Despite this, Montségur is perhaps the most evocative of the Cathar sites, at least by reputation. Seen as the last (major) stand of the Cathars, it was beseiged for nine months by the crusaders, who were unable to cut off supplies to the castle due to its naturally-defended location (walking up there, the mind boggles that they were able to haul supplies and building materials and so on up there, but apparently they did). Finally, though, they found a spot where they could build a catapult in range of the castle's defensive barbican and subsequently the castle itself. Finally, the besieged fortress surrendered, and while those who agreed to give up the Cathar faith were allowed to leave, around 215 Cathars gave themselves up and were burned alive at the foot of the mountain.
Myths and legends swirl around the castle today, such as that some of the Cathars escaped with a secret treasure, rumoured to be the Holy Grail. It is even often said that the Nazis were obsessed with finding the Grail, and someone hunted for it at Montségur on Himmler's orders, although it appears that this is as historically dubious as the original Grail story.
So while the castle as it is today might not be as old or mysterious as legend would have it, it still boasts impressive views of the surrounding countryside from its 1,200 metre perch. From the carpark, it's a vertical ascent of 250 metres to get to the castle, but it's all worth it when you get up there.
|Before starting our climb|
|On the way back down|
|Inside the ruins|
|I love the layered look of each chain of hills stretching to the horizon|
|We didn't have the place quite all to ourselves, but it was pretty quiet up there|
|Photo taken by a friendly Australian|