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Perpignan Castillet: torture, sacrifice and legend

The Castillet | LeZibou / CC-BY-SA
Fortification Tragic destiny Imprisonment Torture Legend Mystery Perpignan castillet

A real little castle!

King Jaime raised the Castillet in 1386 in order to protect the city of Perpignan from medieval armed bands.

But with king of France Louis XI, they used it as a jail. The Castillet is made of 2 parts: the Great and The Small Castillet.

First, they built the Great Castillet, flanked by a door (the Portal de Nostra-Dona del Pont): Moorish style, it looks like the architectural style in Southern Spain!

One century later, they raised the Small Castillet.

Tortures and plotters

Many dramas took place in this sinister place, the former jail of the Castillet…

In the lower room, they locked plotters of the awful story of Villefranche-de-Conflent, in 1668.

Since those days, the room was transformed into a museum dedicated to Popular Traditions of Roussillon: we still can see a big ring, remain of some torture machines…

Joan Blanca’s sacrifice

Joan Blanca was the man who defended Perpignan against king of France Louis XI.

In 1474, Roussillon was invaded by French troops! And so was Perpignan, of course.

First consul, Joan was punished because of his attachment to his city: his son was hung by the French…

They made an offer to him: inhabitants of Perpignan had to open the city’s gates, or his son would be kill under their very eyes.

Joan decided to sacrifice his son rather than letting his city invaded by enemies…

These bloody French killed him near the rampart, in front of the Castillet.

A plaque echoes this event on the Castillet’s wall. And since 1475, the city has the title of Fidelissima Villa, “Loyal city”.

Gory coat of arms

Do you notice? We can see the blazon of Catalonia on the Castillet’s façade.

The legend says Wilfred le Velu (“Hairy Wilfred”), count of Barcelona, fought one day at king Charlemagne’s side.

Wilfred was covered with blood, because he was wounded. But those wounds didn’t bother him…

Afterwards, the king wanted to make something to honour his friend for his bravery: Wilfred gave him his shield and said “Write something on it, I have no coat of arm”.

Charlemagne took blood from Wilfred’s wound and draw bars, which are still on the current Catalonia’s blazon!

The mystery of the skeleton

In 1945, they discovered a skeleton in the Castillet, behind a wall: bones from a young boy about 12 years old who lived in the 18th c.

Next to him, a faience plate and clothes remaining like velvet of leather, luxurious materials at that time, that only rich people wore…

Historians said those bones belonged to king Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette’s son, little Louis XVII!

Besides, the plate dates back to the end of the 18th century and we know a mason was called to wall up a skeleton in the wall…

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!