History of Montlaur

From prehistory to the Romans

The first human traces in the region would date from the Quaternary Era (discovery of carved flints, polished stones, dolmens etc.).

Around 600 B.C., the Ligures from Italy and the Iberians from Spain settled in the Corbières area. The arrival of the Celts (Gauls) caused the apparition of the Celtic-Iberian people, an active and progressive population, who built roads. The Roman invasion quickly assimilated the Celtic-Iberian population by latinising their language.

If the low plain remained uninhabited, villages settled on the hills (Gavart, Roquenegade, Congoust, Vinesolus, Septembrianum, Valfrège, Cadoual, Mata). The village of Mata, thanks to its central location, absorbed all the surrounding villages (Montlaur would rise there). The land would have dedicated to Diana (hunting goddess) from where the name Val de Daigne (Diana Valley) comes.

Access ways linking Narbonne to Carcassonne brought Roman civilisation and then Christian religion around the third century to the region. In the fifth century the first chapels were built.

The Mattes country under the Visigoths and the Carolingians

The Visigoths of Germanic origin had become the masters of Narbonne which was part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse (from 414 to 507). They fortified Carcassonne and placed it under the protection of both the forts of Alairac and Miramont. After a three century long domination, their empire succumbed under the blows of the Saracens in 712.

In Montlaur, they razed the village and exterminated the population. Charles Martel, after Poitiers, vanquished them a second time next to Sigean, but Charlemagne would drive them out for good.

From this time, there are still villas (agricultural centres): Villedèse, Domneuve, Villefrancou, Villemagne, Villalaur and monasteries of Lagrasse and Saint-Michel de Nahuze.

Middle Age

The counts of Barcelona and Toulouse were at war with each other for two hundred years. To protect themselves the lords of the Mattes country pooled their efforts to build the fort of Montlaur (around 1160). On the left bank of the stream watering the la villa Mata rises a peak (Pech Matus): an ideal spot for a fortress. The rock crowning it will be lined by a wall to form the first surrounding wall. Half way down the hill, another wall with three gates and a barbican will be the second surrounding wall. Two gates will make the square communicate with the stockade (“lices”).

Only one still stands: the gate of Bissens (“le portail de Bissens”). But this fort, during the wars between the lords, was quickly demolished. In 1360, the first surrounding wall was already in ruins. After the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), the village will expand out of the surrounding walls and will even cross the stream of La Fargue.

The name of Montlaur was created when the fort was built. Several explanations have been put forward for its meaning but the most likely and the most simple seems to be the mount laurel (latin: Montem Laurum)

(Source: “Montlaur-en-Val” by Pierre Cabirol – ISBN: 2750412986)


the castle

door ancient walls

the door of the old ramparts