Ariège

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Ariège (French pronunciation: [aʁjɛʒ]; Occitan: Arièja) is a department in southwestern France named after the Ariège River.

Contents

History

Ariège is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4th, 1790. It was created from the counties of Foix and Couserans.

Foix is the administrative capital of the Ariège. It is an ancient medieval town with a fortress Chateau de Foix perched on a hill overlooking it. The fortress has been attacked many times without capture, including an attempt by Simon de Montfort. It has also been used as a prison, and the names of English Prisoners of War can still be seen on the cell walls. Another famous chateau in the Ariège is Montségur, located on a rocky outcrop at a height of 1200 metres (3,900 ft). During the Albigensian Crusade and siege of 1244 AD the chateau was largely destroyed, with more than two hundred Cathar priests burnt at the stake as heretics. The chateau was gradually rebuilt by Royalists over a period of the next three hundred years.

Of other important towns in the département, Pamiers is host to a large commercial centre and three churches; Mirepoix is a medieval town, as is Saint-Lizier situated on a hilltop with winding streets, fine views and a church with cloisters that are noteworthy. Saint-Girons is an agricultural centre with a Saturday market.

Geography

The department is part of the current region of Midi-Pyrénées and is surrounded by the French departments of Haute-Garonne, Aude, and Pyrénées-Orientales, as well as Spain and Andorra on the south.

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