Foix – France And The Netherlands

Above the swift flowing Ariege in their superb setting of mountain and forest are the towers and parapets of the old chateau, in itself enough to make the name and fame of any city. . . . The actual age of the monument covers many epochs. The two square towers and the main edifice, as seen to-day, are anterior to the thirteenth century, as is proved by the design in the seals of the Comtes de Foix of 1215 and 1241 now in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. In the fourteenth century these towers were strengthened and enlarged with the idea of making them more effective for defense and habitation.

The escutcheons of Foix, Bearn and Comminges, to be seen in the great central tower, indicate that it, too, goes back at least to the end of the fourteenth century. when Eleanore de Comminges, the mother of Gaston Phoebus, ruled the Comte. The donjon or Tour Ronde arises on the west to a height of forty-two meters; and will be remarked by all familiar with these sermons in stones scattered all over France as one of the most graceful. Legend attributes it to Gaston Phoebus; but all authorities do not agree as to this. The window- and door-openings, the moldings, the accolade over the entrance door-way, and the machicoulis all denote that they belong to the latter half of the fifteenth century. These, however, may be later interpolations.

Originally one entered the chateau from exactly the opposite side from that used to-day. The slope leading up to the rock and swinging around in front of the town is an addition of recent years. Formerly the plateau was gained by a rugged path which finally entered the precincts of the fortress through a rectangular barbican.

Finally, to sum it up, the pleasant, smiling, trim little city of Foix, and its chateau rising romantically above it, form a delightful prospect. Well preserved, well protected and forever free from further desecration, the chateau de Foix is as nobly impressive and glorious a monument of the Middle Ages as may be found in France, as well as chief record of the gallant days of the Comtes de Foix. Foix’ Palais de Justice, built back to back with the rock foundation of the chateau, is itself a singular piece of architecture containing a small collection of local antiquities. This old Maison des Gouverneurs, now the Palais de Justice, is a banal, unlovely thing, regardless of its high-sounding titles. .

It was that great hunter and warrior, Gaston Phoebus, who gave the Chateau de Foix its greatest lustre. It was here that this most brilliant and most celebrated of the counts passed his youth; and it was from here that he set out on his famous expedition to aid his brother knights of the Teutonic Order in Prussia. At Gaston’s orders the Comte d’Armagnac was imprisoned here, to be released after the payment of a heavy ransom. As to the motive for this particular act, authorities differ as to whether it was the fortune of war or mere brigandage.

They lived high, the nobles of the old days, and Froissart recounts a banquet at which he had assisted at Foix, in the sixteenth century, as follows:

“And this was what I saw in the Comte de Foix: The Comte left his chamber to sup at mid-night, the way to the great `salle’ being led by twelve varlets, bearing twelve illumined torches. The great hall was crowded with knights and equerries, and those who would supped, saying nothing mean-while. Mostly game seemed to be the favorite viand, and the legs and wings only of fowl were eaten. Music and chants were the invariable accompaniment and the company remained at table until after two in the morning. Little or nothing was drunk.”