large extent, the most notable part being the Millars Gate to the north of the village, surrounded by two towers.

The 13th century Romanesque parish church of Santa Maria Del Mercadal was built outside the village.

While strolling through the cobbled streets you will discover many craftsmen. Castelnou in Catalan means “new castle” in French

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Information point of Castelnou

Entrance of the village

On May and September : open from Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:30 pm  to 6:30 pm
July and August : open every day, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:30 pm  to 6:30 pm

The tour

At the North entrance, on each side of the gate, two impressive towers mark the access to the village, at the so called Millars North gate.  This opening dates from mid-14th century. Once the monumental gate crossed, a very nice square is revealed, with a a wonderful mulberry tree in its heart. It is the plaça de l’escola – the school square.

Has the village shape stayed the same along centuries, it is still organized around two almost parallel streets. These are the main axes of the village, interspersed with steeped alleyways allowing to move from one to the other. As walking along Carrer del Mig – Middle Street – you can notice houses with outside stairways, leading to a covered terrace. Below, a door usually opens to a barn, a sheepfold . Sometimes, an outgrowth on the wall may be noticed : this is a built-in semi-circular bread oven. There was no collective oven in the village, so the privileged families owning such a facility rented it to the other inhabitants. If you look at the eaves’ underneath, you will see the so called cairous – red bricks limestone-painted with various designs : triangles, rafters, suns, meanders… Those are shielding signs used to avert the evil eye, diseases, witches… Now and then, you can fin out an odd drilled stone sealed into the wall : it was used to have the mules tied.

Here and there, many catapult balls can be found, witnesses of two sieges by Kings of Majorque, in 1286 and 1314. Furthermore, you may notice the presence of many elements made up with cast iron, memories from the medieval ages when viscounts, Guillem the Fifht most of all, adorned every church in the area with iron doors, which were no more than reinforced doors.

The castle is currently closed for repairs

The Tower of Castelnou

Located on the top of a North-West hill and the Castle, this tower get just one vault step dated in the 13rd century. This tower permitted avoid ennemies to accross the hill, in front of the Castle. Also, the Tower was like a “pathfinder” for the village and was the only way to comunicate with Spain, thanks to fire signals.

Les Cannonballs

You’ll also see in the village some cannonballs, from old catapult, only souvenirs of two King of Majorque’s war seats, in 1286 and 1314. You’ll also see some beautiful cut stones which came from old doors of the castle.In 1559, the Castel was dismantled, because of Pierrot de Llupia, He had bad nature, and made some bad things.

“Painted Cairous”

If you look below house’s roofs, you’ll see some red bricks called “cairous”, painted with various forms, made with lime: triangle, rafters, suns, meanders… They are protectors signs to remove bad luck, diseases, witches… Thoses drawings are exclusively on houses, never on barns or stables. This tradition came from 18th Century (at least) and was established on the territory Aspres, but we don’t know why. This seems to come from Mallorca Island.

Craftsmen

By its name of “Plus beau village de France” (Bost beautiful village of France) and its localisation between Mediteranean Sea and Pyrénées Mountains, Castelnou is a touristic village with approximately 400 000 visitors per year, who came discover this very old village, wlaking through small paved alley. Here, they can visit also some Arts craftsmen, galleries or taste some local products.
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