After another good breakfast (with boiled eggs!) we packed our bags and said goodbye to Foix.
As Janet's shoes had flapping soles, Julien decided to leave via an outdoor outlet store - the largest I have ever seen in my life!! We bought coats, shoes, knives, hats - the shop was fabulous and everything seemed so cheap but good and a huge range!!
Equipped, we went on to Montségur castle. This was the only truly Cathar castle, as it was actually held by Cathars and from here they launched their attack on Avignonet, which caused the Pope to send the first of the Inquisition to take depositions from the villagers in the town below the castle.
We parked in the car park below the castle and walked up, about 30 minute steep climb up a dirt track through scrub.
The entrance to the castle
Looking back to the snowy peaks
The long courtyard interior
The ruined interior
From 1232 Montsegur became the headquarters of the Cathar community in the Languedoc, and a refugee centre for "faidits" - outlaws who had been stripped of their lands and goods by the Roman Church. These faidits continued to wage a guerilla war against the invaders.
The Council of Beziers decided to destroy the last vestiges of Catharism in 1243. The Cathar sympathisers responsible for killing the Inquisitors at Avignonet were known to have come from Montségur. The Council therefore decided to take the château there, the last remaining major centre of Cathar belief. The château, perched on top of a majestic hill (called a pog), had already been reinforced.
The castle was besieged later in 1243 by the Archbishop of Narbonne, another bishop and Hughes des Arcis. For months the siege was unsuccessful but shortly before Christmas a group of Basque mercenaries scaled a seemingly impossible sheer cliff face, and overran a forward position. From here, under the direction of a Catholic bishop specialising in war machines, the French were able to construct catapults.
There is a legend that a horde of jewels and gold was smuggled out of the castle before it fell, carried through the siege lines where sympathisers turned a blind eye, and it is this that may have been the supposed treasure trove of the priest of Rennes-le-Chateau, which is close by Montségur.
225 Parfaits were burnt at the stake for refusing to renounce their faith. The fall of Montségur heralded the complete end to the Cathar heresy in Southern France.
After taking the castle the village at the slope of the castle was completely destroyed and the stones of the buildings thrown down the mountainside.
This monument marks the spot where it is thought the burning of the Parfaits took place.
Spectacular views from the walls with the town of Montségur below
We left Montsegur and had a picnic nearby in a field of flowers
Where is Montsegur?
From the castle walls you can just see Roquefixade and Puivert, which is our next castle to visit.