Montségur Castle

The Cathar refuge

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The countryside unfolding before the eyes of any visitors who climb the legendary “pog” of Montségur is breathtaking. The terrible and fascinating history of the place is spoken of in hushed voices. The museum in the peaceful village at the bottom of the hill faithfully recreates the memory of it.


Raymond de Péreille, feudal lord of Montségur, erected a small defensive compound and a few Cathar religious houses on the pog. He granted the Church of these heretics refuge there in 1232 and allowed them to set up their “capital and heart” there. Lords chased from their lands, men-at-arms and the faithful among the common people inhabited this fortified village, which offered them guaranteed protection. The pog became a symbol of religious, military and political resistance. In 1242, it was the point of departure for the troops who massacred the Inquisitors in Avignonet, Lauragais. That was the last straw for the French king. He resolved to do away with Montségur. The pog was placed under siege. This siege was to last from spring 1243 to March 1244. A commando succeeded in conquering the peak of Roc de la Tour and installed a bricole there to bombard the castrum, where the defending troops were now trapped. The garrison was exhausted. Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix, the commander of the fortress, negotiated their surrender. The Cathars were faced with a choice: convert or die. They chose the stake. After these events, the lord of Lévis, acting on behalf of the king, had a new château built to keep watch over the area from the mountaintop...

The path

First of all, we can see some prairies, which may have been the theatre for the great burning of 1244, then a stele erected during the 60s by the Société du Souvenir et des Etudes cathares (the Cathar Memorial and Study Society) to the memory of those who lost their lives at the stake. Further up is the “donkey’s step”, a remainder of the original path, which was solidly built to make it easier for horses to walk along it. Knights, traders, farmers bringing supplies to the castrum, visitors come to hear a sermon, receive consolamentum or see a relative...all these trod these slopes on a daily basis.

The château

The château of the lord of Lévis hugs the outline of the rock face tightly. Inside, cut off from the modern world and seated on the silent stones, you can listen to the guide tell the epic tale of the siege of Montségur and its tragic outcome. After this moving story, move on to the dungeon, with its beautiful windows, and where you can make out a staircase joining the two floors.

The castrum

A few walls can be seen on the slopes. Soon, you will be able to see the peak of Roc de la Tour, just coming into view in the forest in the distance. This is the route that the assailants took in order to surprise the defenders: the barbican defending the castrum fell, then the final ramparts caved under the blows from stone cannonballs, some of which have been found.


There is a 360° view from the château, and the viewpoints are spectacular. From the entrance, the village down below looks tucked into the valley, dominated by high mountains. On the castrum side, the countryside unfolds as far as the eye can see in the direction of the Toulouse region, Lauragais and the Sault plateau.


As you walk

Montségur catle museum


On 1 March 1244, Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix negotiated the surrender of Montségur. Talks were successful. A partial amnesty was granted to all the defenders, including those who had participated in the Avignonet expedition. They were to be punished only lightly by the Inquisition. The inhabitants of the castrum who renounced their Cathar faith were promised their lives and their freedom. The others would be burned alive. A two-week truce was granted by Hugues d’Arcis, leader of the besieging troops, before this agreement is enforced. Why did he grant this truce? Which reasons were given? What happened during those two weeks? . No-one knows, but no Cathar renounced his faith, and some people even converted to Catharism. All of them, over 200 in number, chose the stake. The symbolic significance of this event is so great that its power can still be felt today.