CATHAR VILLAGE IN THE MINERVOIS,
NEAR BEZIERS, NARBONNE, OLONZAC
winds slowly up the valley from the Beziers Carcassone highway, first
climbing steeply then falling into the town of Aigues-Vives, that lies
along the River Cesse. A river full of tricks up its sleeve as it disappears
underground, in the heat of summer, in this wild landscape of Causses.
Its gentle edges become sharp and defined as we go by La Caunette, tucked
under cliff. Thin bridges tempt us to drive to perched farmhouses, but
our aim is Minerve.
Minerve a miraculous village perched over the meeting of rivers.
where rivers tunnel through deep gorges. Perched like a survivor, that
it is, marking the massacre inflicted by Simon de Montfort during the
crusades against the Cathars in France in 1210
backing of God and the Pope, with men hungry for loot and blood, Simon
de Montfort laid seige, to the impregnable fortress village. And to speed
things along he attacked St Rustique's well, the principal waters
source for the village, found at the base of the village. Four catapults
were set up around the village, -three towards the city gates and the
fourth - the largest named "Malevoisine" to destroy the well.
village was well protected with double surrounding walls, and overhanging
ledges; but this did not stop the fear that Montfort gave. For the Viscount
Guilhem of Minerve knew that the 200 men of his garrison couldn't
resist the onslaught, if the gates should fall. And as the walls gave
in of St Rustique's well, he negotiated the town's surrender.
He saved the villagers and his self, but 140 Parfaits who had taken refuge,
were burnt at the stake, because they refused to deny their faith. The
burning of parfaits was the first in the crusade, a terrible act that
was to be repeated for another 34 years until the fall of Montsegur.
is left of the fortress, except for the "candela" - a single
slender octagonal tower.
The village is a hodge-podge of narrow alleys,
topped by a simple 12th century church that always seems closed. Nearby
is a charming museum of full of figurines showing the history of the Cathars
Minerve - the Village
about the village are wonderful walks that test the soul and one's
agility. Walks that skirt edges of cliffs, with drops to the churning
of water in streams that run through small holdings.
The river Cesse tunnels
under hill, next to the village, and one can, if the water's not high
walk through, to yet another tunnel that breaks its way through yet another
The natural bridges provide the ideal background to grand spectacles
of Son et Lumière in the Summer months.
Places to visit near Minerve
walking above Minerve, walking away from the tarmac road, one can find dolmens,
majestic against the line of hills (left off the D 147, or higher up - in
and around Bois-Bas) and the distant horizon of the Mediterranean, not far
from caves painted in times even more distant.
Delightful church, originally cited in the 12th century. Yearly sheep festival - "Fete de la "Rouge du Roussillon" - in dramatic and lovely setting.
Drive to neighbouring Aigne with its beautiful church, artist's studios and galleries, and streets shaped
like a snail.
Walk along the Cessiére, near Cailhol, and bathe in cool spring
fed river. Take a path up the valley of Brian, under the gaze of Minerve,
and find hidden pools
Swimming can also be found at Bize Minervois, which has its own natural swimming pool, right in the center of the village, in the bed of the river Cesse. There are more secluded spots upstream - perfect for lazy afternoons.
Go to Argeliers or Le Somail, or Ventenac and
walk along this splendid piece of civic engineering dating back to the
mid 1600's. Pretty plane trees provide ample shade for picnics, and watch
the canal boats go by. For dining and wining there are numerous restaurants
along the canal banks
Nearby Minervois Holiday Rentals
Belle Bize, Bize Minervois
Sleeps 6. Roof top terrace. Internet. Natural swimming pool steps away.
Properties for Sale
Minervois Properties for sale
Chateau Landure, between Aigues Vives and Mailhac
Excellent red and rosé wine. Bag in Box or Bottle.
Minerve, from river bed
Minerve - old tower and church
River Cesse natural bridge
Cesse valley above Minerve
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