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Cathar Castles - Minerve

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Minerve, a once fortified village perched on two cliffs with one road in, is a curvy 15 minutes into the Black Mountains from several charming villages below like Azille, Homps or Olonzac.

This once-fortified village is a dramatic sight to see with only one ruined finger of masonry left from its original state that sits on a plateau in the limestone gorge.

minerve

It was the site of a 10-week siege, by Simon de Montfort, who subsequently massacred its 180 Cathar inhabitants in the 13th century. The village was protected by a double curtain wall and overhanging natural ledges, above the River Cesse in a naturally strong defensive position.

Near the village the river even disappears underground in a large, natural tunnel below, a nice hike to finish the day’s visit. Access to the village is from a walking path down from the modern parking lot, or by walking across a high bridge that spans from the village to one side of the gorge. Arriving at Minerve is most impressive from the South end, near the village of La Caunette.

Cathar Castles - Lastours

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Chateaux de Lastours, another nearby Cathar site in the Minervois, is a cluster of 4 ruined fortresses in the Black Mountains.  The historical sight is protected by two deep valleys and is an unusual arrangement of ruins being spread out among the rocky hills.

 lastours

This fortification belonged to the Lords of Cabaret, giving the name to the northernmost tower. The smaller tower, Le Regine, which was built much later upon the same rocky outcrop nearest Cabaret, dates at sometime after 1260. The southernmost tower, Quertinheux, is slightly isolated and seems to be an advanced lookout of sorts. Surdespine, or Thornflower, is on the highest ground of the four, however the least preserved. All four of the towers can be visited by hiking up from the village of Lastours below, following the footpath from one chateau to the next with views of the surrounding valleys along the way. Getting to the town of Lastours is an easy trip starting from one of several villages at the base of the Black Mountains like Caunes-Minervois or Carcassonne.

Stay tuned for the next Cathar sight in this series - more reasons to visit us in the Minervois!