Saissac, with its ruined chateau/castle, is located at the foot of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountains), a short 17 km drive to the north-west of Carcassonne. It offers an panoramic view of the Languedoc Valley and the Pyrenees. Although the more adventurous will find an ancient stone footbridge dating from Roman times at the joining of the two rivers below the chateau, the first actual written reference of the castle at Saissac didn't appear in text until 960.
In the XIth century the chateau was bequeathed by the Bishop of Toulouse to the Count of Carcassonne, who then decided that after his death it should be handed down to his powerful supporters.
After that the castle remained constantly in the heritage system. At the start of the crusade against the Cathars, the castle belonged to Bertrand de Saissac, who in 1194 had been tutor to the young Raymond Roger de Trencavel, heir to the Viscount of Carcassonne. Bertrand de Saissac was perhaps most famous for his interference during an election of the Prior of Alet; forcing a senile and elderly abbot out of retirement to sit once more on the throne, so as to impose the appointment of one of his close friends.
In 1209, Bertrand de Saissac surrendered to the Catholic Crusaders who were fighting Cathars, and form then the village was ruled by Bouchard de Marly; and subsequently in 1234, by Lambert de Thurey. From that time on, control of Saissac was split between several and varied rulers, known variously as the “Lords of Saissac,” which included at one time King Louis IX.
During this turbulent period, the legend of the “Treasure of Saissac” gained credence. Partially destroyed during the mid XVIIIth century, the chateau slowly fell into a state of neglect and many villagers took stones from the building to build houses in the village. Tragically, it has was badly damaged by treasure hunters in 1862; some who used dynamite to destroy parts of the building.
However, in 1979, during excavation works in the old village, a “treasure” was discovered; old silver coinage with a face value of about 200 denarius, dating from the years 1250 – 1270AD. Some of the old currency is now able to seen in the Information Centre in central Saissac.
Restoration works commenced on the Chateau in the 1970's, and visitors can now enjoy a wonderful tour through the old stone rooms beneath the cooking halls, into the turrets and throughout rooms.
As well, very highly recommended are the well preserved footings, ruins and stone roadways of the ancient village; to be found down a gentle track below the chateau, including the Porte du Toulouse. As well, there is the footbridge and substantial other ruins where the two streams meet at the bottom of the valley.
Local amateur historians tell of the original village existing in a uniquly warm and protected "subclimate" where the two streams join. After their submission, the Crusaders forced the villagers to relocate all buildings to the more exposed enviorns above the chateau.