|Visitor's Guide to Perillos|
Castle and its plateau tower above Opoul and the valley leading to Perillos.
Opoul has two castles: one is located inside the village itself, the other rises high above it. The latter is the castle of Salveterra, located on a rocky outcrop, the castle clinging to the side of the plateau. From the castle, wonderful views are offered of the Mediterranean Sea, as far as the Massif du Canigou.
“Castlart de Oped” enters the history books in 1172, with the
inclusion of the Roussillon region to the crown of Aragon. The existence
of a village on top is recorded in 1246, under king James I of Aragon (1208-1276).
The village was known as “Salveterra”. Life seems to have been
centred around a small chapel, also known as Salveterra, in the middle of
the plateau – and hence quite close to the present access. Remains
of the chapel are still somewhat visible.
But the very painful living conditions here meant that the people, little by little, gave up the hamlet, until it was completely deserted in 16th century. One century later, the castelet would also be forsaken...
Perillos is invisible from the plateau, except for one man-made structure: the tower of the castle of Perillos. It is clear that this was a deliberately created line of sight. Both places were connected by a different, more direct route. Rather than follow the valley, as the present road does, a road over the hills existed – its existence confirmed by discoveries of amphoras. This means that rather than a distance of 7 kilometres (through the valley) separating both places, the direct route measured only three kilometres.
The plateau is the site of a May 1 get together, known as the Chronodrome, which is to welcome potential time travellers from the future.
In front of Salveterra castle, take the road to the left, into the Vall Oriole. After a short distance, the Roc Redon is the enigmatic outcrop on your left. The Roc is a geological curiosity, and believed to have sheltered a hermit. The hollow in the rock would have been his “cave”, from which he observed the world. Inside, visitors can expect to find a natural shower, the result of water accumulating on the top of the rock, slowly dripping down.
the road back to Salveterra, and now entering the valley that leads to Perillos,
away from the road (on the right hand side while approach Perillos) is the
most remarkable cave “La Caune”, on the slopes of a large hill.
It shows the other side of the area: though largely unsuitable for agricultural
purposes, the limestone has created caves.
The cave is an immense subterranean hall. There is no need for additional lighting, as on the opposite extremity of the cave, there is an opening in the ceiling that allows natural light to flow into the cave. It appears that this skylight appeared at the end of the 18th century, as a result of violent seismic activity in the region.
It is not known whether this is the cave that Ramon de Perillos, one of the lords of Perillos, identified as an “entrance to the Otherworld”, but it might very well be. In primitive societies, caves were seen as entrances into the Underworld, the entrance to Fairyland, where mythical creatures could be encountered.
It is in this cave that the Black Madonna used in the Pentecost mass was discovered. Its location seems to have been in the “lateral chapel”, near the presence of the cross engravings – suggesting this was the “holy of holies”. We also know that several small statuettes made from burned earth were placed in this sector of the cave. Some other small statuettes have also been discovered here.
In 1781, Laborie, the priest of Perillos, stated that there was a cave known under the name of “Oursue”, “Oursus” or “Oursuv” (the word is hardly readable in the old document). In 1776, Laborie was impressed by the place and stated that there was an engraving inside, which in his opinion represented the constellation of the Great Bear, above a “coupe recipien de la saincte csène de nostre seygneur Jésus”, the recipient cup of the Holy Communion of our lord Jesus. The location of this cave is currently unknown, but suspected to be in the vicinity of Saint Barbara chapel or La Caune.
On the right hand side of the road near its left-hand turn to climb to Perillos stands “Saint Barbara Chapel”. The chapel is an empty shell. Saint Barbara and St Michael were the patron saints of Perillos – the church inside the village itself is dedicated to Saint Michael. It is in that church that statues of St Barbara can be found.
Perillos is an abandoned village. Since 2006, efforts are being made to restore some of the ruined buildings and make them habitable again.
church is normally closed, but a key can be received from the Mayor's office
in Opoul. Because of a spate of burglaries, a piece of identification may
be requested, someone will come with you or the key will not be handed over.
Originally part of the castle (remains of a corridor connecting the two can still be seen at ground level just outside the chapel), the chapel is now a stand-alone structure, waiting to serve a community that no longer exists.
As the community of Perillos was always small, the chapel is of equal dimensions and seems most unimpressive from the outside. Inside, there are a few statues, one of St Barbara (with tower), one of St Michael slaying the dragon (central, in front), one of St Catherine (with wheel) and one of John the Baptist. Next to the entrance hangs a memorial to those who died in a plane crash, when a military plane crashed in the valley leading to Perillos some decades ago.
No religious services are held in the chapel, but one mass is still said at Perillos, on the Monday following Pentecost. This mass is held in the open air, near the car park.
front of the church is a commemoration stone to the voyage of one local
lord, Ramon de Perillos, when he made a pilgrimage to St Patrick’s
Purgatory in Ireland.
Ramon was advisor and chamberlain to Juan (John) I of Aragon (1350-1395). Ramon’s fortune changed when Juan I of Aragon died suddenly, the result of a fall from his horse. Ramon decided to go on a pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory, in order to intercede for John’s soul in the Afterworld – and also to dispel suspicion that he had anything to do with the king’s demise. The memorial was left behind by Irish visitors from the Purgatory who visited Perillos in 1997, the 600th anniversary of Ramon’s pilgrimage.
A wall of a nearby house depicts the heraldic device of the lords of Perillos: three pears against a yellow background. The three pears were used as a play on words: a little pear in French is poron or peron.
Next to the church is the small cemetery, largely void of tombstones. In 1916, the last birth in Perillos was recorded. The mobilisation of the First World War virtually wiped out the manpower of the village. After the war, in 1921, there were still 33 inhabitants, but the majority continued to emigrate towards Opoul, this because of the absence of electricity and running water.
The last death in Perillos was recorded in 1932. The habitat was abandoned completely during the Second World War (1939-1945) and shortly after the war, its last inhabitant, Antonin Pujol, moved away from the village.
castle of Perillos is small. The ruins that remain are the testimony of
a modestly flanked keep of a structure that measured a few square meters,
around which the village (four or five houses) was constructed. Rather than
a castle, it seems likely this was more of an observation station.
Despite the small size of the village, the lords of Perillos probably never lived here. Instead, they seem to have been absent lords, spending most of their time at the court of the Aragon kings. Nevertheless, as the area was a key gateway for possible invading armies, a chain of castles marked this border, in which the small castle of Perillos seems to have played a role.
The tower has a remarkable feature, which can be appreciated only from the Opoul plateau. From the plateau, the village of Perillos is hidden behind a hill, except for the tower, which peaks above it. This suggests that its construction was no accident, but instead clearly planned so that there was a line of sight between the village of Perillos and the Opoul plateau. This means that signals could be sent from Opoul to Perillos, and vice versa. The result was that any intrepid visitor’s arrival could immediately be communicated.
As Raymond de Perillos made his entrance in the historical records in 1114, this castle might date from the early 12th century, when the lords of Perillos were vassals of the count of Barcelona.
A brochure with more information is available here.
Information on where to stay is available here.