Saturday, 13 July 2013

Visiting Minerve, the Cathars and meeting another friend.

Minerve is the capital of the local wine region and has been selected as one of  the Most Beautiful Villages of France (yes, another one!) and it really is!

I may have mentioned the Cathars in previous blogs and how they were persecuted for their beliefs, but they are closely connected with Minerve, as I will tell!

The history is very complex,  but Catharism was a religious movement which sprang up during the 12th to 14th centuries in areas of Europe, notably northern Spain and southern France. Cathar beliefs were a direct challenge to the Catholic Church, which they denounced  as the "Church of Satan", but it is likely we have today only a partial knowledge of their thinking, because the Papacy probably destroyed most of their writings in the Albigensian Crusade (more later!) of the early 13th century. 

Pope Innocent III, elected in 1198, resolved to try to convert the Cathars to Catholicism and sent out his Papal legates into the countryside to facilitate that, but in 1208, one of the legates, Pierre de Castelnau, was murdered nearby. Innocent III responded to this crime by sending a Papal army to wipe out the Cathars wherever they could be found! This exercise was called the Albigensian Crusade, was extremely cruel and vicious, drew in people from all over France and  lasted for 20 years!

Back to Minerve....! It was one of many hill-top forts in the area, but it sheltered  a group of Cathars who had sought refuge there, so it was besieged in the year 1210 by Simon de Montfort (Earl of Leicester - an Englishman!), a commander in the Papal army. Giant rock-throwing machines (trebuchets) were used to batter down the  stone defensive walls, thus the town garrison commander was forced to negotiate a surrender after 6 weeks of bombardment, when the town water supply was destroyed. 140 Cathars were among those captured, but they refused to give up their faith, so were burned at the stake on 22 July 1208. Terrible times!

I have tried to keep this concise and hope I haven't bored you, but history is so important to this area! There's plenty more to read on the internet if you want to do that.

The village today could not be more quiet and peaceful and only residents' cars are allowed into its streets over the main bridge. One can, however, almost sense the atmosphere of violent history associated with this settlement and the surrounding deep rocky gorges of the rivers Cesse and Brian, which meet nearby. Of all of the original fortifications, only a slender octagonal tower, known locally as the Candela, survives and it can be seen in the photo below.

 Our first view of Minerve.

and a shot taken from the other side of the town, showing the main route over the bridge into the village.

 Narrow streets above and below!


The 11th century church dedicated to Saint Etienne, but unfortunately locked up on that day. Its altar has been dated to the year 456, thanks to an engraving on one of its sides. This altar was retrieved from an older church nearby, which had been on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.


We had an excellent lunch here at the Pizzeria La Terrasse, the only restaurant open! Too cold for anywhere else to bother opening for the few tourists!

Photo credit Brendon Sweetman
As you can see it was a very cold day in May, especially on this hill-top!  Myself, Emma and Fi.  We last met at school in Rhodesia about 55 years ago!!

Photo credit Brendon Sweetman
The three of us in front of the gorge of the river Cesse

 A happy and smiling Fi.


The gorge, without us blocking the view!

My thank once again to Nigel for the research and the write up.

see my daily photo diary  HERE

and also - My Life Before Charente Updated 12/07/2013 

76 comments:

  1. Again, superb photographs...and how right you are that you benefit greatly from knowing the history of places you visit.

    You look a happy group despite the weather; must have been a lovely reunion.

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    1. Fly it was such fun to meet up with people who I have not seen since school days in Rhodesia, odd how we have all ended up in France! We all got on amazingly well.

      Minerve really is a stunning place and as with so many French towns it is full of history.

      Take care the two of you and keep well Diane

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  2. I have never seen Minerve so green, but of course, I visit that area around June and very early July. How wonderful to meet friends you haven't seen in ages.

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    1. Nadege both the experience of seeing this stunning place and meeting up with friends who I have not seen for many years was wonderful. It was all coincidence that we got together as I have not spoken to either of them in donkey years, then Emma discovered I was living in France as she is and sent me an email out of the blue. So glad she did though. Take care Diane

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  3. Think you'll find that the Simon de Monfort who besieged Minerve is the father of the Simon de Montfort who eventually [re-claimed] the Earldom of Leicester and played an important role during the reign of Henry III of England. The Elder Simon de Montfort was killed outside of Toulouse in 1218.

