Friday, April 27, 2012

An adventure in Collioure

 Château Royal de Collioure

One afternoon while on our camping holiday, we decided to visit the closest town, Collioure.

Collioure used to be an important Catalan trading port, and it played a key part in the journeys of Phonecian, Greek, and Roman sailors.

The town was heavily fortified throughout history, and still boasts a large sea-front castle, as well as hill-top defences.

Adam and Luuk do some structural

The distant church

In the year 673, the King of the Visigoths occupied the town, showing its importance as a port. From the 900s to the 1300s, Rousillon Counts and Majorcan Kings developed the town, building a fortress that would serve as their summer residences.

During the 13th century, the town was visited by crusaders such as the Knights of Templar, the Dominicans, and the Cistercians.

In the 1600s, a French officer for Louis XIV redeveloped the fortifications, and they have largely remained this way since (with the exception of some restoration work carried out in 1922).

The sea-front castle, Château Royal de Collioure, is really an amalgamation of four castles: one built by the Knights Templar in 1207 which was added onto existing Roman fortifications; one by the Kings of Majorca in the 13th and 14th centuries; the Habsburgs in the 16th century, who significantly reinforced the fortifications; and in the 17th century, the Bourbons built the bastions and re-reinforced the existing structures.

It was really great to be able to ramble around the castle, especially as the French are less restrictive on their historic features than, say, New Zealand. Unfortunately the underground tunnels were locked up, but much of the rest of the area was able to be looked at, touched, scrambled over, and generally enjoyed.

Oh sure, Pierre, I know the perfect place to put your new sporting facility...
A classic example of this is shown in the picture above. Right in the middle of the castle grounds is a basketball court?!?!?! You must have history to spare when a basketball court is built in a thousand-year-old castle....

After exploring the castle for a good hour or two, we walked around the Collioure waterfront and stopped for a drink and a crêpe.

Refuelled, we explored the coastline further, enjoying the cave-rock-like place at the end of a wee outcrop.

The cave-rock place
Gold leaf, anyone?

We also poked around the Notre Dame des Anges, originally built as a harbour warning tower during the Middle Ages.

A nave was added in 1684 in the Mediterranean Gothic style, and the wooden altar piece was carved by a local artist and finished with gold leaf.

The distinctive belfry dome was added in 1818.

We sat and enjoyed the view for a bit, then headed back to the car via the cute town centre with its knick-knack, wine, and local arts and craft shops. 

Time to head back to the mobil-home for dinner and a game of Carcassonne? Definitely.

Looking towards Fort Saint-Elme and, beyond, Spain

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