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28 Jul 2017
Languedoc: Cathars & Crusaders

Languedoc: Cathars & Crusaders

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I have just returned from a recce with Dr Sophie Ambler for our 2018 tour, “Languedoc – Cathars and Crusaders”, and what a tour it promises to be!

Based in the fabulous locations of Toulouse, Carcassonne and Couiza, it is a riot of spectacular hilltop castles, walled medieval towns, and stunning churches and abbeys. With some wine tastings thrown in, and an evening of troubadour music with our very own trobairitz, Carys Lowry-Carter, it will be a great week.

Beyond the sights, sounds and smells, at the heart of the tour is a fantastic story of religious fanaticism, political intrigue and a Crusade. You will learn about the Cathars, a dualist religious sect prevalent in Languedoc, who sought a simpler and ‘purer’ life, as well as independence from both the Papacy and the French Crown.

You will encounter characters like Innocent III, the Pope who launched the Crusade against the Cathars – people he regarded as heretics - and Simon de Montfort, the leader of the campaign, who employed brutal tactics to suppress them. On the other side, you will discover Southern French nobles like Raymond of Toulouse, who allied himself with the ‘heretics’ to fight for the independence of Languedoc.

The sites we visit are as impressive as any I have seen and they are almost too numerous to mention, but, having said that, here are a few highlights to tease and tempt:

You will visit Lastours, four towers at the top of almost impenetrable hills and at the heart of Cathar resistance to the Crusade. We stop in at the former Cistercian Abbey at Fontfroide, a symbol of the monastic movement’s efforts to combat the Cathar ‘heresy’, as well as a producer of wonderful local wine, and we explore Peyrepertuse, a starkly impressive hilltop castle that dominates its landscape and served to emphasize the ultimate triumph of the French Crown in the struggle against dissent in Languedoc.

You can find out more about our Languedoc tour, and book your place, here.