•Aude (11500) • Population: 3,691 • Altitude: 291 m
Quillan is a fair-sized town on the Aude, some 30 km south of Limoux. Quillan has a good mixture of town and residential areas, standard shopping possibilities, and a collection of cafés and restaurants.
The ancient stone arched bridge across the Aude, beside a main town square, is picturesque, and the swift-flowing river has a nice mountain feel to it.
The hulking stone tower (truncated) of the 13th-century château de Quillan, built on the ruins of the Visigoth fortress of Kilianus, overlooks the town.
The large municipal swimming pool is located handily in the center of town, just beside the railway station.
We don't know how old this church really is [Photo 5], but the Notre-Dame of Quillan was rebuilt in 1677.
Hats to Formica
In the 12th century, the trade of mégisserie, tawing, developed along the river, treating goat and chamois (izard) skins into white leather by mineral tanning. With intervening commerce in olive oil, wine and lumber, the tanning industry gave way to felt hats (chapellerie) in the 19th century. The hat industrie was big, with dozens of factories and hundreds of workers.
The bottom fell out of the had industry at the end of World War II, causing a serious economic setback for much of the region. Quillan, however, branched out to making boots and slippers, with around 25 factories employing a couple of thousand people. In the 1950s, the region became the heart of the Formica production in France. The industrial economy of Quillan has now been changed to tourism.
During a visit in the summer of 2008, we visited a site of an ancient factory, once the biggest in the region, at the southern edge of Quillan. It had been transformed into a large, flat field, and European help was being used to restore the land and eliminate any residual chemical polution.
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History of Quillan
First record, Calianum, Quilhanus in 781, Quillanum in 1145 and Quillanus in 1247.
The early town of Quillan grew up around the chateau on the right bank (east side) of the river Aude. In the 11th-12th centuries the inhabitants began expanding across the river to the right bank, creating the suburb of La Hille at the southern edge of the current town.
In 1247, Quillan was declared a proper town by King Louix IX (Saint Louis). In the 13th century, the Archbishops of Narbone had a new town built, with long, parallel streets, and this became progressively the heart of Quillan.
Standing above Quillan is the 13th-century donjon of the original fortress built in 1223. That chateau was built on the ruins of the more ancient 5th-century Visigoth fortress of Kilianus, and parts of the basement date back to the 7th century. The Chateau de Quillan was burnt by the Huguenots in 1575. In 1736, the chateau was dismantled, and the site was sold by the French Revolution.
Disasters. A famine in 1345 and the plague (peste noire) of 1347 and 1350 decimated a third the the population of Quillan.
A century later is was the Argon troupes, laying waste to the Fenouillèdes (the east-west valley southeast of Quillan) and the upper valley of the Aude, and the Spanish occupied Quillan until 1495 when the King of France, Charles VIII, chased them out.
In the 16th century it was the Calvinists who controlled the town, ceding it in 1575 to the Vicomte de Joyeuse.
• GPS: 42.87455, 2.184685
There are excellent hiking trails with good loop hikes from Quillan, especially through the forested hills that stretch from the southwest to the southeast of the town.
One trail to the southeast is part of the "Sentier Cathare" that continues far to the east, joining the GR36 (Grande Randonnée).
The Quillan railway station serves the trains on the Quillan - Carcassonne line, with several of the colorful red trains a day between the two places.