The Cathar country in the foothills of the French Pyrenees is one of my favourite places. I first went there in 1992 while living in Montpellier, then again in 1996, 2002 and most recently in 2011 with my family. I have pulled together a few photos from these trips and this first post features Château de Peyrepertuse and the nearby Château de Quéribus.
Peyrepertuse is perched on a high ridge in the arid, herb-scented hills of the Corbières to the south of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France. The name of Peyrepetuse derived from the ancient Occitan language (the language of Oc = Languedoc) and means Pierced Rock. These castles mostly date from the 11th to 13th centuries, the most spectacular are on mountains to the south of Carcassonne, and not far from the Pyrenees. This part of France is quite remote and sparsely populated.
The views across Languedoc from Peyrepertuse are spectacular, with sister castle Quéribus and the Pyrenees visible in the distance.A parapente soared around Peyrepertuse on my 1996 visit……
A new form of Christianity spread through the Languedoc and some other parts of France in the 10th and 11th centuries. The Cathars (or Albigensians) were immensely threatening to the Catholic church, and were proscribed as heretics by the Pope. The Albigensian crusades by the northern French armies, led for many years by the notoriously cruel Simon de Montfort, lasted from 1208 to 1271 and ended with the annexation of Languedoc to the French crown. It took the informers and torturers of the Holy Inquisition another 50 years to root out Cathars completely.
During the Albigensian Crusade Peyrepertuse served as a Cathar haven and stronghold, but was handed over to French forces without a battle in 1240. Known as one of the “five sons of Carcassonne” — five castles along the border between France and Spain — the French fortified the castle in 1242 to protect the border.
Peyrepertuse’s sister castle Quéribus is visible on the distant mountain ridge just to the left of centre, lit by the setting sun.
One of the five most famous Cathar castles, Quéribus was built in the 10th century, and became the property of the counts of Barcelona and then Aragon. After the fall of Montségur to the crusaders, some of the last Cathars retreated to the castle and the relative safety of its sheer mountain walls. It is smaller and better preserved than Peyrepertuse, but perhaps slightly less atmospheric.