Quillan (or Quilhanin Occitan) is a French commune located in the Aude department in the Occitania region. The town is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees at an altitude of 300 meters. The nearest large towns are Carcassonne and Perpignan.
According to legend, the town owes its name to the three hills surrounding it, “Trois Quilles”. The city was supposedly founded in the X century on the right bank of the Aude River (previously the river was called Atax). A castle arose here later, which from the 12th century belonged to the archbishops of Narbonne. A new district appeared in the same century on the left river bank. The old district was a maze of streets that have survived to the present day.
A wooden bridge connected the two banks; a stone one replaced it later.
The town was quite rich. There was a mill built on the Aude River, and the river served to transport logs from nearby forests. The river was of strategic importance until the advent of the railway at the end of the 19th century.
Catholics and Protestants captured Quillan alternately during the religious wars despite the defensive ramparts around the town. However, the town regained its prosperity after the religious wars, due to the processing of iron ore in a place called La Forge
The royal administration carried out an extensive “Forest Reform” in the XVII century, and established “special control over water and forest resources” in Quillan.
Quillan became the first town in the department with electricity in 1891.
The city had been famous for the production of hats since the second half of the XIX century. The town produced about 135,000 felt hats annually at the beginning of the 20th century. The manufacturing industry irrevocably decreased after the Second World War despite the high quality of products.
An interesting fact: the hat factory’s owner was the president of the local rugby team and was also a French champion.
The world-famous Formica Laminate Factory was founded in 1952.
The town is a famous place today for green tourism lovers due to its location. It is an ideal place to do outdoor sports. The riverbanks are landscaped for walking, you can go canoeing and fishing in the town and there are many cycling paths around the town.
Sights, attractions and tourism
Quillan Castle was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. The Sixth Crusade ended in 1229 and Quillan became a royal town. The King of France turned the town into a military fortification two centuries later to withstand the invasions of the Aragonese. The castle housed a military garrison.
Old Fortress Wall. Part of the old fortress wall of the old town can be found on La rue de la Paix Street from La Place Raoul de Volontat along Jean Jaurès Boulevard, which residents call the Promenade. It dates back to the middle of the 15th century.
Guardian Angel Orphanage. The building is located on Rue de la Paix and was built in 1812. It used to be a school for teaching girls. It is worth noting that the teaching of children was a luxury at that time. Parents had neither the money nor the transport to send their children to study. It was a very sad time because there was total child illiteracy and many children were forced to work in the fields.
Nuns from the Guardian Angel hosted children from poor families. The building is currently used by the Apprentis d’Auteuil Foundation for teens with social problems.
Town Hall (XVIII century). The town hall is on La rue de la Mairie Street and is the building which belonged to Count Albert de la Rochefoucauld, who founded The Catalan Forges (les Forges Catalanes).
The building features beautiful wrought-iron railings. A staircase with a railing leads to the large Silk Salon where the wedding hall is today.
Republic Square offers a view of the medieval fortress’ remains. There is a building with a sundial where you can find the sign “Propera te fugit” (“Hurry, the clock is running”). This building previously served as the site of numerous administrative services: the town¡s postal service, local and regional courts, as well as its social services.
Lady Assumption Church (Notre Dame de l’Assomption). This is a Romanesque church from the 14th century which was restored in the 17th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. The bell tower is square and about thirty meters high, crowned with a pyramidal roof with semicircular windows, with the archaic cross on the top. The interior was also made in the Romanesque style (to the left of the entrance is a beautiful Romanesque arch). A crystal and bronze chandelier was brought from St. Petersburg to the church in the 19th century.
You can try many European and French dishes in the town’s restaurants. Restaurant Cartier, Restaurant Canal, La Chaumiere, Le Brantalou, Restaurant and Le Terminus are among the most visited.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot to offer in terms of shopping in the town. One has to go to Carcassone and Perpignan instead.
How to get to?
Distances by car:
From Biarritz (tolls): 4 h 22 min (380 km) via A64
From Dax (tolls): 4 h 15 min (347 km) via A64
From Nantes (tolls): 6 h 48 min (711 km) via A10 and A62
From Bordeaux (tolls): 3 h 56 min (370 km) via A62
From La Rochelle (tolls): 5 h 31 min (548 km) via A62
From Toulouse (tolls): 1 h 46 min (128 km) via A61
From Carcassonne: 57 min (52.3 km) via D118
From Monaco (tolls): 5 h 36 min (546 km) via A8 and A9
From Nice (tolls): 5 h 23 min (524 km) via A8 and A9
From Marseille (tolls): 3 h 56 min (367 km) via A9
From Avignon (tolls): 3 h 12 min (294 km) via A9
From Montpellier (tolls): 2 h 27 min (206 km) via A9 and A61
From Béziers (tolls): 1 h 51 min (144 km) via A61 and D118
From Perpignan: 1 h 17 min (76.7 km) via D117
From Narbonne (tolls): 1 h 33 min (114 km) via A61 and D118
From Andorra (tolls): 2 h 12 min (110 km) via D613
Area: 34.6 sq. km
Population: 3420 (2019)
Coordinates: 42°52′34″N 2°10′57″E
Languages: French, Occitane
Time: Central-European UTC +1