Château de Montségur

Montségur, France

The Château de Montségur ruins are the site of a razed stronghold of the Cathars. The present fortress on the site is actually of a later period. The earliest signs of human settlement in the area date back to the stone age, around 80,000 years ago. Evidence of Roman occupation such as Roman currency and tools have also been found in and around the site. Its name comes from Latin mons securus, which evolved into mont ségur in Occitan, which means 'safe hill'. In the Middle Ages the Montsegur region was ruled by the Counts of Toulouse, the Viscounts of Carcassonne and finally the Counts of Foix. Little is known about the fortification until the time of the Albigensian Crusade.

In about 1204, Raymond de Péreille, one of the two lords of Montségur, decided to rebuild the castle that had been in ruins for 40 years or more. Refortified, the castle became a center of Cathar activities, and home to Guilhabert de Castres, a Cathar theologian and bishop. In 1233 the site became 'the seat and head' (domicilium et caput) of the Cathar church. It has been estimated that the fortified site housed about 500 people when in 1241, Raymond VII besieged Montsegur without success. The murder of representatives of the inquisition by about fifty men from Montsegur and faidits at Avignonet on May 28, 1242 was the trigger for the final military expedition to conquer the castle, the siege of Montségur.

In 1242 Hugues de Arcis led the military command of about 10,000 royal troops against the castle that was held by about 100 fighters and was home to 211 Perfects (who were pacifists and did not fight) and civilian refugees. The siege lasted nine months, until in March 1244, the castle finally surrendered. Approximately 220 Cathars were burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the pog when they refused to renounce their faith. Some 25 actually took the ultimate Cathar vow of consolamentum perfecti in the two weeks before the final surrender. Those who renounced the Cathar faith were allowed to leave and the castle itself was destroyed.

In the days prior to the fall of the fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the besiegers' lines carrying away a mysterious 'treasure' with them. While the nature and fate of this treasure has never been identified, there has been much speculation as to what it might have consisted of — from the treasury of the Cathar Church to esoteric books or even the actual Holy Grail.

The siege itself was an epic event of heroism and zealotry, akin to that of Masada, with the demise of the Cathars symbolized by the fall of the mountain-top fortress.

The present fortress ruin at Montségur is not from the Cathar era. The original Cathar fortress of Montségur was entirely pulled down by the victorious royal forces after its capture in 1244. It was gradually rebuilt and upgraded over the next three centuries by royal forces. The current ruin is typical of post-medieval royal French defensive architecture of the 17th century.

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Address

D9, Montségur, France
See all sites in Montségur

Details

Founded: 1204
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Pip Toogood (5 months ago)
If you're into Cathar history, and love castles, then Montsegur is the one you have to do. It's a long steep climb, so wear decent shoes, but the views from the top are worth it. This was the second time we have done the climb, and we waited until early afternoon when the temperatures are a bit cooler - it's still into the 20s in early October. You get free admission to the museum with the ticket, but we didn't get round to it as we spent far too much time at the top.
Ambro Sztaproy (7 months ago)
Medieval heritage "Cathar country". Nice view from the castle. Positive vibration.
312kasia (8 months ago)
„At the gates and the walls of Montségur / Blood on the stones of the citadel. / Facing the sun as they went to their grave / Burn like a dog or you live like a slave / Death is the price for your soul's liberty / To stand with the cathars and to die and be free.“ („Montségur“ by Iron Maiden)
Max Kenny (9 months ago)
Nice place, it's just a ruin but has informative info panels etc. and the history is fascinating. Don't attempt if you have poor stamina or aren't agile as the climb is difficult. Also careful with small kids, there are lots of steep drop offs on the way and at the top.
Jamie Hay (11 months ago)
really stunning location for this very ruined castle. Excellent views from the castle and of the castle from below. Pretty reasonable entry fee gets you into the museum in the village as well and it is worth a look. The walk up the castle is pretty steep, so might not be for everyone.
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