The current fascination that people have with the cathar castles is perhaps because of the simple pure life that the cathars pursued; or perhaps because of the terrible persecution the cathars suffered at the hands of the Albigensian Inquisition.
Equally, whispered suggestions that there might be a connection between the cathars, their castles, and the hiding place of the Holy Grail have done little to dispel interest. The book ‘The Da Vinci code’ has doubtless played a role.
Of course, now in the 21st century, we are all on the side of the peace-loving cathars and not the side of the terrible crusaders. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far, and at the time there was a case for the attack son their way of life and principles, but it is easy to sympathise with the plight of the cathars as they tried simply to live moral, good lives – but without the Catholic church to guide them, a rejection that was ultimately to be their downfall.
The result is that the cathar castles of the Languedoc region hold an extra special fascination, as we listen to tales of the terrible barbaric acts that were conducted in these isolated hostile environments in an effort to restore ‘law and order’ to the people. If you want tales of brutality – eyes poked out, limbs chopped off, ‘heretics’ thrown into great fires – then this is the place for you!
The distinguishing characteristic of the cathar castles is their location. Typically built in improbably high locations on needle thin crags of rocks, the castles were very able to defend themselves against almost all invaders and attacks.
Two of the best known of the cathar castles are found at Queribus and Peyrepertuse, inland from Perpignan in the central part of the south of France. Others are scattered around the Languedoc region.
All are extraordinary, despite the general poor condition they now find themselves in – typically ruins with only a couple of rooms remaining that are clearly identifiable. Their location also assures that you have fine views across the surrounding countryside – where you can stand and reflect on whether you would hold your faith in such difficult circumstances.
Be sure to visit if you are in the region.