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Montségur Castle

Gallery of 16 photos for Montségur Castle

Montségur Castle is an imposing fortress ruin perched on a high rocky peak near the Pyrenees in the south of France. It's know as one of the more famous Cathar Castles, although the ruins here are of a castle that was rebuilt over three centuries following the destruction of the original in 1244.

Montségur Castle perched on a rocky During the 12th century the family Péreille had a chateau on top of this high, rocky mountain that dominated the countryside (often called Montségur I ).

At the beginning of the 13th century during the start of the Albigensian Crusade, the lords who had lost their lands because of the crusade took refuge in Montségur. Called faydits, these rebels had the chateau transformed into a high fortress as a main defense for the Cathars (Montségur II ).

Montségur Seige & Massacre. A period-looking stele marking the Avignonet (now Avignonet-Lauragais) is a small town between Toulouse and Carcassonne. In May 1242, a group of eleven Catharism Inquisitors visiting the town were massacred in their sleep by the military chief of Montségur. In response to the Pope's anger, the King ordered Hugues des Arcy to wipe out Montségur, and he began a siege of the castle in May 1243.

There had been earllier sieges of Montségur, without success. In 1212 by Guy de Montfort; in 1213 by Simon IV de Montfort; in 1241 by Raymond VII de Toulouse. The 1243 siege, though, was more determined. A force of 10,000 royal troops were arrayed against a castle with 100 armed defenders and 211 pacifists. The siege lasted ten months, including through a harsh winter, and by March 1244 the Cathar defenders surrendered.

The agreed penalty for all those who would not renounce their faith was to be burnt as heretics. A large bonfire was built on the plains at the base of the mountain and, on 16 March 1244, over 220 Cathars mounted the bonfire to die in martyrdom. This event effectively ended the Albigensian Crusade and the Cathars movement. This stele (photo) was made in the period style and erected on the site in 1960, in memory of the event.

Aerial photo of Montségur Castle on Following the surrender, the fortress of Montségur and the village that was located there were razed, and soon after a new castle was begun on the site (Montségur III ). This apparently evolved into a defensible castle that remained until around 1510, and was then abandoned and fell into disrepair. The ruins of this castle were declared a monument historique in 1862, those are the ruins you'll find there now. After the fall of Montségur to Royalists troops, many Cathars took refuge in Quéribus Castle, which became (some say) the last refuge of the Cathars.

Some terraced, stone dwellings have been unearthed on the slope to the northwest of the donjon end of the castle. These have been confirmed as some of the original Cathar houses.

Visiting Montségur Castle

Visitors descending a lower part of A large (free) parking area is located astride the road just below the south flank of the mountain, just one km up the road from Montségur village.

The view of Montségur Castle looms high above when you stand in the parking area below. We sat and watched as people arrived, seeing them exit their véhicules, look up, and gasp: it can't be up there, can it? It seems daunting from below, perched 170 m above, but a clear trail to the top is used daily by many reasonably fit people of all ages. Parts of the trail are steep and much of it has rocky, irregular steps, so it's no walk-in-the-park. Also, the trip back down will be hard on the knees.

The ticket booth for the paid castle visit is located in the wood, about 15 minutes up the trail. There, you purchase entry to the castle, and optional headphones that link to information panels along the trail and various points around the castle ruins.

Timing. The trip up took us about 45 minutes (with our creaky joints and ample photography). We spent about 35 minutes exploring the site, without rushing and checking out all the views. The return trip back down to the parking at the bottom was about 25 minutes for us, giving a visit total of 1 hr 45.

Practical. (2019)
Cost: 5.50 euros adults; 3.00 kids 8-15 (includes entry to the museum in the village)
Open: 10h-18h; summer 9h-18h; winter 11h-18h

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