Cathar Fortresses

A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.

by and - last updated on 5/8/2024

Travel Tile 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 Cathar movement, which flourished in Southern Europe, particularly in the Languedoc region of France, during the 12th and 13th centuries, represented a radical religious challenge to the Catholic Church. Rooted in the dualistic beliefs of the East, Cathars believed in two opposing deities: a good god, responsible for the spiritual realm, and an evil god, ruler of the material world. They viewed the Catholic Church as corrupt, believing it represented this evil deity due to its focus on material wealth and power.

Cathars led ascetic lives, aiming for purity and spiritual elevation. Their followers, known as "Perfects", practiced vegetarianism, celibacy, and believed in reincarnation. Their simple lives and beliefs attracted many followers, prompting alarm within the Catholic establishment. The Church's efforts to suppress the movement culminated in the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229), a violent campaign against Cathar strongholds, effectively crushing the Cathar movement. Despite this, the Cathars left an indelible mark on religious history, representing the broader struggle for religious reform and freedom of belief in medieval Europe.

A Brief History of the Knights Templar 

In order to understand what the Templars were about, you have to first understand how they were created. The First Crusade was successful in attacking and seizing Jerusalem from the Fatimid Caliphate in July 1099. This fact restored the pilgrimmages from Europe that many christians were undertaking, however, various bandits and Muslim groups were attacking pilgrims as they came by foot or caravan from seaports to Jerusalem. So in 1118 the Templars (their full name was the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) to protect these pilgrims from Muslim marauders. On March 29, 1139 a "Papal Bull" was issued by Pope Innocent II declaring the Templars to be an independent unit within the Catholic church. This Papal ruling meant that the Templars could pass freely through all borders, were not required to pay any taxes and were exempt from all authority except that of the Pope.

The Knights Templar created their headquarters in the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, and they rapidly began to recruit new members not only in the Holy Lands, but also around Europe. The Templars practically invented "remote banking" in that pilgrims (or anyone) would deposit money in a European Templar Knights facility and they would receive a receipt. This receipt could then be redeemed for the money it represented once the pilgrim reached their destination and went to a local Templar facility.

The Templars also became involved with money lending and frequently were lending money to various European Royalty including French Kings. So in 1305 when Pope Clement V attempted to shut down the Templars and merge them together with the Knights Hospitaller, the discussions were not proceeding well and this led Pope Clement V to ask for assistance from the French King Phillip IV. The French King had borrowed enormous sums of money from the Templars to help finance his war with England. So the arrival of a Papal request for assistance, coupled with King Phillip's desire to avoid repaying such a huge sum to the Templars, led him to arrest all the Templars in France on 13 October 1307. King Phillip decided to charge the Templars with heresy, idolatry and other charges that were erroneous. The Templars were tortured repeatedly until they "confessed" and this allowed King Phillip to "prove" to the Pope that all Templars should be executed.

King Phillip IV demanded that Pope Clement IV support him in this endeavor and so on 22 November 1307 the Pope issued a demand that required all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their property. It is important to know that the source of the Templar's wealth was primarily properties including farms, buildings, etc. WIth their extensive financial resources, the Knights Templar funded a large number of building projects around Europe and the Holy Land, many structures remain standing today. See this Wikipedia Article page for a list of Templar sites that they either owned or funded.

The Templar Knights trials began in 1307 and continued until 1314. The Templar Knights leader (Jacques de Molay) and his compatriots were burned at the stake in Paris on 18 March 1314. Coincidentally, as de Molay was being consummed by the flames, he shouted out "God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death". Pope Clement V died (at the age of 50) one month later, and King Philip IV died (at the age of 46) while hunting before 1314 ended.

As a footnote to this tragedy, the king of Portugal, Denis I, refused to pursue and persecute the former knights, as had occurred in other European countries under the influence of King Philip IV. Under King Denis' protection, Templar organizations simply changed their name from "Knights Templar" to "Order of Christ".

Cathar Country   3D Map

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

A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.

For those of you who are not keen followers of French history, the Carcassonne area had been Cathar Country 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 Peyrepertuse.

The Cathar fortress Château de Peyrepertuse, located in the Pyrenees mountains of southern France, is a remarkable medieval stronghold steeped in history. Perched atop a rocky ridge at an altitude of over 800 meters, this fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Built in the 11th century, it served as a strategic military outpost during the Cathar period and the Albigensian Crusade.

Click here to view a stunning video of Queribus and the surrounding area.
Click here to go to the chateau de Queribus website.

 
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
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.

 
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip. A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.

Queribus Ruins

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.

 
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip. A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.

The Top of Queribus Ruins

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. This is the highest peak in this area at 2,388 feet. 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!

 More Info for the Chateau de Queribus 

On to Chateau de Peyrepertuse   Map

Section Banner Image

Our next destination 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).

A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip. A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.

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 !

Château de Peyrepertuse is a captivating medieval marvel with a history dating back to the 11th century. Perched dramatically atop a rocky crag, it offers commanding views of the surrounding countryside. This historic stronghold played a significant role during the Cathar period and the Albigensian Crusade. Visitors can explore its well-preserved ruins, including imposing walls, towers, and a chapel, while soaking in the ambiance of its tumultuous past. Guided tours provide insights into the fortress's strategic importance and its enduring legacy as a symbol of resistance.

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 on Youtube.

 More Info for the Château de Peyrepertuse 

Auberge la Batteuse - Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse   Map

A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.

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.

Auberge la Batteuse is a charming countryside retreat nestled in the heart of the Alsace region. This picturesque inn offers guests a cozy and authentic French experience with its warm hospitality and rustic ambiance. Surrounded by rolling vineyards and lush greenery, it provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Guests can indulge in delectable regional cuisine made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients, accompanied by fine wines from nearby vineyards.

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 north 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.

 More Info for the Auberge la Batteuse 
  • Google Search Results list for "restaurants near Chateau de Peyrepertuse"
  • Google Search Results for "accommodations near Chateau de Peyrepertuse"
  • Auberge la Batteuse restaurant in Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, France
  • Google Search Results list for "accommodations in Cathar Country"
  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Amazon Search Results list for "Cathar Country"
  • Youtube Search Results list for "Cathar Country"
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Visiting Languedoc Roussillon & the Cathar country on the "France Just for You" site
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Carcassonne & Cathar Country, Alet le Bains, Camon, Mirepoix Tour from "Get Your Guide"
  • Our Image Gallery for Cathar Country
  • Wikipedia Article for Cathar Country
  • Google Image Gallery for Cathar Country
Expedia Advertisement
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Trip Overview
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Paris, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Bordeaux, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Carcassonne, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Pont du Gard, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Cathar Country, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Canal du Midi, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Lake Annecy, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Chamonix, France
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Munich, Germany
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Rothenburg, Germany
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Nuremberg, Germany
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Neuschwanstein Castle
A description and images from our 2013 European Driving Trip.
Salzburg, Austria
 

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.

Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Note: If you are interested, click here to view our European Travel Tips & Warnings. Or to take a look at our methods for planning, click here to view our Trip Planning Page..

 
 

To review any of our content, make suggestions and/or comments, please click the "Info" menu button at the top of this page. You will find our "Contact Us" link on that drop-down menu.

 
Matomo Link