Last Thursday, we went in search of some glimpses of the Cathars – the mystical sect that flourished in the Languedoc from the 11th century to the mid thirteenth century.
The Cathars believed in a direct relationship with God, without the intervention of a priest, they refused to believe that the bread of the eucharist was the actual body of Christ, and rather than the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, they believed in a pure and good God of Heaven, and an earthly and sinful God of the World (Rex Mundi). They believed in re-incarnation and are sometimes known as the Buddhists of the Languedoc
Not surprisingly, the powers that be of the Catholic Church didn’t really approve, and in 1208, sent the Albigensian Crusade, led by Simon de Montfort among others to crush the heretics.
Over the next thirty-five years, adherents to the Cathar faith were persecuted and hunted down, and one of the final acts was the seige of Montsegur in 1244, where 200 believers were offered salvation if they recanted, but chose instead to walk on to the funeral pyre where they were burned alive. Nice.
We visited the most dramatic of the ‘Cathar castles’ – Chateau de Queribus – which keeps an eye above the Maury valley and the approaches from the south from a craggy notch in the mountains that separate the Corbieres from the Roussillon. And we took along a bottle of Les Genoux as a homage to the Cathars.
No blood was spilt on this visit. Only a few drops of red wine stained the ancient stones.
But the hand of the Cathars haunted us (and our photos)