Thursday, 7 July 2016

More about Montségur

The Chateau de Montségur
Sitting precariously on their hill-top perches and adding an air of ancient mystery to the sky-line, we've been interested in Cathar castles for some time and their presence in and around the Ariège was something of a drawcard for us in choosing this area. The Cathars were a heretic sect in the Middle Ages, considered a threat by the Catholic Church. In the 13th century, the then Pope sought to eradicate the Cathers and ordered their wholesale slaughter. A series of massacres ensued in the Languedoc, largely undertaken by forces from the north. This included the massacre of the entire population of the town of Beziers in 1209. The last remaining Cathars took refuge in the Chateau de Montségur and this became their final stronghold. In 1244, following a five month siege of Montségur, the Cathars - approximately 244 of them - surrendered and were burnt alive in a pyre at the foot of the mountain. A number of legends have developed around the Cathars and the events of the siege at Montségur, linking both to stories about the Holy Grail and the protection of Jesus's bloodline by the Cathars. The lives lost in this brutal event continue to be commemorated every year in a small ceremony on 16 March at the site of the massacre and on its anniversary. Although built on the site of the original Cathar castle, the ruins actually date from a later fortress built to protect the border with Spain.

I can see for miles and miles...

Our first visit to Montségur had been in December 2013. When we arrived, we were surprised to find ourselves surrounded by snow and ice. This added an extra layer of excitement to the steep climb up to the castle, for which we otherwise had perfect conditions -  a crystal clear sunny day with 360 degree views. Below us, the village was covered in snow and locals were sledging with their children on the surrounding slopes. We had spent the previous night in the village in l'Auberge de Montségur (now l'Hôtel Costes) where we dined in a cosy stone-walled restaurant with a roaring log fire, walls hung with medieval tapestries, cats for company, and the best coq au vin ever!

Looking down onto the village of Montségur in the snow

The best seat in the house!

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