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The Cathar Martyrs

Chateau Montsegur

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Chateau Montsegur
 
This fine castle is in the Ariege Department.
 
 
Perhaps the most moving story of the crusade is that of Montsegur.  Being then outside of French territory and because if it's formidable natural defences, it was able to survive the early stages of the war.
 
Originally it housed a community of Cathar women, but with the advent of the crusade was more heavily fortified and manned by soldiers.  From 1232 the Cathar command moved to the location.

In 1243 Cathar sympathisers from the castle formed a raiding party which killed a number of inquisitors in Avignonet . This lead to retaliation:
 
Later in the year 1243 a siege was commenced under the leadership of Hugh des Arcis of Carcassonne.  The castle housed about 600 men, women and children, including about 200 Parfaits.  For months the siege was a stalemate with no progress on either side.  Before Christmas, however, a group of crusaders managed to storm part of the outer defences and a siege machine was set up able to bear more deadly fire on the defenders.  In February a two week truce was negotiated with the offer of Catholics being allowed to leave unharmed, only the Parfaits were to be burned.  After this offer a number of others joined the Parfaits and accepted death at the stake,  Around 220 Cathars went to their deaths on 16 March 1244.  A cross stands below the castle commemorating their brutal killing.

The present castle, like most in the area has been rebuilt by the French as a border fortress reinforcing it at the end of the 13th century, so is not in the form it would have at the time of the crusades.
 
Walking to the fortress is a very rewarding visit offering fine views passing and a moving memorial to the victims of the Holy Inquisition.

  

 

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