Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
Cathar Castle Tours


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CATHAR TERMINOLOGY

A Cathar Glossary

The area governed by the Counts of Toulouse and their vassals covers a large part of modern France - almost a third of it. Throughout much of that area lie the ruins of castles that gave shelter to the Cathars in the thirteenth century and were besieged, often several times.

Their are few material vestiges of the Cathars. Mainly, this is because they rejected and despised all material possessions. They had no church buildings, no chapels, cathedrals or abbeys. They has no gold chalices, no crosses, no relicries, no bejewelled mitres, silk robes or fine paintings or sculptures. They did have houses and cemeteries, but none of them survive. Even their dead bodies were destroyed. Their houses were pulled down, their graves exhumed, and their bodies burned by the Inquisition. Their ashes were scattered in rivers to preclude even the possibility of their remains becoming holy relics. Cathar towns like Fanjeaux have lost their city walls and many of their buildings.

This leaves precious little to see. Cathar documents exist, but they are scattered around the world, from Paris to Dublin and the Vatican archives. Castles where Cathars sought refuge are mostly destroyed, often replaced by later French castles that are themselves in ruin. The one castle that could lay claim to being a "Cathar Castle" in the sense that it was fortified specifically to protect Cathars (Montsegur) was destroyed by the French and replaced by a new Royal castle, only the ruins of which survive.

If you know where to look (and Tourist Offices will be of little help here) you can still find chateaux that date from the Cathar period. And there are other vestiges too. Houses of the Inquisition have survived, as have cathedrals and churches where the Counts of Toulouse were flogged for their Cathar sympathies, the Abbeys where the Albigensian Crusade was planned. Cistercian, Dominican and Franciscan Orders still survive. There are also monuments to fallen Kings and crusaders, memorials to Cathar "martyrs", archaeological digs, the sites of various massacres, and so on. There is even a surviving castle that hosted a Cathar Council.

Not to be underestimated are many other survivals from the Middle Ages that we take for granted: the spectacular Pyrenees, vast forests, thousands of miles of trails the Cathars walked, the plants and animals they knew, the mountain air they breathed, the early morning mist flowing like water from one valley into the next that they too must have seen.

We even have their language, which was then called Roman, and which the French later called the Langue d'Oc, poets called Provençal, and modern scholars call Occitan. Not least is their enduring memory in the Languedoc: the of the flag of the medieval Counts of Toulouse flies everywhere throughout their ancient territories. Locals still recite from memory the scathing Occitan assessment of the hated Simon de Montfort from the contemporary Song of the Crusade. The Counts and their Cathar vassals are still remembered and locals affirm that "You are not altogether dead as long as someone remembers your name".

Today, there is a thriving Cathar tourist industry. Many communes own the ruins of the local castles and charge a small fee for entry. For your entry fee you get a small brochure, usually available in (imperfect) English, generally concentrating on the architecture rather than on history.

If you are interested in visiting Cathar sites in the Languedoc, you basically have two options:

  1. Read some good books on the subject, buy a map and spend a week or two travelling around. You will need your own transport (horse, cycle, motor cycle or motor car). If you have a few months you could even walk, as the Cathars did.
  2. Find an organised tour, run by someone who knows the subject.

Beware that there are very few organisations offering solid information about the Cathars and lots offering an assortment of "spirituality": holistic healing, reincarnation, mysticism, conspiracy theories, esoteric history, shamanism, mystery religions and so on.

For recommended books to read to get the most out of your visit, click on the following link for a recommend list of books in English

The webmaster offers personally conducted week-long guided tours each year. Click here to visit the Cathar Country Website for more information.

 

First page of Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews - Cathar Bible in Occitan, from Lyon

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921)
La Délivrance Des emmurés de Carcassonne, 1879
oil on canvas ( 115 cm c 150 cm)
Musée Des Beaux Arts, Carcassonne, France

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Photographs

A medieval doodle of a Cathar being burned at the stake.
 

Bible moralisée Oxford-Paris-London
BNF Lat11560 f1v (Job) showing Franciscans watching a Cathar Consolamentum

 
 
road sign in Pieusse, Aude
 

Carcassonne - Château Comtal

 

Villerouge Termenes
staircase built within the thickness of a tower wall

 

Medieval window seat at Villerouge Termenes where the last known Cathar Parfait in the Languedoc was burned alive for disagreeing with Catholic theology.

 

Trencavel seal reproduced in stone in Béziers

 

The achievement of arms of Counts of Toulouse

 
 

Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921)
The Agitator of La
nguedoc, 1882
oil on canvas ( 115 cm c 150 cm)
Musée Des Augustins, Toulouse, France

 

Puilaurens

 
 
 

Villerouge Termenes where the last known Cathar Parfait in the Languedoc was burned alive for disagreeing with Catholic theology.

 

Barbican, Aude Gate, Carcassonne

The Chateau Comptal at Carcassonne
 

Donjon d'Arques

 

Memorial at Les Casses where 60 Cathars were burned alive

 

Montsegur

 
 
 
 
road sign in Camon, Ariege
 
 
road sign in Minerve
 

Queribus

 

Carcassonne

 

Château of Foix, seat of the Counts of Foix

 

Barbican, Aude Gate, Carcassonne

 

Dominic Guzmán (with a halo), Arnaud Amaury, and other Cistercian abbots crush helpless Cathars underfoot - a sanitised version of the persecution of the Cathars

 

 

 

 

 

Further Information on Cathars and Cathar Castles

 

 

If you want to cite this website in a book or academic paper, you will need the following information:

Author: James McDonald MA, MSc.
Title: Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
url: http://www.cathar.info
Date last modified: 8 February 2017

 

If you want to link to this site please see How to link to www.cathar.info

 

For media enquiries please e-mail james@cathar.info

 

 

 

Click here to find out about Langudoc Heraldry

 

 The Cross of Toulouse. Click to see information about it.

 


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