Saturday, 17 April 2010

Gruissan, Aude in the South of France

Gruissan in the South of France is a lovely little seaside resort that has a new town with marina, a large sandy beach at Gruissan Plage and an old castle that sits on the coast next to the historic, circular fortified town. During the Middle Ages much of the maritime traffic heading to Narbonne passed through Gruissan Lake and the castle was strategically placed alongside the terrestrial route that connects Narbonne to the coast overlooking the lake.

You can click on the image of the map to get a larger image so that you can see the detail more clearly.

The castle is believed to have been sited there around about the Xth century and by the XIIIth century the town had grown around it concentrically to the east. An urban enclosure was built around the whole town  in the XIVth century during the Hundred Years War when the area was thought to be under threat from both the English and the Great Companies ( a group of mercenaries as described below).

The Hundred Years War saw periods of conflict punctuated with truces between the kingdoms of France and England from 1137 to 1453. The motive behind it being a fight for the control of the territories that make up the western side of present day France.

The Great Companies were groups of mercenaries hired for the military campaign by the princes. But when they were demobilised they continued to pillage and destroy for their own benefit.

The tower itself appears to have been named after 'Red Beard' a local pirate whose actual name was 'Barberoussette' but who was renamed 'Barberousse' in reference to the famous XVIth century Turkish pirate after he was given command of a small coastal fort located 10km south of Gruissan.

This is the view of the town today taken from the tower looking towards the Mediterranean.

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