Montségur Castle

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Montségur Castle
The mountain Montségur with the ruins of the castle of the same name

The mountain Montségur with the ruins of the castle of the same name

Creation time : before 1204
Castle type : Höhenburg, summit location
Conservation status: ruin
Standing position : Cathars
Place: Foix
Geographical location 42 ° 52 '33 "  N , 1 ° 49' 58.5"  E Coordinates: 42 ° 52 '33 "  N , 1 ° 49' 58.5"  E
Height: 1200  m
Montségur Castle (Occitania)
Montségur Castle

The Montségur ("safe mountain") is a 1200  m high rocky mountain on the northern slope of the eastern Pyrenees , about 20 km southeast of the city of Foix , in the north of the municipality of Montségur in the Ariège department of the Occitania region of France . The Cathar castle of Montségur , probably the most famous Cathar castle , stood on its summit . The fortress that was later built in its place is now in ruins.


The mountain cone from the valley side

The prominent rock summit bears traces of human settlement, ranging from Stone Age to Bronze Age and Pre-Roman Iron Age of the Latène Age to finds of late Roman coins. Little is known about the structures of late antique and early medieval settlements on mont segur ( Occitan ; from Latin mons securus , 'safe mountain').

In the High Middle Ages there was a hilltop castle on the dome-like rock, the Pog , which was in a dilapidated state in the mid-12th century. Around 1204 Raimund de Péreille had it rebuilt and in 1232 the fortification of the hilltop settlement was reinforced. In the same year, by order of the Cathar Bishop of Toulouse , Guilhabert de Castres , Montségur became the seat and capital of the Cathar Church.

After the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229), the Pope Innocent III. against the Cathar religious community in Occitania , which was regarded as heretical , the Montségur castle became the most important refuge of the Cathar community. Their persecution by the Roman Catholic Church intensified Pope Gregory IX. by appointing special representatives as inquisitors . In Toulouse, the Dominican Guillaume Arnaud was a member of the tribunal that sentenced three apostates to death in 1241, the execution of which was the responsibility of secular justice. He and his colleague were killed in an assassination attempt in Avignonet in 1242 by the three convicts and other co-religionists, with the support of Pierre Roger II. De Mirepoix , governor of the fortress of Montségur.

Thereupon the Montségur was attacked and besieged by soldiers and crusaders of the Archbishop of Narbonne in 1243 under the leadership of the royal seneschal of Carcassonne . The besieged had to enter into surrender negotiations in the spring of 1244 after ten months of resistance due to lack of food and military defeat.

The residents of the castle were given the choice of either renouncing their faith or being burned at the stake . On the morning of March 16, 1244, the castle was handed over to the besiegers after an armistice of two weeks. 225 Cathars under their bishop Bertrand Marty were burned because they refused to submit to the Catholic faith. Some Cathars were able to flee to Puilaurens Castle . They were later murdered there.

Inner courtyard of today's ruin

At the end of the 13th century, instead of the razed Cathar castle, a royal border fortress was built against Aragon . There is evidence of a garrison in the castle until the 17th century . Subsequently, this fortress gradually fell into disrepair.

Wall remains on terraces on the northern slope of the Pog de Montségur

Montségur Castle has been protected as a monument historique since 1862 . The Cathar settlement next to the castle and the remains of the defensive structures on the Pog (Puy) de Montségur were placed under protection in 1989.


The tragic story of the sinking of the Cathars on Montségur inspired the creation of legends in which, similar to the later case of the annihilation of the Templars , a connection was made with the Holy Grail , which was therefore kept hidden by the Cathars on Montségur.

One theory says that the entire Grail saga was deliberately invented and used by the Catholic Church as a means of propaganda in order to use it against the Cathars. Because the Grail saga emphasizes Christ's sonship, which the Cathars had always rejected.

The theme of the Holy Grail plays an important role in medieval literature. Chrétien de Troyes , who is considered the founder of the courtly verse novel , wrote several novels on the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail in the 1170s to 1190s . In the German-speaking area the topic was u. a. taken up by Wolfram von Eschenbach in his Arthurian novel Parzival (around 1200 to 1210). Due to the historical context, it was assumed that Wolfram's Grail Castle - referred to in the text as Munsalvaesche - could be Montségur.

Montsegur is the name of a song by the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden on the album Dance of Death (2003). “Le pietre di Montsegur” is an album by the Italian cantautore Pippo Pollina .

Web links

Commons : Montségur Castle  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Château cathare in the Base Mérimée of the French Ministry of Culture (French)