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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D9, Montségur, France
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Founded: 1204
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

X G Z (2 months ago)
Worth it of visiting, very kind reception and interesting(cruel and scary also) history of cathares. Unfortunately not a great sunny day one can see far far away, expecting next time
M B (3 months ago)
I did not climb it, but the view down there is amazing still. Unfortunately, no toilet facilities on the premises.
D V (DV) (3 months ago)
I went to Château de Montségur on the 7-04-2024. It was a amazing experience. The climb was not as bad as I thought it looked. It has steps in places, some quite high and quite rocky and uneven, so just take your time if you have concerns. I went with someone who had a hip replacement 8 weeks ago, and they managed the climb too( she was a little sore but not too bad). One of our party mentioned he wished he had better trainers as his feet hurt coming down with the pressure of the stones on the souls of his feet. Either walking shoes or descent cushioned trainers will be fine. It took me around 25 minutes and I stopped at a couple of view points for photos and just to take in the beautiful landscape. There was no charge to go up as out of season I believe. Car park is free, and it looks fairly new restaurant opposite the car park, however this wasn't open as again out of season. The climb is well worth it, take a pack lunch and water and enjoy the energies and view. (NOTE, no where to fill up water bottles on the climb or at the bottom) You might as well make the most of the climb LOL and make a couple of hours of it. On our visit we up again at night fall to experience the energies and take night pictures in the dark. (Take good torches and quite rocky navigating the descent in pitch dark .Again a amazing experience as we had the Château to ourselves. Well worth the trip and I will visit again in the future
Susan Pepper (9 months ago)
Amazing climb and views. Can download an ap to listen to history in english. 6 euros entry in cash. Steep but fine if you go gently. Can rent stucks for 2 euros if needed. I took mine and was glad to have them.
Hunter Purvis (12 months ago)
Beautiful medieval castle full of history. The museum and town below are also lovely. Loved the view from the top after a tough but rewarding hike!
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