If you don't know what "Cathar" means, and what an impact it had on France,
click here to go and read about
that part of history on Wikipedia. Just to be clear, the Cathars and the Templar Knights are not the same thing. The Templar
Knights were a religious military order charged with protecting pilgrims in the Holy Land. Catharism was a Christian dualist
or Gnostic movement between the 12th and 14th centuries which thrived in Southern Europe, particularly what is now northern
Italy and southern France. Followers were known as Cathars, or Good Christians, and are now mainly remembered for a prolonged
period of persecution by the Catholic Church, which did not recognise their variant Christianity.
The Templar Knights were eradicated by the French King Philip IV starting in 1307 and the trials and executions continued until 1314. The Cathars were eradicated on the orders of Pope Innocent III starting in 1209 and completed in 1229. The Pope commanded the French King Philip II to carry out the extermination known in history as the "Albigensian Crusade". Click here to read an in depth Wikipedia Article.
Rustiques is only 90 kilometers away from Chateau de Peyrepertuse and Le Château de Quéribus; these were the last two Cathar Fortresses to be defeated by the French Army as they waged war against the Cathars. These two chateaus were our first day trip targets, as they represented a unique history lesson for all of us.
Chateau de Queribus Map
For those of you who are not keen followers of French history, the Carcassonne area had been
and there a number of Cathar fortresses that are partially in ruins, in this area. Our first day's goal of travel adventure, was to visit the two furthest south castles;
Le Château de Quéribus
and Chateau de
Click here to view a stunning video of Queribus and the surrounding area.
Click here to go to the chateau de Queribus website.
Hiking up to Queribus
A bit of map study, showed that both Queribus and Peyrepertuse, could be visited in a single day, as they are close to each other. However, both castles are on top of large hills and require a bit of a hike to arrive at.
Just driving up to the parking lot was already steep, but then you have to park your car and walk up an even steeper rocky trail to reach the castle.
Queribus is one of the "Five Sons of Carcassonne", along with Aguilar, Peyrepertuse, Termes and Puilaurens: five castles strategically placed to defend the French border against the Spanish, until the border was moved in 1659.
It is sometimes regarded as the last Cathar stronghold. After the fall of Montségur in 1244 surviving Cathars gathered together in another mountain-top stronghold on the border of Aragon (the present border between the Aude and the Pyrénées-Orientales).
Click here to go to their website.
In image # 1, this is the view from the top of Queribus, and you can see that steep and winding road below that leads to the parking lot. Away to the left, a long way away, is Spain but at one time the Spanish border was very close to this location, which is why this castle was built in the first place.
In image # 2 you can see that the "castle keep" is still in good condition, considering that the French Army defeated this castle in 1255 - however - there was no fight here as the Cathars slipped away at night.
Finally at the Top
As you can see in these pictures, the valley below is quite a ways down, and the Cathars were able to block any French Army advance easily. I think it is quite probable that Celeste and I were relishing a "non climbing moment" here!
On this side of the ruins (image # 2), it was a sheer drop-off high above the valley below. I doubt that the castle could have ever been attacked from the south side!
On to Chateau de Peyrepertuse Map
Our next stop was Chateau de Peyrepertuse, just across the valley from Queribus. As you can see in this image (taken from the the trail), this chateau was even higher than Chateau de Queribús (Peyrepertuse is 800 meters in height and Queribús is 728 meters).
The hike up to the top was a bit challenging (think; steep, rocky and narrow trail), but well worth the trip, as the view from the Chateau ramparts was staggering - the entire valley below !
These images gives you a good idea of the amazing views from the chateau, somewhere in the distance is Spain. This image also shows that the chateau, even though made out of stone, is pretty much a ruin today.
Speaking of stone, and realizing how steep the trail was (800 meters in height) to arrive at the chateau, can you imagine the amount of effort it took to get all that stone up here? We found out later that the chateau and it's fortifications were started in the 11th century and repeatedly improved until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 established a new border between Spain and France.
Peyrepertuse is located on a limestone ridge at about an altitude of 800 meters, on top of a hill which separates Duilhac from the town of Rouffiac-des-Corbières, towering over scrubland and vineyards. A strategic position which enables one at the same time to see far into the valleys that circle it, to control the mountain passes, or to send communication signals to the Château de Quéribus a little further south.
Click here to view a very good video of Peyrepertuse and the surrounding area.
NOTE: Click here to view the Wikipedia article on this chateau.
Auberge la Batteuse
After descending from Peyrepertuse, we stopped to eat lunch at the Auberge la Batteuse, difficult to miss, as it is the only restaurant on the Route du Chateau to the Peyrepertuse parking lot, on the right hand side (as you are going up the hill). Excellent food, very friendly staff, and not expensive.
Click here to visit their website.
After lunch when we departed the restaurant, our Tom-Tom mapping device "Suzette" attempted to get us back to the E-15/A-9 Auto Route & we were navigated through Rivesaltes, a seriously small village. As the streets became narrower & narrower, we began to get worried that "Suzette" had made a mistake. In fact, at one point, we could reach out of our car windows and touch building walls. Eventually we got through the village and could see the E-15/A-9 which we entered and drove onwards.
We drove back to Rustiques via Narbonne, and to avoid the mountain roads, we drove over to the coast and took the A9 up to the A61. Perhaps a few more miles, but quite a bit faster, as it is all auto route with very few slow-downs or stops.
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