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    1. Niall and Antoinette, Thanks for your comment, the point of which I’m afraid I can’t grasp! The besieger at Minerve was indeed a Simon de Montfort, known as the Elder, who died in 1218, both as you say. As I understand it, his title of 5th Earl of Leicester was assigned to him in 1207, but never formally recognised, due in no small part, it seems, to the fact that King John had confiscated his estates, again as you say. Anyway, this was all too much detail for my very brief and perhaps over-summarised blog, which I had hoped was focussed on the Cathars and Minerve! Have a good day Nigel

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  4. I know the wines of Minerve but have never visited the this beautiful village. The village is beautiful and very old and I will try to get there some day. Have a great weekend.

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    1. Michel this is a place you really must go and see. It is breathtaking and the history makes it so interesting. There are several restaurants there but we were limited to the only one open out of season. Hope your week is a good one. Diane

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  5. What a beautiful town with a violent history. Probably all very old towns have a violent past as they've been around so long. It is awesome that you are still in touch with classmates from so long ago. I'm afraid I haven't kept up with any of mine.

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    1. Joyful sadly not only old towns in the world have violent pasts, peace seems to be something that will never happen world wide! Luckily for us violence in France is in the past and I hope it remains that way. I have only ever kept in touch with one classmate and that was through horse riding. Emma just discovered that I was living in France about a year ago and sent me an email out of the blue. Then through her I also got the chance to meet up with Fi as well. It was really good and now we will keep in touch. Have a good week Diane

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  6. So ancient! The rock walls are amazing and the scenery breathtaking. The history sure is violent. religion has a lot to answer for.

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    1. Diane you are right religion is the case of so many upheavals and violence through the world. To me, it is the one thing that should cause peace!!! Have a good week Diane

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  7. what a great post! i designed my gardens to look like places i traveled to like this.

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    1. jaz I want to come and see your garden, I bet it is beautiful. Have a wonderful week. Diane

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  8. Hi Diane .. what lovely photos and description of the Cathars time and their history relative to Minerve .. you do live in an area I'd love to visit - one day!

    What fun meeting up with Fi again after all those years ..

    Lovely post - thanks and cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary I have not seen either Fi or Emma since we left school so it was wonderful catching up with all the news.

      I hope you manage to see this area one day, it is quite stunning and so different to the part of France where we live. We do have very interesting towns and history but the countryside is so different. Take care and have a good week Diane

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  9. How fun to be with your old school friends. What an interesting village. As much as I love France, it makes me very glad I, nor my ancestors, lived in France in the ancient times.
    Sam

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    1. Sam it was amazing catching up with all the news after so many years!! Yes I agree I am glad that we did not live here in those years, not much fun! Have a good week Diane

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  10. Gorgeous photos of a town I've not yet visited - it looks stunning.
    How lovely for you to catch up with dear friends and how coincidental for you all to be living in France! What are the odds of that?

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    1. Craig if you come this way again this place is well worth a visit, it is very beautiful. I wonder now how many more from the school are in France that we do not know about! Have a good week, Diane

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  11. Looks like you had a lovely reunion with your school chums, and what a beautiful place to have it in!

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    1. Vera the spot could not have been better, it is stunning around there. Hope your week will be a good one. Diane

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  12. Beautiful place and a sad history of treachery of the Catholic Church in past days.

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    1. Horst it does have a very sad history but it is now a beautiful spot. I am glad we went there out of tourist season though! Keep well Diane

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  13. Its a fascinating area isn't it? The languedoc has much to offer and is still a favorite of ours. Thanks for bringing back memories of Minerve. After our visit, like you, I had to explore the history of the Cathars.

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    1. Leon and Sue it was a pleasure to bring back memories for you. It really is the most stunning place despite its history! Keep well Diane

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  14. PS: And to meet up with long time friends must have made all the more enjoyable judging by the smiles on your faces.

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    1. Amazing to think we had lost touch for over 50 years and then all get together in France!! Diane

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  15. A wonderful day out Diane ... lunch and a photo shoot ... what more could you want. I love this quaint hilltop village with it's cobbled stones.
    Bonne Semaine

    "All Things French"

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    1. Dianne glad that you enjoyed this post, what an amazing place this is, we just loved it. I would though like to revisit on a warmer day! Take care Diane

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  16. I love walking into old towns and feeling the history around me - thanks for sharing such a beautiful place. My family just got back from France, but with my kids so little, we didn't make it out of Paris. I can't wait until they're older and can appreciate this kind of travel!

