The dark secret of Fitou Castle, southern France

Fitou castle sunset evening

In the warm, balmy, sun filled air of southern France there perches upon a hill a medieval castle. In fact, there perch upon many hills medieval castles in this part of France, this being the area of the world where the Cathar Castles are planted. And they sit on their rocky outcrops like crows sit around a battlefield, waiting to feast on the fallen dead.

Filling in the time between battles though, some of these castles have taken to passing the time in slightly unusual ways.

The particular castle that I am describing today, in the town of Fitou, holds within its’ walls a darker secret than many of the others. And that is saying something, as the medieval times were not necessarily a terribly jolly place to be. Violent, torturous punishment for the tiniest of crimes was their equivalent of pay per view, with some really quite inventive folks out there creating ever more impressive ways to end life in as slow and gory a manner as possible.

And let me not mislead you – the section of Fitou Castle dedicated to medieval torture instruments is very complete. Very complete indeed. The descriptions, lavishly translated from French into gloriously descriptive English, should be rated R. The waxwork figurines of the torturers and their victims, who all seem terribly happy with their lot, do not help.

But it was not the torture scenes, or the descriptions, that I brought you here for. Those are to be expected in a medieval castle. No. The secret that I am going to tell you about looked like this:

Mannequins Castle Fitou 1

I’m not really sure where to start with describing this particular pleasure dome of a display. Whatever event this is depicting, it was clearly one hell of a party. From the headless raver to the rabbit/donkey headed party girl, presided over by what appears to be  long eared fox creature and a seriously distressed sheep, this was one vision that even the most tortured of guests from Fitou Castle’s history would have struggled to conjure up.

This wasn’t all that there was on show. Oh no. Let’s take a look at what else Fitou Castle has to offer the medieval castle connoisseur looking for that little bit extra…

Fitou bat dress

A bat corset dress thing. From the Moulin Rouge, no less. How the hell this ended up attached to a chimney underneath a sooty ceiling eluded me somewhat.

Fitou Castle dresses 1

Party attire from some time in the past. Heads optional.

Pearl dress

A Cartier designed pearl dress. Because for some, a pearl necklace just isn’t enough.

White gown weird heads

It was all going so well with the dress display until the work experience kid was allowed to hang his mask in the tree.

Collection of masked ball gowns and costumes

Now this is more like it. Your run of the mill masked ball mannequin collection. Barely a headless figure in sight!

Fitou Castle Dresses beak

Some of these dresses were worn by famous people. Famous people with beaks.

Fitou Castle torture room and court jester

After that lot, the room of torture instruments was a walk in the park.

Court with jester Fitou Castle mannequins

Ok, so the court jester was a bit creepy. Still.. the background entertainment was a stable full of torture victims. So there’s that.

Dresses and masks oh my

And we’ll finish of with this. The rat heads presiding over activities were my favourite bits.

And that was Fitou Castle. Certainly worth the visit. If you’re into this kind of weirdness, then I can highly recommend you take a trip over to fellow travel blogger Raymond’s site, Man on the Lam. He practically oozes weird discoveries everywhere he goes. Like this gopher museum, for example.

I’ll leave you with that thought. If you’ve ever discovered something weird on your travels, hiding within something like an otherwise innocuous symbol of medieval oppression, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

My trip to Fitou was kindly provided by the folks over at Wimdu, who sorted us out with an awesome, mannequin free, apartment. Just so you know.

I often get asked what gear I use for my photos. Check out my full Photography Gear post to find out!




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