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Cathar legend and fortress of France

The name Montségur alone has the evocative power of a place, a fortress, an epic, mythical and legendary story. Visitors from all over the world come to encounter these ruins in the heart of a breathtaking landscape. The history of the present-day fortress post-dates the famous burning of the Cathars in 1244, and remains little known to the public.

If there is a sacred place, a place that speaks to the heart of those for whom these distant times have remained alive like memories clinging to soul and body, it is this mount and this château.

Henri Gougaud
A fortress

for the King of France

At the end of the XIIIth century, the old fortified village (castrum) of Montségur, which had been home to the Cathar community from 1204 to 1244, was dismantled. It then gave way to the construction of a fortress commissioned by the King of France. Against a backdrop of war and crusade against the King of Aragon, the fortress was to complete a network of fortresses on the kingdom’s Pyrenean border.

The construction project was carried out with the support of the King of France Philippe le Bel and the Lord of Montségur, Guy III de Lévis-Mirepoix. Occupied by a small garrison of around 15 men, the fortress was ultimately never attacked. It was abandoned in the first half of the 17th century by the lord of Lévis-Mirepoix before the destruction of fortresses by Richelieu and the Treaty of the Pyrenees.


large site

The Montségur site is currently undergoing Opération Grand Site with the aim of obtaining this status in the near future. Supported by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and managed by the Pays d’Olmes Community of Communes, the OGS is a tool: it enables a territory with exceptional landscapes, but whose listed heritage presents difficulties to better preserve it while managing significant tourist flows. The area concerned encompasses several communes around Montségur with a total surface area of 2,249ha. This program was presented to and validated by the Commission Supérieure des Sites Perspectives et Paysages in December 2020.


Our approach

Since 2009, the Aude department has been involved in the process of registering the cité de Carcassonne and its sentinel fortresses as a serial site with UNESCO. Of these 8 fortresses, only Montségur is located in Ariège. The theme that unites these sites concerns the post-Albigensian Crusade period, with the reconstruction by various kings of France, of ancient fortified villages (castrum) into military fortresses along the Pyrenean border, whose command center was Carcassonne.