REMPARTS DE VILLEFRANCHE DE CONFLENT
Folk art and traditions
Discover the ramparts of the medieval city of Villefranche de Conflent! You will be bowled over by the beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 17th century by Vauban, the ramparts overflow with secrets that you can discover on guided tours. Packed with history, the site is also part of Conflent’s important heritage. Behind the immense walls is a lively town with much artisanal commerce.
Founded in 1092 by Count Guillaume Raymond de Cerdagne at the foot of the Canigou, the town has kept its fortifications intact. From 1669 to 1676, Villefranche de Conflent, once called Villa Franca, saw its defences fortified under the expert direction of the Louis XIV’s engineer, the military architect Vauban. The town would become one of his 14 works of art. But what will you find inside the ramparts? Corridors criss-crossed by the rays of the sun, piercing through the apertures to spy on the arrival of the enemy, and watch towers and guardrooms where you can lose yourselves.
Whether arriving by the Porte d’Espagne or Porte de France, you will be bewitched by the grandeur of the ramparts and the secrets of the town hidden inside. Two parallel streets house and inspire numerous artists and artisans. Take Rue St Jacques and you will find the 17th century Romanesque church; choose Rue St. Jean and you will find numerous artisanal shops as well as some witches! Not evil witches, mind – that is but legend.
In a remote past where magic and sorcery were still allowed, the witches lived in the caves of Conflent where they would spend winter.
As winter came to an end they would mount their brooms and come out of the caves to celebrate the arrival of spring with the villagers of Villefranche. This brought the villagers happiness, gaiety and prosperity for the rest of the year.
It is Catalan tradition to offer a close relative or child a witch as a sign of friendship. She is hung in the house, or in the child’s bedroom, to keep the bad spirits away and create space for happiness.
From Prades, follow the RN116 in the direction of Andorra. To access the ramparts, go to the Information Point in Villefranche de Conflent at the entrance to the Porte de France.
The ramparts can be visited with a guide book in english, available at the Ramparts (Porte d'Espagne). Duration 1 hour.
Folk art and traditions