Cathar Castles   
Château de Minerve ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about Occitan. Castèl de Menerba)

submit to reddit


Minerve (Occitan: Menèrba) is a commune in the Hérault département in Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France.

It was the site of a ten week siege by Simon de Montfort during the Cathar Crusades, after which some 180 Cathars were burned to death at the insistence of Catholic Church leaders.

The village was protected by a double curtain wall, and overhanging natural ledges; but this did not stop Simon de Montfort's crusader army. They set up four catapults around the fortification in 1210: three to attack the village, and the largest, called Malevoisine ("Bad Neighbour"), to attack the town's water supply. Viscount Guilhem of Minerve and the 200 men of his garrison could not resist for long. The defensive walls were breached by St Rustique's well, and Guilhem was obliged to negotiated the town's surrender.

Minerve is located on above the River Cesse in a naturally strong defensive position. Near the village the river disappears underground in a large, natural tunnel. There are a few vestiges of the medieval castle remaining and some moving monuments to the Cathar martyrs.

The village's antiquity is evident from its name, for a temple to the goddess Minerva once occupied the site.



It was here that Cathars took refuge after the massacre of Béziers in 1209. Minerve was surrendered to the Crusaders on 22 July 1210.  Guilhem saved the villagers but he could not save the Cathars who had taken refuge in the town. Some 150 to 180 Cathar Parfaits were burned alive when they refused to abjure their faith. 

Here is the account given in the contemporary Song of the Cathar Wars , laisse 49, written in Occitan, by a poet sympathetic to the crusader cause:


Senhors, so fo en estiu, cant l'iverns se declina,
Que reven lo dos temps e torna la calina ;
E lo coms de Montfort de l'ostejar s'aizina,
Al castel de Menerba, qu'es lai ves la marina,
Mes lo setge entorn, c'aitals es sa covina ;
E dressa sos calabres e fai Mala Vesina,
E sas autras peireiras e dona e reïna.
E dressa sos calabres, e fai Mala Vezina
E sas autras peireiras e dona e réina.
Pessia los autz murs e la sala peirina
Que so faitz de mortier, d'arena e de caucina.
Mot bon denier costeron e mota masmudina.
Si lo reis de Marocs ab sa gent sarrazina
Estes en tôt entorn, per santa Katerina!
No lor tengra nulh dan valent un' angevina ;
Mas contra l'ost de Crist que tota gent afina
No pot garentir rocha que seit aut ni rabina
Ni castels en montanha.


Lo castel de Menerba non es assis en planha,
Ans si m'ajude fes, esenauta montauha:
Non a pus fort castel entro als portz d'Espanha,
Fors Cabaretz e terme, qu'es el cab de Serdanha.
Guilhems, sel de Menerba, sojorna e se banha:
Laïns s'era el mes ab tota sa companha.
Mas li nostri Frances e cels de vas Campanha,
Mancel e Angevi, e Breton de Bretanha,
Loarenc e Friso e celh de Alamanha
Les ne traiso per forsa ans que venga la granha,
E i arson mant eretge felo de puta canha
E mot fola eretga, que ins el foc reganha.
Anc no lor laichá hom que valha una castanha;
Pois gitet hom los cors e•ls mes e mei la fanha,
Que no fesson pudor a nostra gent estranha
Aicelas malas res.

Google map showing the location of Château de Minerve




Minerve June/July 1210

Now in Summertime, my lords, when winter was past
and fine days and hot weather had returned,
the Count de Montfort prepared for his expedition
against Minerve, which lies towards to coast.
He laid siege to the place as had planned,
and set up his catapults, making Bad Neighbour
the queen and lady of all his siege engines.
He smashed openings in the high walls
and in the stone-built hall, mortared with sand and lime;
many a good penny they had cost and many a masmudina.
If the King of Morocco and his Saracens
had sat down all around the place, by St Catherine,
they could have done no damage worth an Anjou halfpenny,
but against the host of Christ, the judge of all,
no high rocks, no steepness may avail, no mountain fortress hold out.


The castle of Minerve sits not on a plain,
But stands, as God is my witness, o
n a high spur of rock.
There is a no stronger fortress this side of the Spanish passes,
Except Cabaret and Termes at the head of Cerdagne.
William, Lord of Minerve, rested and bathed,
Shut up in the castle with his whole troop.
Our French men and those from Champaigne,
From Maine, and Anjou and Brittany,
From Lorraine, and Frisia and Germany
Drove them all out by force before the grain ripened.
And there they burned alive many heretics, sons of bitches,
Frantic men and crazed women who shrieked among the flames.
Not the value of chestnut was left to the survivors.
Afterwards, the bodies were were thrown out and mud shovelled over them
So that no stench from these foul things
Should bother our foreign forces.

Google map showing Château de Minerve



The Cistercian chronicler Vaux de Cernay noted that it was not necessary to throw the heretics into the flames, for they went voluntarily.  They claimed that "neither death nor life can separate us from the faith to which we are joined". 

Their behaviour seems to have impressed some of their persecutors, but not enough to raise qualms about killing them. A strangely evocative plaque - shown on the right - commemorates the massacre. It says "Ici pour la foi Cathare 180 Parfaits sont morts par les flammes" - loosely, "Here, for the Cathar faith, 180 Parfaits were burned to death".


The town has kept its charm with its gates, the covered street leading to a well and its two walls.  

Nothing much remains of the castle except the candela - a slender octagonal tower - and one facade, but you can clearly see the town's exceptional defensive position. A museum displays figurines showing the history of the Cathars and of Minerve and a monument commemorates the mass murder perpetrated here in 1210

The village is the capital of the Minervois wine region, and is classified as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the "Most Beautiful Villages In France").





The only part of the "Cathar" castle still standing. The flag of the Counts of Toulouse flies on the site.


On the eight hundredth anniversary of the massacre of Cathars by French Catholic crusaders at Minerve on 22 July 1210, the inhabitants of the town installed a memorial to their ancestors - shown below. It says, in Occitan:
"Minerve remembers PARATGE!"
Click here for an explanation of the term Paratge





You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Beliefs.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Visit the Cathar Tours Website for more information




Rue Escalier, Minerve
Minerve in 1950
Minerve in 1950, Southern postern gate
Minerve, date unknown
Minerve, from the north of the village,1920
Minerve, from the north of the village,1910
Pont du Moulin in the Brian Valley to the north of Minerve, 1910.
Minerve in 1905
Minerve in 1905



In the Town.
Closeup of the only part of the "Cathar" castle still standing.
Closeup of the only part of the "Cathar" castle still standing.
The (Modern) Bridge


Natural Defenses
The Candella, the only part of the "Cathar" castle still standing
A memorial to the Cathar "martyrs" burned alive here by the Abbot arnaud Amoury and Simon de Montfort. Carved on the monument are the simple words in Occitan: "Als Catars": - To the Cathars
The only part of the "Cathar" castle still standing. The flag of the Counts of Toulouse flies on the site


The Village from the other side of the gorge
.Natural Defenses









   ::::   Link to us   ::::   Cathar Castle Resources   :::    © C&MH 2010-2015   :::   :::