Walking Tour of Montsegur, Last Big Stand of the Cathars

  • 01 of 07

    Montségur Castle Photo Tour in Cathar Country

    Montsegur
    ••• Montsegur Castle. Getty/Doug Pearson

    Montségur has almost a cult following, attracting Cathar history enthusiasts, hikers and lovers of charming small French villages. This tiny Midi-Pyrénées village is located in France's Midi-Pyrénées region (and the lovely Ariège Pyrénées department) on the edge of Cathar Country, near Foix and within easy striking distance of Perpignan. Montségur Château is arguably the most significant monument to the Cathar religious sect.

    The Cathars believed in a natural, humble lifestyle and proved a thorn in the side of the Catholic church which they criticized relentlessly. It was in Montségur castle, perched up high and surrounded by the small streets of the village, that around six hundred Cathar 'heretics' held off the Crusaders for months. It was on March 16th, 1244, that the last Cathars surrendered. When they were finally conquered, they were given the choice to renounce their religion or perish in the flames, an agonising death which most chose.

    There is a legend even today...MORE that the Cathar 'treasure' which was supposedly taken by four men who had escaped on March 15, 1244, is in fact the Holy Grail, with the Cathars being the Knights of the Round Table. A bit far-fetched, but quite fun and it all adds to the mystique of Montségur.

    Read further to follow a photo-guided walking (and hiking) tour of Montségur, with its magnificant château ruins and challenging Mount Pog.

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  • 02 of 07

    Mount Pog in Montségur

    Mount Pog in Montsegur
    ••• Mount Pog attracts hikers from around the globe desiring to reach its peak and Chateau Montsegur. Michael Carr

    As you approach Montségur, Mount Pog will appear between mountain peaks. Topped by the formidable Château Montségur, Mount Pog is a particularly well known and popular hiking spot for Europeans. While it doesn't take long to climb, it is challenging. It takes about 20-30 minutes each way, but they are a long 20-30 minutes. The aspects that make the climb difficult are precisely the secrets to the Cathar success in holding off the zealous Crusaders for so long. Today, there are wood planks to make the climb easier. Legend has it that local villagers snuck food and supplies up to the Cathars by climbing the mazelike pathways, leaving the Crusaders frustrated at the mountain's base. Many travelers return again and again to conquer the beast that is Mount Pog.

    Next: Montségur Church

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  • 03 of 07

    Montségur Church

    Montsegur church
    ••• The church in Montsegur has its own unique, French village charm. Michael Carr

    As you enter the village, there are just a few blocks of houses, a museum, a few locally owned shops, a couple of inns and a café or two. The small village church has an irresistible charm, its burnt tan colour reflecting the southern France sun. 

    Next: Details of Montségur

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  • 04 of 07

    The Little Details

    Montsegur cross
    ••• The southern French sunlight casts shadows on a cross in Montsegur. Michael Carr

    Montségur may be a small village, but its personality is the size of a mountain. Everywhere you turn, you see another small, almost-overlooked detail that just beams. This cross on the side of a building casts a long and mesmerizing shadow.

    Next: Start your Climb

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  • 05 of 07

    Start Your Climb

    Montsegur Village from above.
    ••• A view of the Montsegur village from Mount Pog. Michael Carr

    As you climb Mount Pog, you should turn around and look below you. You'll get a wonderful view of the village of Montségur and the surrounding countryside. Be sure to take a water bottle with you and a hat if it's really hot.

    Next: Inside the Chateau

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  • 06 of 07

    Inside the Chateau

    Montsegur Castle
    ••• Inside cramped Montsegur Castle. Getty/Jean-Paul Azam/hemis.fr

    Just when it seems you can't stand to take another step, almost like magic Montségur's magnificant château appears between the tree limbs. Once you step inside, the aura of the ruins are positively intense. Be sure to walk around the château's perimeter for breathtaking views of the nearby mountain peaks.

    Next: A Perfect End of the Day and where to stay

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  • 07 of 07

    A Perfect Close to the Day

    Oscar, King of Montsegur
    ••• Oscar, called the King of Montsegur, is just one of the inviting hosts at L'Oustal inn. Michael Carr

    After a tiring day climbing Mount Pog, dine and sleep at one of the local inns. L'Oustal is a charming maison d'hote (bed and breakfast) with just three rooms. Its hosts are endlessly friendly; the place is cosy and welcoming with a large fireplace in the dining room. 

    ​Edited by Mary Anne Evans