According to some researchers, the Scottish name Mathers originates from a place name on the east coast of Scotland, a place name associated with the Clan Barclay. The Barclay lairds of Mathers took the title “laird of Mathers” or equivalently “Second of Mathers” etc, and some Mathers claim that this is the origin of the Mathers surname, and by implication, that the Mathers descend from the early Barclays of Mathers. There are certainly quite a number of people called Mathers who lived in this area in the nineteenth century, but its more than likely that they took their name from the place rather than by descent from the Barclays. But I won’t let that stop me from claiming a cannibal laird as an ancestor – see my earlier post https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/01/20/my-cannibal-ancestors/
Further up the Vicdessos valley from the ice age paintings of Niaux ( https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/02/23/the-ice-age-paintings-of-the-grotte-de-niaux/) is one of the less well known Cathar castles, known as Montréal de Sos. It sits on a rocky outcrop, the Vic de Sos, from which the valley gets its name. Occupied since the Bronze age, this was the site of an Iron Age oppidum, a Carolingian fortress, and during the Cathar period one of the most powerful castles of the Foix region, Montréal-de-Sos. Under the castle remains is a cave with two exits – or an entrance and a different exit. Such caves were used for initiation rituals in Cathar times.
The Cathar castle of Montsegur sits on top of a limestone peak (or pog in Occitan) at around 3000 feet. Here several hundred Cathars held out for 10 months against the besieging French army of over 6,000 men in 1243-44.
One of the southernmost Cathar castles, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, Puilaurens sits on a 700 m high rocky outcrop.. Perhaps the best-preserved of Languedoc’s many cathar castles of the area, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys. Very atmospheric! Puilaurens was originally built by the Visigoths
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. Continue reading