Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Minerve, village of blood

Trip to Aude: Day 11 (Evening)
Having heard princess Carcas sound the bells of the cité, we headed north to Montpellier, taking the scenic route as usual, and trying to take in a couple of beaux villages along the way. We were back in Aude, the land of the Cathars, and a scenic route meant just that: an exhilarating drive through narrow mountain roads winding past scrubby, wild hills dotted with ruined castles with bloody histories.
The two beaux villages we were aiming for seemed right up close on the map: Minerve and Olargue. But when you are driving on winding mountain roads, a small distance can seem to take ages. In the event, we got lost, and eventually managed to take a look at just one: Minerve. But it more than made up for it.
Minerve is not technically in Aude. It is just across the border in the neighboring region of Hérault. But for all practical purposes, going by the landscape and history, it could be. It is very much a part of ‘Cathar Country’.
Minerve turned out to be the most spectacular beau village we had seen yet. Seen merely as a ‘pretty village’, we had seen prettier. But take into account its savage setting and gruesome history, and it went right to the top of the charts. Here is our first view of the village, across the gorge of the river Cesse.


Minerve has a history going back to the Bronze Age. It was used by the Romans. But its chief claim to fame is its role in Cathar history. A group of Cathars took refuge here during the Catahr crusades of early 13th century. But the village was besieged by the crusader Simon de Montfort. Eventually it capitulated, and the Cathars were imprisoned, and some burnt alive in the village when they refused to renounce the Cathar faith.
The village is approached by an ancient stone bridge across the gorge:

 Pictures of the village:

I thought this old inhabitant sitting on his porch would make a fascinating picture. But I doubted he would be any too pleased if I pointed the iPad at him. So I tried taking a shot discreetly, acting as if I was photographing something else. But I guess I hadn’t been discreet enough. I heard him complain, very loudly, to no one in particular -- something to the effect that ‘It’s impossible for a man to sit peacefully five minutes on his porch without tourists trying to take photos’. I nearly died of embarrassment. I wished the earth would open and swallow me up. I hurried off with Blandine. She found it quite funny.
We went down into the gorge surrounding the village:

A reproduction of a Trebuchet, a siege catapult used by Simon de Montfort in his siege of the village, on the other side of the gorge, where the besiegers would have placed it.

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