The epic tale of the Cathars is spectacularly inscribed in the rugged landscapes of the Corbières reliefs and the Pyrenean foothills.
Between Toulouse, Foix, Albi and Carcassone many castles are perched on the rocks, mysterious ruins, releasing a mesmerising atmosphere.
All of them are telling a dramatic story, the journey of the catholic population that preached an exemplary austerity and virtue within a religious society of the XIII th century. These people were immediately chased, considered as “heretical”. Among 40 different ruins, the “Remparts délités of Peyrepertuse, the “Donjon solitaire of Quéribus” and the savage scenery of Montségur are representing the most dramatic Cathar ruins.
At the end of the trail…
Hiking on the winding roads of Aude and of Ariège will lead you to diverse places where “rock cities” became witnesses of the past, in remote villages, in caves that where often called home or also derelict castles.
Hidden at the bottom of canyons or at the top of steep cliffs, the Cathars protected themselves using the precipitous relief as their advantage.
Seat of Power
The fact is these castles, also called “citadels of vertigo” were built in the first place to ensure the power of the ruling lord. All these sites will force you to walk a bit more if you’re willing to learn more about them. Themed hiking expeditions, that will take you several days to complete, appear as the best way to discover this enigmatic region with an even more intimist touch.
Clinging to the rocky heights of the High Corbières, at an altitude of 800 metres, Peyrepertuse emerges from the midst of the Mediterranean scrubland known as the "garrigue" and overlooks the small village of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. This huge fortress covers the same area as the citadel of Carcassonne. Each year the largest medieval festival in the South of France takes place here, when many troupes perform in the castle and in a reconstructed medieval village.
Perched on top of a rocky peak at an altitude of 1,200 metres, the Château de Montségur in Ariège is nothing less than a legend. The castle's imperious ruins reaching up into the sky strike a chord with us all, pervaded with a still-palpable drama, energy and emotion.
Now a symbol of resistance against repression, Montségur was the last refuge of the Cathars, who had been persecuted for years throughout southern France by the Pope's army.
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