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:

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

 

 


 

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

 

 

 


GUIDED TOURS OF CATHAR CASTLES OF THE LANGUEDOC

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 www.cathar.info)

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

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

Visit the Cathar Tours Website for more information

 

 

Photgraphs

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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 2010-2014   :::   contact@catharcastles.info   :::