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    1. Laura thanks so much for your visit and your comment, much appreciated. I certainly hope you can get to see the place in this area when the children are a bit older, it is quite remarkable and there is so much history to every town and village. Take care Diane

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  17. Great places you have been to lately. And what a nice opportunity to have a reunion again.
    Have a good summer!

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    1. Gunn we saw some great places and this is not the end just yet :-) It was wonderful catching up news with friends who we have not seen for so many years. Have a good week Diane

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  18. How sad that through the centuries, the greatest loss of lives can be attributed to religion!! A wonderful post Diane. How nice to be able to meet up with friends again.

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    1. Joan I always think that religion should bring peace but it never seems to have, and it is still causing problems!! Strange that 3 ex Rhodies from the same school, same year, all found their way to France :-) Have a good one. Diane

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  19. Thanks for the interesting tour Diane ... the countryside there is always so green ... yes they were terrible times and it seems that Man has learned little from past atrocities ...

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    1. Graham I answered this yesterday but it seems to have gone AWOL!!! I commented that man has learnt nothing from these terrible times as you say, so many dreadful things still going on in the world today!

      You would have loved this place the stone work is amazing, think you will have to come and see us so we can show you some of the wonderful stone work here in France :-) Take care Diane

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  20. What a great way to enjoy the day with a beautiful village, old friends, history a good lunch.


    Velva

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    1. Velva it was a fantastic day, all good things happened and we both really enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment, take care Diane

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  21. I'm in awe at the first two shots. How beautiful and well captured.

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    1. JM thanks so much the village is gorgeous and shots like this so easy to take. Have a good day Diane

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  22. That is indeed one gorgeous city/place. Fi's smile is very contagious. It's always nice to meet with friends and share some food and laughs!

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    1. Rose this is a place well worth visiting for its history and beauty. Meeting friends was a big bonus. Take care Diane

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  23. Wonderful photos. And thanks for sharing the history. As a descendant of later dissenters/"heretics" (Huguenots from Saint-Nazaire-sur-Charente), I find it is particularly fascinating.

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    1. Bill thanks for the comment and the visit. Glad you found this of interest. have a good week Diane

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  24. What a fun day - even if it was a bit chilly. Great photos once again Diane!

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    1. Pam it was freezing but we did have a good day despite the weather. Keep well Diane

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  25. Minerve certainly was important in the Albigensian crusade and it is indeed one of the most beautiful places in France. If you will forgive me, however, as a historian I feel compelled to point out that the Simon de Montfort that laid siege to Minerve (and indeed the most successful commander among the French nobles fighting against the Cathar heresy and the local nobility that protected the Cathers) was the FATHER of the English Simon de Montfort, later Earl of Leicester. Simon de Montfort the Elder was entirely French. Simon de Montfort the younger, was his 3rd son, and obtained his English lands and titles only many years later, after marrying the sister of King Henry III of England. For more information about the Albigensian Crusade you might want to consult my website: http://www.talesofchivalry.com

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    1. Thank you for your comment and interest. I found and read sections of your website - after I had inserted hyphens between the separate words. The fact that some Simon de Montforts were Earls of Leicester does not appear to be mentioned therein. Other available internet sites like Wikipedia and newadvent.org (both listing their own sources) say Simon IV de Montfort succeeded (with his mother) to the Earldom on the death of his uncle, the 4th Earl (Simon IV being the son of Robert de Beaumont, the 3rd Earl of Leicester) although he was apparently never invested (this point is the subject of an earlier comment). Whilst I appreciate internet sites are not necessarily accurate, their information seem to contradict your comment, which states that neither Simon III nor IV were Earls of Leicester. I am interested to note however that Simon IV was entirely French. I will have to be circumspect in future blogs when I mention historical figures and will not now respond to any further comments about the de Montforts! Have a good day Nigel

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  26. It's amazing that they nestled the village amidst the cliffs so long ago! I might be a wee bit claustrophobic in those narrow streets, but it surely is worthy of its designation as a picturesque village. Big cities are amazing, but I much prefer these quiet little hamlets.

