Languedoc | Cathars & Crusaders
Southwest France was once a thriving and distinctive kingdom, the home of Catharism – an ascetic Christian sect that eschewed and threatened the power of Rome. In 1209 Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade to eliminate the ‘heretics’ of Languedoc. Twenty years of fighting followed, leaving behind spectacular castles and abbeys, and fundamentally altering the religious landscapes of Medieval Europe.
We explore Cathar cities and Catholic abbeys; grand ruinous castles perched on craggy hilltops, and the polished turrets of Carcassonne. Led by experts, this tour draws on the art, archaeology and written sources, delving into the deadly consequences of religious defiance in 13th century France.
- Ruined castles and deserted villages atop craggy hills, in beautiful green rolling landscapes
- Heretics and Holy War, the struggle for hearts and minds in Medieval France
- Stay within the walls of Carcassonne and in a restored 16th century castle in Couiza
- Historic Churches
- Special Access
- All Inclusive
We fly to Toulouse, then drive to Béziers, a Cathar stronghold, it was the first city sacked during the Albigensian Crusade. Up to 20,000 townspeople perished here when the Abbot of Citeaux famously ordered Catholics to be massacred along with Cathars. We travel on to our hotel, within the walls of the ancient town of Carcassonne.
We explore the wonderfully situated town of Minerve, which withstood a Catholic siege for six weeks before surrendering. We continue to Lastours, home to no fewer than four Cathar castles on a rocky ridge. Our steep walk is rewarded with spectacular views.
We travel to the Cathar castle and village at Termes, on a promontory defended on three sides by deep ravines. After a hard siege of the castle it fell to Simon de Montfort in 1210.
We have special access to both parts of the Abbey at Lagrasse and are able to visit areas not usually open to the public.
We spend an afternoon in Carcassonne. Occupied since Neolithic times, the city was fortified by the Romans 1,000 years before it became a Cathar stronghold.
This morning we leave Carcassonne and head west to Fanjeaux. Here, we visit the village church, home of St Dominic, founder of the Catholic church’s Dominican order. We continue to Foix Castle on a rock dominating the town; we also visit the Abbey before driving to our hotel at Couiza, in the beautiful foothills of the Pyrenees.
We explore Puivert this morning, a 12th century castle once owned by practising Cathars. We move on to the castle of Montségur, one of the most evocative and famous of all the Cathar sites, and the scene of a dramatic and tragic siege, which finally ended with the burning of 220 Cathars at the foot of the castle hill. We visit the castrum and museum here.
This morning we pay a visit to Albi. The term Albigensian, used to describe heretics with dualist beliefs, derives from this town. We spend our afternoon in the Medieval citadel of Lavaur, defended by Cathar Lady Girauda during its siege in 1211, but taken by Simon de Montfort. A memorial marks the spot where Lady Girauda was killed.
We enjoy some free time to explore the Medieval heart of Toulouse, before our flight home.
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included - dinners with wine
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
- Flights - Scheduled return flights London to Montpellier
- Hotels - 3 nights in a French farmhouse-style hotel in Carcassonne, a short walk from the medieval city, 2 nights in a traditional hotel set in a 16th century stone castle in Couiza, with warm and rustic rooms, 2 nights in an upscale, modern 5* hotel located in central Toulouse
3 nights in a French farmhouse-style hotel in Carcassonne, a short walk from the medieval city
2 nights in a traditional hotel set in a 16th century stone castle in Couiza, with warm and rustic rooms
2 nights in an upscale, modern 5* hotel located in central Toulouse
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