Translation : Andrew Zolnai

L'entrée de l'église du Fort
Diaporama at the bottom of the page
France, département de l'Aude

France, Department of Aude, around 46 km south of Carcassonne, 6 km north of Quillan, commune of Campagne-sur-Aude

The first mention of the existence of a human settlement in Campagne dates from the beginning of the 9th century, in a charter of the abbey of Lagrasse(1) dated from 814 where mention is made of an "allodium villae Campaniae".
Thereafter, the Benedictines of Lagrasse founded there a "cella"(2). As it developed, this "cella" gave birth to a "villare" or village located in the meandering of the Aude River.

Originally owned by the abbey of Lagrasse, the village of Campagne will eventually be attached to the domain of the viscounts of Carcassonne. In 1147, Roger 1(3) donated his possessions of Campagne to the Order of the Temple in order to be relieved of his wish to participate in the 2nd crusade and also to be able to be relieved of a strong mortgage.

The archives have preserved the Latin act of this donation, of which the following is a translation(4) :
"I, Roger de Beziers, son of Bernard Aton and Cécile, brother of Raymond Trencavel and Bernard Aton, I give to the Militia of the Temple of Solomon, all my domain called Campagne, located in the County of Razès, on the Aude River, which divides it in its midst, I give it with all its inhabitants, men, women and children, its houses, rents and usages, its condominiums and arable lands, its meadows, pastures, garrigues, its cultivations and uncultivated lands, its rivers and aqueducts, with all mills and milling rights, fisheries with entries and exits. The Brothers of the Temple will owe me on their domain, neither income nor leude(5), nor tolls and passes, without my baile having no right Justice, taxation, and service, and that the inhabitants owe me armed service, riding, or military expedition, and the property is “freehold” and "perpetual."

To this act, are affixed the signatures of Roger I and Pierre de Rouverie(6), the brother of the Temple.
By this act, the Templars became the real owners of the village of Campagne and organized themselves to develop it.
They mainly focussed on the development of their possession on agriculture by dividing the land into tenures(7) and metairies(8), by building several mills along the Aude.

croquis d'implantation - bulletin de la société d'études scientifiques de l'Aude - 1973 - Maud de Gelibert
Rough sketch of the fort
Source : Bulletin de la société d'études scientifiques de l'Aude - 1973 - Maud de Gelibert

Near the Aude River, on a rocky outcrop, the Templars will build their fortified house on a dodecagonal plan of which each side is about 20 meters. The top of the surrounding wall, located around 10 meters from the ground, is lined with battlements and a walkway. All around this fortification, a large ditch is dug and fed by the river through a diversion.

The main access of the fortification was located to the south and was made by a mechanism called "drawbridge" or "mobile-drawbridge". The second access, more discreet, was located to the south-west and gave direct access to the house of the knights.

The whole of this fort could be divided into three distinct zones with the church and the alleys as separations (see the rough sketch on the right):

  1. The first zone is located on the right of the entrance; First of all, there is the porter's house and the yoke, symbol of the High Justice law(9) exercised by the Order in the village and then the lodgings of the sergeants and the workers.
  2. The second area, located at the back of the church consisted of the cultivated area, gardens, small orchard and common buildings like bakery, kitchens, granaries, stables, forge, ...
  3. The third area was that occupied by the knights: first of all the preceptor's house, just opposite that of the porter and afterwards the home of the knight brothers and the refectory.
    Next to the preceptor's house, between the latter and the wall was the cemetery.

The church occupied the center of the fortification. Of modest size, it was built on a rectangular plane of around 17,50 m long and 5,50 m wide.
It was not vaulted and only 7.50 m high. It was lighted by an oculus to the east, above the altar, and probably two small windows on the north and south faces.
The western part, facing the altar, formed the bottom of the chapel and formed the base of the dungeon-bell tower. This one, high of 25 meters, was at the same time watchtower, charter-safe and steeple.

During the Albigensian crusade, the troops of Simon IV de Montfort(10) seized several fiefs of the region under the pretext that the lords are accused of heresy. Although belonging to the Order of the Temple, Campagne-sur-Aude is not spared by this conquest and falls into the hands of the troops of Simon de Montfort.
After a long trial punctuated with legal struggles, Simon de Montfort himself had Campagne-sur-Aude returned to the Templars a few years later.
In 1242, it was a faidit knight, Bernard Sermon of Albezune(11) (or Bezu) who seized the fort of Campagne-sur-Aude by smashing the doors and manhandling the two Templars who resided there.
A new campaign was set in motion by the Order and it recovered again its possessions of Campagne in September 1243.

After 1312, the fortified house, attributed to the Order of the Hospital as the other Templar properties, was unrecognizable.

The Hospitallers altered it completely. They remove all the "military" apparatus and the domestic furnishings, retaining only the house of the Preceptor, the lodging of the knights and of course the chapel.

