EGLISE SAINT-JACQUES DE VILLEFRANCHE DE CONFLENT
Discover the ramparts of the medieval city of Villefranche de Conflent! You will be impressed by the beauty of this 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 rich heritage. Behind the immense walls is a lively town that includes many craft shops.
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 defenses fortified under the expert direction of Louis XIV’s engineer, the military architect Vauban. The town would become one of his 12 works of art. But what can one discover inside the ramparts? Corridors crisscrossed by rays of sun, piercing through the openings to observe the enemy’s arrival, watch towers and guardrooms where one gets lost.
Whether arriving by the Porte d’Espagne or Porte de France, you will be conquered by the grandeur of the ramparts and the town’s secrets which are hidden inside. Parallel streets house and inspire numerous artists and artisans. Take Rue St Jacques and you will discover the 17th century Romanesque church. On Rue St. Jean you will find numerous craft shops as well as some witches! But do not worry – they are not evil, that is just a legend.
“In a remote past where magic and sorcery still prevailed, witches lived in the caves of Conflent where they would spend winter. As winter came to an end they would get on their brooms and come out of the caves to celebrate the arrival of spring with Villefranche’s villagers. This brought the villagers happiness, cheerfulness 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. The witch is hung in the house, or in the child’s bedroom, to keep 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 Tourist Information Office 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.