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lastours cathar stronghold

The Cathar Castles
Catharism, a Christian religion based on the New Testament, appeared at the beginning of the 10th century. It was favourably received in various European countries before extending to the Languedoc region at the end of the 11th century. The " Good Men " who made up the clergy were called " Cathars " or " perfect ones " by their enemies (Cathar meaning people proclaiming to be pure).

lastoursTheir teaching was based on the opposition beween the good god and the bad god. The Cathars also harboured a deep hatred for the cross which links Christ to impurity. Leading a strictly religious and humble life, the Good Men preached by example in occitain (latin being the language of the catholics).

In the 13th century, the Cathar religion acquired great social importance. Pope Innocent 111 could not accept such a setback within the church of Rome. Since 1209 he had been undertaking to obliterate the " heretical plague " by launching a crusade against the Albigeois (another name for the Cathars). At the head of the crusaders, Simon de Montford invaded Languedoc, massacred the population and pillaged the land. The Cathars fled to the fortified villages belonging to their followers amongst the gentry. A century of inquisition ended the Cathar religion in 1321 with the death of Guilhem Bélibste, burnt at the stake - the last " perfect " Cathar.

lastoursToday, the major Cathar sites to be visited in the Corbières are:
Quéribus: occupied in 1239 by Chabert de Barbaira, follower of the king of Aragon
Termes: abandoned in 1210 following the poisoning of the village population
Villerouge Termenès: home of the Archbishop of Narbonne, witness of the death Guilhem Bélibaste in 1321
Peyrepertuse: Aragon castle, never taken by the crusaders
Aguilar: once belonged to the family of Termes
Other cathar castles to visit nearby: Puilaurens, Montségur, Puivert, Usson, Coustaussa

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@ LesCorbières.com February 2005