This will be completely changed later (see the dotted line on the picture).
On the south wall, in the 15th century, they built a gothic chevet forming the choir where the high altar will be placed. Changing completely the arrangement of the former Templar chapel, a nave is added on the north wall with a front door on the current village square. It required the opening of a section of the fortifications to make space for the construction of the square and the steps leading to it.

Having become "National Property" after the French Revolution, the fort will again be completely upset. The ditch is transformed into a promenade, the deflection of the Aude River is filled and planted with trees. This is how we see the village in its present state.
The inside of the preceptory is arranged for local and municipal services. The house of the Commander becomes the town hall, the house of the knights, the presbytery and the cemetery is transferred outside to the countryside. The interior of the ramparts is lined with private houses on the site of the commons.

Notes :

(1)The Benedictine abbey of Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse was founded long before the 9th century, because in 799 there are records mentioning its reconstruction.

(2)It is a parcel dependent on the territory of the abbey; One or two monks, serving as sharecroppers, were hired, and daily laymen were hired as local laborers. The income from this plot was then donated to the abbey.

(3)Roger 1 Trencavel (born at the end of the 11th century, died in 1150) was Viscount of Carcassonne and Albi from 1129 to 1150. He was the son of Bernard Aton IV Trencavel, Viscount of Agde, Albi, Beziers, Carcassonne and Nîmes, and Cécile de Provence. Fallen ill on the eve of crusading, he can not embark with his brother Raymond who accompanied Alphonse 1, Count of Toulouse to the Holy Land.

(4)Translation reprinted in the article by Maud de Gelibert in "Bulletin de la société d'études scientifiques de l'Aude - Tome LXXIII - 1973"

(5)The leude (leide, leyden) is a right of grant or tax levied on commodities, commodities, and cattle sold in fairs and markets, especially in central and southern France. The equivalent was the law of selling rights (tonlieu).

(6)Pierre de Rouverie, also cited as Pere or Petrus de Roveria or Rovira. He is mentioned as master of Provence and Aragon in the cartulary of Richerenches in 1143 and in 1157.

(7)The tenure or tenement means the portion of a seigniory occupied and cultivated by a free peasant (tenant) during the Middle Ages. This tenant has only the enjoyment of this land and not the property.

(8)A sharecropper farm (also known as a "casal") is an agricultural estate managed by a farmer who exploits the estate and shares the harvest (or the fruits of the sale of that crop) with the owner according to contractual clauses.

(9)In the Middle Ages, there were three levels of justice: High Justice, Middle Justice and Low Justice.
The explanations concerning the functioning of medieval justice would require a long presentation, but here is a summary of this subject:
The High Justice concerned the majority "crimes (crimes of blood)". The sentences ranged from corporal punishment to the death penalty. The places where high justice was applied were often symbolized by the presence of a pillory, a gibbet,...
Middle Justice, most often dealt with "offenses", but also with what is nowadays called "civil" justice, in fields as diverse as the settlement of inheritances, the appointment of guardians, protection of minors, ...
Lower Justice, focuses on "contraventions" and on matters relating to the duties and taxes due to the lord.

(10)Simon IV de Montfort, sometimes referred to as Simon V because of unclear mention in certain medieval sources, was probably born around 1165 and died on 25 June 1218 during the siege of Toulouse. He was Lord of Montfort-l'Amaury from 1188 to 1218, Earl of Leicester in 1204, Viscount of Albi, Beziers and Carcassonne from 1213 to 1218, Count of Toulouse from 1215 to 1218. He was the emblematic figure of the Crusade against the Albigenses.
He was the son of Simon III (or IV) de Montfort and Amicie de Beaumont and Leicester. He participated more or less independently in the 4th Crusade, but when he learned of the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders, he decided to return as soon as possible to his lands.
In 1208, he decided to join the armed troops who were going to face the Cathar heresy in the south of France.
During the following years, he took part in the capture of many cities such as Béziers, Carcassonne, Fanjeaux, Castres, Minerve, Termes, Lastour.
In 1213, he began to attack Raymond VI of Toulouse, and after various victories, including that of Muret in September 1213, he began in October 1217 the seat of the city of Toulouse which lasted many months. On June 25, 1218, during a sortie of the besieged, he was killed by a projectile launched by a pier from the walls of the city.

(11)He is undoubtedly Bernard-Sermon V d'Albezun, son of Bernard-Sernon IV and Comtora de Niort, or of Aniort.


More references... Bibliography
  1. "La Commanderie Templière de Campagne sur Aude"
    Maud de Gelibert ; Bulletin de la Société d'Etudes Scientifiques de l'Aude - Tome LXXIII 1973
  2. "Des Templiers en Haut-Razès"
    Georges Kiess; Editions du C.E.R.T. 1990
  3. "Templiers et Hospitaliers en Languedoc-Roussillon"
    Jeannine Redon; Itinéraires Insolites
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Translation : Andrew Zolnai
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