Château de Montségur



A few years ago we visited the Château de Montségur. From what I remember, maybe the magnificent landscape and the views from the castle is the best from the trip, as the castle itself is in ruins. Once must have been an impressive construction on the mountain; today only the exterior walls of the castle remains. Besides, the current remains were built after the Cathars defeat. So I recommend to those who visit Montségur to know a little of its history.

The Château de Montségur is perhaps the most associated with the Cathars. Catharism was a doctrine of great importance for the history of southern France and northern Catalonia.

The Cathars distinguished between two creations: a true creation, from God, and an illusory creation, the visible world. And also they distingueshed between two principles: the principle of good and the principle of evil. For them our visible world was not a divine creation, something that was considered heresy at that time, X-XIII centuries. According to its dualistic logic, it was unimaginable that God, could sow the seeds of evil, either by the inability to only create good spirits, or even worse, for the pleasure of tormenting its own creation with evil.

Cathars myths say that the evil principle managed to seize the angelical souls breaking into the heaven of the true God. Thus,  Satan materialized these beings into two classes of angels of evil: those who were seduced and those who were captured. The first are the demons, and the latter are humans. These angels captured by Satan are held in reserve and introduced into the bodies as carnal acts occur. This transmigration of souls or metempsychosis is a key element in the Cathar doctrine. The number of transmigration is limited from 7 to 16, depending on the author. Reincarnation takes place in a determined human body, but sometimes can be an animal body, according to the merits of the individual in the last incarnation.

In such turbulent times as the tenth century, the Cathars preached equality between people and denied the value of wealth. Neither they believed in a hierarchy in the manner of the Catholic Church. The good men or the perfect ones, those who in this life had already reachen perfection, were detached from all earthly bondage and lived a truly austere life. They also believed in the equality between men and women, as women could be good women too. The life of penance that had these perfect ones, absolute chastity and prohibition of eating animals and all kinds of animal products except fish, was not required for believers. If anyone was unwilling to enter this ascetic life nothing happened, as the wheel of reincarnation continues and anyone would have more chances to save.

From 1232 Montsegur will become see and capital of the Cathar Church. Until 1243, when 10.000 armed men besiege the fortress during 11 months. 230 cathars will find a tragic ending, as they will be burned at the stake for refusing to renounce their beliefs.

Cathar cross next to the "Camp dels cremats"

Cathar cross next to the “Camp dels cremats”

Legend has it that the night before the killing of the Cathars, a group of men escaped from the castle carrying a treasure. It has been speculated that the treasure would be the Holy Grail, the Templar Treasure, ritualistic Cathar objects or even the Cathars that escaped itselfs. The truth is that there is no real proof of what these legends says, but were sufficiently attractive to the nazis, who arrived to Montsegur in search of the magical Holy Grail.

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