|View from Montségur over the village and hills|
|Inside the fortress|
Then we took a wander around the sleepy village. Many houses were shuttered up, meaning they were either holiday homes or gîtes (self-catered flats). It felt a little abandoned, and I can imagine the winters are quite harsh up there. Unfortunately, the museum was closed on a Monday.
Then we drove back to the car park at the foot of the château de Montségur, which still meant we had to climb the 200m to the peak. A steep climb where you require good hiking shoes and a sense of balance. And a dog that pulls you up... ;-)
|The fortress from the foot of the hill|
The hill has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and also the Romans were there. The name Montségur has Latin origins: mons securus. In the early 13th century, a vassal of the count of Foix built a fortress on the top of the hill, and a range of dwellings built into the rocks, which were inhabited by his people. Sadly, only few remnants of these early buildings remain.
Of course, the site is best known as being the seat of the Cathars, a ’sect’ whose leanings go back in time to the early Christian teachings, from around 1232. Earlier, the Church had sought – and found – the help of the French kings keen to expand their reaches across the independent south, and in May 1243, the siege of Montségur began. An army of several thousand tried for months to attack and starve out the residents, and in March 1244, they succeeded, most likely by attacking the most difficult, but weakest, spot. Their offer to leave those who converted ’genuinely’ back to Catholicism was declined by many believers, and over 200 ’heretics’ were burnt at the Prats dels Crémats, the ’field of the burnt’. A memorial now stands in this place.
|Memorial at the Prats dels Crémats|
|Hubby and Ellie Dog|
We spent at least 1 1/2 hours up there, walking around the walls and into the ruins. It’s an awe-inspiring site! It did not feel like a place of massacre (such as I sensed when visiting Culloden battle field near Inverness, Scotland), but had a rather peaceful feel to it. Something I didn’t expect.
Now, we have our sight on the other Cathar castles. We have so far visited Lastours and Montségur, and, of course, we look out over Carcassonne every day. So which one will be next?
|View from the path leading up|
|View north from the settlement|
(in French, village and castle information)
http://www.cathar.info/cathar_chronolgy.htm#annex (timeline of Cathar history in English)
All images (c) Cathie Dunn and Carcassonne Tour, 2019. All rights reserved.