Chef-lieu of a canton in Aude (12)
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Population: 3,300 (Quillanais, Quillanaises)
Specialities: blanquette of Limoux, cassoulet, foie gras.
Personalities: Napoleon III, Louis Amiel (soap opera writer), Joachim Estrade (engineer), Robert Punzano (comedian), Jesus Martinez (cyclist)
Sport: US Quillan-Haute Vallée (rugby, Fédérale 2, French champion 1928-1929), Quillan international criterium (cycling), French canoe-kayak championship, French petanque championship, Trois Quilles trail, Ronde VTT.
Culture: jazz festival (July), festival of flavours (September), Romeria (July).
Economy: tourism, old industries: hat making, shoes, furniture. Quartzite quarry.
Slogan: Quillan, beating heart of the Aude Pyrenees.
Labels: Green resort, Classified tourist resort, Flowery village, Zero phyto.
Websites: www.quillan.fr / www.laforgedequillan.fr / www.pyreneesaudoises.com / www.projet.corbieres-fenouilledes.fr / www.aude.fr / www.laregion.fr
QUILLAN, A STORY
French rugby champions
Quillan revealed itself to the French sporting world in 1929, when its rugby union club became French champions after having already played the final of the event the previous year. US Quillan had been fashioned from scratch by industrial hatter Jean Bourrel, who anticipated the era of professionalism by plundering internationals from other clubs to launch the first truly professional team in French rugby. This contested approach led the International Board to exclude France from international rugby during the 1930s. It must be said that violence on the pitch was not as disguised as the so-called amateurism of French rugby at the time.
If Quillan – whose hooker, Gaston Rivière, had died from a kick received during a match against Perpignan in 1927 –, won that final 11-8 against Lézignan, coached by the ebullient Jean Sébédio, aka "the Sultan", what the authorities and the press remembered above all was the violence of the final.
In Le Miroir des Sports, journalist Marcel de la Borderie denounced: "The whole match was a succession of brawls, pitched battles or single combats, interrupted from time to time by a few good class rugby moves. (...) The players fought under the eye of the director of the game without any severe sanction being applied to repress the improprieties or brutalities of one or the other. (...) We saw this unique spectacle of players leaving the ball aside, fighting with punches and kicks, then separated by the referee, getting rid of the referee's intervention with violence to resume the fight with bare fists. "
Both clubs were suspended by their leagues after the match, but promptly reinstated. Whatever the case, Quillan has since gone down in French rugby history with this hard-fought title.
QUILLAN AND CYCLING
If it is mainly rugby that has made Quillan famous sportwise, the Aude town is far from being a stranger to cycling. It hosted the Grand Prix du Midi-Libre six times between 1969 and 1993, before the event disappeared, but also stages of the Tour de l'Aude in the 1960s. Quillan was also a stage finish for the women's Tour de l'Aude in the early 2000s.
Since then, it is above all the Critérium de Quillan, held every year on 15 August, that has brought the town and cycling together. All the biggest names in cycling have won here since 1938, making it the oldest of the French criteriums, and its last winner in 2019 was Romain Bardet. Jesus Martinez, winner of Genoa-Nice and the Grand Prix du Midi Libre in 1954, is the local cycling hero.
Located on the right bank of the river, it has dominated the lower town of Quillan since the 14th century. With a square plan, flanked by four watchtowers, it was entered through a majestic tower-gate several storeys high. It was the seat of the administration of the Archbishops of Narbonne and could, on occasion, serve as their residence. Destroyed for the first time during the Franco-Aragonese wars, it was levelled and transformed into an artillery battery.
After being used as a stone quarry for the construction of buildings, it was the subject of three excavation campaigns and the beginning of a restoration project.
From the top of the castle you can enjoy a beautiful view of the town and the surrounding mountains.
The church of Notre Dame de l'Assomption
Leaving the castle by the old bridge, you cross the paved Place de la République and see the square tower of the church, about 30 metres high. It is a Romanesque building dating from the 14th century. The wealth of the interior furniture is extraordinary: a wooden pulpit from the 19th century, with a wrought iron staircase from the cathedral of Alet, as well as the choir enclosure which is made of marble from Caunes en Minervois. A very beautiful Pietà. The organs dating from 1793. A series of paintings given by Napoleon III, representing biblical characters. A crystal and bronze chandelier from Saint Petersburg dating from the 19th century.
Saint-Bertrand Park and Lake
The lake, which was recently refurbished, is a haven of peace and freshness. It has two bodies of water. The first is dedicated to swimming and offers beaches partially shaded by the foliage of the trees, one of sand and the other of pebbles. The second is more for fishing, paddling, kayaking, etc.
The Town Hall, located in the rue de la Mairie, is an old building that belonged to the Lord of Espezel, following Count Albert de la Rochefoucauld, the same Count who created the Catalan Forges at the place known as La Forge. The particularity of the building is the entrance hall and its beautiful wrought iron staircase with Louis XV volutes. The staircase leads to a corridor in the centre of which opens the large salon, covered in silk in the most beautiful 18th century style... This is currently the wedding hall.
Chalet de Carach
At the end of a path overlooking the Luc and Carbasse valleys is the original Chalet de Carach. It was built in 1906 on the initiative of the Touring Club de France on the ascent to the Col de l'Acamp, in the Pinouse forest, close to a small spring where a hamlet existed in the past, with little visible remains. It is one of the stigmata of a thermal complex project.
Défilé de la Pierre-lys
Impressive gorges can be found on the road between Quillan and Axat, forged by the river Aude which has eroded the limestone rock over 2 km over thousands of years, to create vertical cliffs 400 to 600 m high, sensations guaranteed! The first blow of pickaxe was given in 1781 by the priest Félix Armand, then it was the marquis of Axat who undertook the construction of the road.
Festival of the flavours of the Aude Pyrenees
The aim of the "Saveurs Pyrénées Audoises" festival is first and foremost to promote and highlight the gastronomic wealth of the Aude Pyrenees region: mainly the upper valley of the Aude, and more widely the Pyrenees. This festival takes place every year at the end of September in Quillan and features more than 30 local producers who display their products for tasting and sale. Local star chefs present recipes cooked with those products, as well as professionals from the food industry (unions, registered trademarks, consulars, associations, etc.). The festival also includes several activities, games, conferences, film screenings and musical entertainment.