THE CATHAR FAITH
A CRITICAL INTRODUCTION
Copyright © Peter Wronski 2002
While trawling the web looking for information on the History of Montsegur Castle, I came across this website: MONTSEGUR AND THE CATHARS by PETER VRONSKY. It is an excellent website site about this subject matter and Peter has done it far better justice than I ever could. Instead of writing my own article on Montsegur I have, with Peter's kind permission, included a short extract and some info on this page and a link to his website so anyone interested can read the full article. For anyone remotely interested in Montsegur and the Cathars I can throughly recommend a visit to Peter's website.
I was very surprised to read that the ruins of the Montsegur Castle we can visit and explore today are NOT the original Cathar fortress of legend.
An extract from Peter's website from: NOTE ON THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE RUINS OF MONTSEGUR
is the decidedly unromantic fact that the present fortress ruin at Montsegur in France, is not from the Cathar era. The original Cathar fortress of Montsegur was entirely pulled down by the victorious French Royal forces after the fall of the castle and the surrender of the Cathers in 1244. It was gradually rebuilt and upgraded over the next three centuries by Royal forces. The current ruin dramatically occupying the site, and featured in illustrations, including those in this website, is referred to by French archeologists as "Montsegur III" and is typical of post-medieval Royal French defensive architecture. It is not "Montsegur II", the structure in which the Cathars lived and were besieged and of which no trace remains.
This is a fact that the French tourist authority underplays and one that Cathar enthusiasts often overlook; especially when discussing Montsegur's alleged solar alignment characteristics said to be visible on the morning of the summer solstice. This often mentioned solar phenomenon, allegedly occurring in an alignment of two windows in the fortress wall, has not been scientifically surveyed, measured, recorded or confirmed.
The Groupe de Recherches Archeologiques de Montsegur et Environs (GRAME) which conducted a definitive thirteen year archeological excavation of Montsegur and its vicinity in 1964 -1976, concluded in its final report that: "There remains no trace of the actual ruin of the first fortress which was abandoned before the 13th century (Montsegur I), nor of the one which was built by Raymond de Pereille around 1210 (Montsegur II)..."
For further discussion on this issue see:
- INTRODUCTION -
THE HERETIC CATHAR FAITH AND THE SIEGE
OF FORTRESS MONTSEGUR MARCH 1244
The ruins of the Montsegur are perched at a precarious 3000 foot (1,207 m.) altitude in the south of France near the Pyrenees Mountains. Located in the heart of France's Languedoc-Midi-Pyrenees regions, 80 km south-west of Carcassonne, Montsegur dominates a rock formation known as a pog--a term derived from the local Occitan dialect--pueg or puog: peak, hill, mountain.
In 1243-1244--the Cathars--a mysterious heretical sect were besieged at Montsegur by ten thousand Royal Catholic French troops. In March of 1244, the castle finally surrendered and the Cathar defenders were burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the pog.
In the days prior to the fall of the fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the French 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.
Montsegur is often named as a candidate for the Holy Grail castle--and indeed there are linguistic similarities in the Grail romance written by Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (c. 1200-1210). In Parzival the grail castle is called Monsalvat, similar to Montsegur and meaning the same thing: "safe mountain, secure mountain." The name of Raymond Pereille, the historic seigneur of Montsegur has slight simularities to protagonist of Eschenbach's epic, the knight Parzival. In Jüngerer Titurel (1272) by Albrecht von Scharfenberg, another Grail epic, the first king of the Holy Grail is named Perilla.
Myths and legends apart, the history of Montsegur is in fact both dramatic and mysterious. The siege was an epic event of heroism and zealotry; a Masada of the Cathar faith.
Subjects covered include:
1. THE PRE-CATHAR PERIOD 2. THE CATHAR ERA 1204 - 1242 4. THE SIEGE OF MONTSEGUR 1243-1244
5. THE FALL OF MONTSEGUR - MARCH 1244 6. THE AFTERMATH: MYTH AND LEGEND
7. THE NUMBER AND NAMES OF CATHARS PUT TO DEATH
Montsegur Castle Photographs
|Ben Hammott's Illustrated Guide to Rennes-le-Chateau No1||Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar||Illustrated Guide to Rennes-le-Chateau No2||
by Ben Hammott
Research in progress
Myths and Legends of Rennes-le-Chateau.
Sorting Fact from Fiction.
Does the Rennes-le-Chateau landscape really appear in the Poussin painting, 'Shepherds of Acadia?'
The Rennes-le-Chateau Museum Artifacts -Are they Sauniere's or Boudet's?
Does it contain a Secret?