Human occupation of the Cathar Pyrenees dates back 90,000 years: Neanderthal man (and woman) had already grasped that the place deserved much more than a brief visit. How could we predict that it would later be remembered for a religious tragedy?
In the 13th century, the Albigensian Crusade was launched by the Papacy to combat the Cathar heresy, which had taken refuge in Montségur. On March 16, 1244, after a 10-month siege by the crusading army of the Pope and the King of France, the defenders of Montségur surrendered. At the foot of the mountain, 225 of them were burned at the stake for refusing to recant their faith.
The new French lords, the Lévis-Mirepoix family, set about building new towns, bastides. Fortresses were built with the help or by royal authority: the castles of Roquefixade and Montségur defended the border and the territory coveted by Aragon. The castles of Lagarde and Terride (Mirepoix), built in the 14th century, were more seigneurial residences than military structures. Fortifications such as the ramparts of Camon and the Protestant fortress of Castel d’Amont on the heights of Bélesta bear witness to times of war.