- INTRODUCTION -
THE HERETIC CATHAR FAITH AND THE SIEGE
OF FORTRESS MONTSEGUR MARCH 1244
The ruins of the Montsegur are perched at a precarious 3000 foot (1,207
m.) altitude in the south of France near the Pyrenees Mountains. Located
in the heart of France's Languedoc-Midi-Pyrenees regions, 80 km
south-west of Carcassonne, Montsegur dominates a rock formation known as
a pog--a term derived from the local Occitan dialect--pueg
or puog: peak, hill, mountain.
In 1243-1244--the Cathars--a mysterious heretical sect were
besieged at Montsegur by ten thousand Royal Catholic French troops.
In March of 1244, the castle finally surrendered and the Cathar defenders were
burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the
In the days prior to the fall of the
fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the French lines
carrying away a mysterious "treasure" with them. While the nature
and fate of this treasure has never been identified there has been much
speculation as to what it might have consisted of: from the
treasury of the Cathar Church to esoteric books or even the actual
Montsegur is often named as a candidate
for the Holy Grail castle--and indeed there are linguistic similarities in the
Grail romance written by Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (c.
1200-1210). In Parzival the grail castle is called Monsalvat,
similar to Montsegur and meaning the same thing: "safe mountain, secure
mountain." The name of Raymond Pereille, the historic seigneur of
Montsegur has slight simularities to protagonist of Eschenbach's epic, the
knight Parzival. In Jüngerer Titurel (1272) by Albrecht
von Scharfenberg, another Grail epic, the first king of the Holy Grail is named
Myths and legends apart, the history of Montsegur
is in fact both dramatic and mysterious. The siege was an epic event of heroism
and zealotry; a Masada of the Cathar faith.