Mirepoix is a town in Ariège, in the Occitanie region, 20 km east of Pamiers.
Its territory of 47 km² belongs to the land of Olmes, a historical and cultural region which was a hotbed of the Cathar movement (12th century) and its repression. Bordering the Aude to the north and east, the locality is crossed by the course of the Hers-Vif and is located between the Pyrenean foothills and the plains, in particular that of Lauragais. It is still covered today by forests (33% of its area), agricultural land and meadows (62%).
The city was conquered in 1209 by Simon de Montfort, future Count of Toulouse who led the crusade against the Albigenses (partisans of the Cathar heresy). He donated it to one of his faithful, Guy de Lévis, who founded the powerful family of Lévis-Mirepoix.
A violent flood occurs in 1289: the first city founded on the right bank of the Hers is destroyed and a new town (bastide), geometrically, is immediately rebuilt on the left bank, resting on a terrace naturally raised.
Seat of a new diocese, Mirepoix reached its peak in the 16th century (textile production, trade fairs).
Nowadays, with 3300 inhabitants, the small town which has preserved its medieval center is appreciated by tourists for its remarkable heritage but also its important offer of cultural and "nature" leisure activities. Essential during a stay in the region!
A discovery of the rich medieval heritage dating from the reconstruction of the city (14th and 15th centuries) can begin with its old Saint-Maurice cathedral, which had this rank of the 14th century following a bull from Pope John XXII in 1802. Construction began in 1297 but even very quickly became the seat of a diocese, the church remained under construction for a long time because of the Hundred Years War and the plague epidemics. In the 16th century, while the nave was still open to the sky, Bishop Philippe de Lévis relaunched the work, had the dwellings attached to the building demolished, decided on its enlargement and embellishment and endowed it in 1506 with a steeple. the 60 m high boom. The entrance porch and the Renaissance door are from this period. Again follows a delicate period, the bishops no longer living on the spot. The furniture deteriorates, and the structure also loses its luster. The Revolution amplifies this sad state of affairs. In the 19th century, a major restoration was undertaken under the direction of Viollet le Duc. The vault, the walls of the choir and the nave were rebuilt, the latter becoming one of the widest in France (21.40 m), protected by flying buttresses. The whole is in the Languedoc Gothic style with however some "daring" as wanted the fashion of the time.
Subsequently, the building was classified in 1907, the altars were replaced by Gothic imitations in white marble and in the middle of the 20th century, the covers of the bedside and of the terraces were restored.
Inside, the private chapel of Bishop Philippe de Lévis known for its labyrinth traced on cobblestones and painted tiles, the keystones of the radiating chapels and the imposing organ from 1891 are to be observed, as well as as statues in gilded wood (18th century), paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, a marble tabernacle and an altar table with its carved stone support (15th century).
Note also the north porch surmounted by a vaulted room communicating with the bishopric, a sort of platform where the bishop could go from his apartments.
Next, see the episcopal palace (16th century), leaning against the west side of the old cathedral. Comprising two floors, built in freestone, with direct access to the oratory housed above the portal of the cathedral, it has its own chapel.
La Maison des Consuls is another gem of the small town. Dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, serving as town hall, court and even prison under the Ancien Régime, it has an oak beam in one piece of nearly 12 m on the front. No less than 104 sculptures adorn the ends of the beams perpendicular to the facade and the supporting pillars.
The Porte d'Avail (14th century) and the nearby watchtower are also to be seen, before enjoying the "spectacle" that constitutes, on the main square and the adjacent streets, the covered (galleries) and the magnificent half-timbered houses. On the east side, on a covered ceiling, a map of the department has been painted and to the west, an escutcheon is dated 1573.
On the square or its close surroundings, several mansions have retained their original luster.
Guided tours of the historic center of Mirepoix are offered throughout the year (for groups from September to June and all audiences in July and August). Contact +33 5 61 68 83 76.
Other heritage elements dot the locality outside the picturesque center and its colorful facades: this is the case of the Notre-Dame church, in the cemetery, which houses paintings and a 17th century altarpiece, from the Pont sur l'Hers (18th century) 206 m long and comprising seven arches, designed by Jean-Rodolphe Perronet who founded the National School of Ponts et Chaussées, from the Cordeliers fountain (17th century).) and finally, to the north of the city, the castle of Terride, whose foundations date back to the 10th century, and which was the first seat of the seigneury of the city. It was taken by Simon de Montfort in 1209 then belonged to the Lévis family. A ruined time, the domain was classified in 1875. Remodeled, now partly restored, the castle is still private but hosts events (concerts) in summer. Information on +33 5 61 68 10 47.
On the cultural side, precisely, the Espace Malraux houses the municipal cinema (price: 4 and 6 euros, information on +33 5 32 74 10 13) and the inter-municipal media library which programs throughout the year of activities (readings, meetings, workshops) and exhibitions (information on +33 5 61 68 81 44).
For athletes, tennis courts (to be reserved on +33 5 61 68 14 88), pétanque and multi-sports grounds are accessible, not to mention the swimming pool which has been modernized. Admission: 3.50 and 4.50 euros. Information on +33 5 61 68 11 48.
Finally, the rolling and green countryside around Mirepoix can be the object of very pleasant hikes (on foot or mountain bike). The locality is also located on the GR 7 route which links the Ballon d'Alsace to Andorra. In fact, loops of varying sizes lead to the first summits of the Pyrenees or the Lauragais plain… Maps and information on +33 5 61 68 83 76.
The large Monday morning market (in the center) and that of Thursday morning (in and around the hall, place Leclerc), reserved for mouth-watering products, are lively and friendly meetings that allow you to appreciate the richness of the terroir of the region.
The first Sunday in July, history book fair.
The third weekend of July, historical festivals over four days highlighting the medieval center with costumed parades, entertainment, shows…
The first weekend of August, over four days, festival of the arts of the puppet (with indoor shows and outdoor activities in the city itself).
The 3rd weekend of October, apple festival.
A few kilometers you can find the church of Vals. It is a rock Carolingian church, a unique monument, which is one of the most curious of the Ariege sanctuaries. It was carved into the rock using access as a natural fault in the rock. The church consists of three floors and the apse and the choir are decorated with remarkable Romanesque frescoes of the 11th century. These frescoes certainly contribute to the church of Vals one of the most visited shrines Ariege.
Direction Olmes in Roquefort-les-Cascades. About thirty feet high, cascades produced an exceptional phenomenon: a tufa. Very beautiful landscape and scenery to discover.
Visit the charming fortified village of Camon, his surprising Benedictine priory, or follow along with a passionate guide, the trail that leads to the discovery of dry stone huts on the hills above the village.
The castle of Montsegur, near Montferrier, which is the busy center of Catharism, a symbol of the strength of any one country to the Crusader invaders. You have to climb a trail. Halfway you must pay the price of the tour. After some extra effort, you will reach the summit provides a panorama of the entire Plantaurel Soularac and the Pic Saint-Barthélemy. But it is the castle itself, which will amaze you.
The road of Romanesque churches.
The greenway Pyrenean Mountains.