Cathar Castles and Pilat Dune Recently in the News

What do Cathar Castles and Pilat Dune have in common? At least two things: first, they are major tourist attractions in the southwest of France and second have been recently in the news (mind you for different reasons!)

To begin with, seven of the most prestigious military fortified Cathar castles are now on their way to become listed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage. They are the so called five sons of Carcassone, the castles of Aguilar, Peyrepertuse, Puylaurens, Quéribus, Termes and Lastours in Aude department and Montségur in Ariège.
After the crusade against the cathars in the 13th century, when Languedoc region became part of the French kingdom, these castles formed a first fortified defense line that ensured the protection of the border with the neighboring Spain. Their recognition by UNESCO is due to their unique quality as important Catharism sites and also to their little tampered with, now for more than 8 centuries, architectural styles.

Aguilar Castle
Aguilar Castle

Peyrepertuse Cathar Castle
Peyrepertuse Cathar Castle

Queribus Cathar Castle
Queribus Cathar Castle

The situation with the Pilat Dune is totally different. Few people know, I certainly did not, that the dune, a soon to be “Grand site de France” and a tourist attraction visited annually by almost 2 million sightseers in search of the unequal view the top of dune offers of the Atlantic Ocean, is a private property shared by some 150 owners.
Pilat dune is the tallest dune of Europe reaching between 104 and 108 meters in height. It also moves each year towards the interior of the continent, “eating” from the forest below between 1 and 8 meters.
It was sold by Napoleaon III, at the end of the 19th century, to a private enterprise that later sold it by plots to different private individuals. Its name was changed then from Pilat to Pyla apparently for marketing puroposes.
Nowadays French government wants to buy back the dune in order to better assure the protection of its fragile eco-system and to enhance its touristic value.
Pilat Dune
Pilat Dune

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