Saturday, 18 July 2015

Montsegur - The Location of the Last Big Cathar Siege

Atop of the 'Pog'
Montsegur is where many people feel the Albigensian Crusade came to an end. There were further skirmishes but essentially the siege of Montsegur is widely considered to be the last significant stand off between the Crusaders and the Cathars.

During that period it had become a refuge for the Lords who had been dispossessed of their land during the crusade. There were at least 600 of them living there, courtesy of Raymond de Pereille who had been asked to restore the castle in order to provide a safe haven on the very top of the rocky peak (or pog in Occitan).

Secondary Entrance
The single event that marked the death-knell for Catharism was the killing of eleven church inquiry members on the 28th May 1242, as they travelled through Avignonet, by a group of faydits (the depossessed lords) from Montsegur. The King of France ordered a blockade at Montsegur to appease the Pope who was angered by the killings.

The siege started about a year later in May 1243 under the command of Hugues des Arcy. It lasted 10 months and went right through a very severe winter. On the 1st March 1244 an attempt to escape the besieged castle failed and the stronghold was finally taken.  A 15 day truce was arranged and the Cathars had to choose whether to denounce their faith or suffer the consequences. The result was that on the 16th March 1244 over 220 Cathars were burned at the stake in Montsegur.

The only evidence you will find of what happened that day is a memorial on the path to the castle that commemorates the martyrdom of the Cathars. 

North West View
The castle that you can visit today is not the same castle that was there during the siege, that original castle was left in ruin and the latter day fortress that you can now visit is built on the ruins of the original site. It is still referred to as a Cathar Fortress because of it's history and the fact it is widely considered to be the place where Catharism came to an end.

To visit the castle you will have to be prepared for a steep climb and there is a modest admittance fee that gives you access to both the castle and the museum in the village below the castle rock. But 'wow' what a treat for anyone that relishes a great view whilst they explore the history of the Cathars. Makes both the climb and the fee well worth it.

There is a 'Table de Orientation' at the north west end which is where you will also find 'The Keep' and you can scramble around the outside to gain views in, literally, every direction.

A visit to the museum in the town after the castle will give you an opportunity to catch up with the full history of the fortress and is where you can find many artifacts discovered from the period of the siege, including the skeletons of a man and woman believed to have been killed by arrows during that time.

Montsegur is 30 km east of Foix and is 1200m above sea level. That is about an hour and a bit from Le Moulin. It is in the Ariege department of the Midi-Pyrénées.

The Keep

Table de Orientation

Inner Ward

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