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    1. Marjie I hate being closed in but I did not notice the feeling at all here on top of a mountain. I dislike big cities as I do not like crowds. I like to be able to walk at my own speed and not shuffle along behind people in busy streets, that I do find claustrophobic. The villages (certainly out of tourist season) are so much more fun and generally more interesting. Have a good week Diane

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  27. The Cathars were an interesting people and I wouldn't mind visiting that area
    How wonderful to visit with "old" friends
    anni

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    1. anni this whole area is certainly worth a visit. There is much to see and we did not have the time to see all we would have liked. It was an interesting day though and wonderful to meet friends. Keep well Diane

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  28. What a beautiful village - what a tragic history - so dreadful how the Catholic Church behaved - so glad it seemed to peaceful and beautiful today!
    Mary x

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    1. Mary religion has quite a lot to answer for I think. Yes, thankfully things have changed in that area and it was a very peaceful day and it was good to meet friends there. Thanks for your visit and your comment. Have a wonderful day Diane

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  29. How fun to have such a special time with old friends. The scenery is spectacular and it's quite tragic what's been done in the name of God. He, fortunately looks nothing like all this bad behavior and extends a great deal of grace to all of us.

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    1. Chris it was so good to meet up with people who I have not seen for donkey's years. Despite its history Minerve is a stunning place to visit. Keep well Diane

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  30. It is so nice to see your travels and that you share your beautiful photos. Looks like a great time and fun with friends! It's been a little rough going for me even six months after the murder of my parents, but I have a feeling it will be a long road ahead. We are glad they finally charged the guy with first degree double homicide. Like I said a long road ahead that none of us ever thought we'd be going through. Good to hear from you sorry it's been so long that I visited. Lyndsey

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    1. Lyndsey I have answered on your own blog, but it is good to have you back again. Take care, remember we are all here to help despite being far away. My thoughts are with you, Diane xx

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  31. Une bien belle promenade chargée d'histoire. Un beau moment passé entre amies, c'est magnifique.
    See soon.

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    1. Merci pour le commentaire du genre. Bon week-end Diane

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  32. Hi there Diane, I haven't been to your blog is such a long time - I'm sorry about that!
    This is an absolutely beautiful wee village and such beautiful scenery! I do enjoy coming and reading about these places on your blog.
    Hope you are well :))

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    1. Ellie I stopped blogging for a couple of months while we were away and I was trying to catch up with everything at home so there was little to see. Good to be back but time is still at a minimum with all the vegetable and fruit bottling etc. Keep well Diane

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  33. Beautiful photos and what an interesting village steeped with history. Have only just discovered your blog but will be back! I really would like to find out more about villages I visit in France.

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    1. Hi piglet, thanks so much for your comment and visit. We always like to look up as much history as we can about places we visit though not always easy. Most of my blogs though are about the Charente, so I would guess not that close to you. We seem to go South from us rather than North, other than a fast drive to the UK to see FIL. We miss so much on these trips but.... Bon week-end Diane

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  34. How lovely to visit with friends. It's a lovely place you've shown us here, beautiful photographs which I have enjoyed very much. Thank you :)

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    1. Thanks Denise for your visit and comment, it was a good day :-) Diane

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  35. it is really interesting walking thru the village and knowing its history...and meeting old friends whom you hvnt met for so long is a wonderful thing! you look great, diane!

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    1. Thanks Lena, this was a magical place to meet up and so much interesting history. Take care Diane

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  36. I can see why it is on the list of gorgeous villages. It is just the way I love to see them... untouched by McDonald's signs and modern advertising.
    Gorgeous place and looks like you had a great time there with your chums.

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    1. Deanna it must be close to the top of the list but then i say that each one I visit :-) we had a fantastic day. Hope you are well. Take care Diane

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  37. Good day Diane ! Gosh, this is such a magnificent place to visit. But still the best was visiting your friends. I'm sure you guys had a fabulous time together. The picture tells us all.>o<
    Blessings, Kristy

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    1. Kristy we loved meeting up with friends, but it was also very special because they knew of all these lovely places to visit. Keep well Diane

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  38. My gosh, amazing is the word for this with the church and all. It sounds like you had a great day with your friends, even if it was a bit chilly. I will be reading more about the Cathers. Thanks for the great photos!

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    1. Pam the Cathars make interesting reading, enjoy. Take care Diane

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