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Cathars Put to the Flame

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On the trail of the Cathars, I visited the fortified, medieval village of Minerve, France, in the Herault department in southern France. Minerve is perched on top of the gorge of the river Cesse at the confluence of the rivers Briant and Cesse. A pedestrian village to visitors, Minerve was a sanctuary village for Cathars who fled the massacre of Beziers during the Albigensian Crusade to wipe out the Cathars as a heretic religion in 1210.

The butcher of Beziers, Simon de Montfort, besieged the village, demanding it give up the Cathars being given refuge. Simon de Montfort had earlier led the razing of Beziers, France in his quest to kill Cathars. The citizens of Beziers refused to reveal who the Cathars were living among them so Montfort instructed his troops to ‘kill them all; God will recognize his own’; hence, 20,000 men, women, and children were put to the sword in Beziers.

After besieging Minerve for six weeks and cutting off the town’s water supply using catapults, the Commander of the village garrison negotiated a surrender sparing him, his troops, and the villagers. The 140 Cathars who had been given refuge in Minerve refused to recant their Cathar beliefs and so were burned at the stake at the confluence of the two rivers.

The memorial to the martyred Cathars stands on the main street in the upper village. Minerve is listed as one of ‘The Most Beautiful Villages of France’ and is the capital of the Minervois wine region.

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