The castle is thought to have been built in the twelfth century on the site of a temple to the goddess Minerva, from which it took its name.  After the massacre of Beziers in 1209 the Cathars retreated here, but were besieged by Simon Montfort on 22 July 1210.  The siege lasted 10 weeks and during this the Crusaders set up four siege engines: three to attack the village and the largest, as ever called Malevoisine (Bad Neighbour), to attack the town's water supply.  William Minerve and the 200 men of his garrison where forced to surrender when the walls were breached by St Rustique's well.  Despite the negotiated surrender, some 180 Cathars were burned to death afterwards for refusing to abjure their faith.  The Cistercian chronicler Vaux Cernay noted that it was not necessary to throw the heretics into the flames as they went voluntarily, claiming that 'neither death nor life can separate us from the faith to which we are joined'.  When the town was later said to have been besieged by Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, Matilda Garlande (d.1224), the widow of Matthew Marly and mother of Bouchard Montmorency Marly (d.1226), managed to flee with her life.  After Simon's siege she had been responsible for saving 3 Cathars from the flames when they recanted.

Today bus tourists enter the town from the west over the great bridge.  This leads into the main town and its scant remains of the early fortifications on the south side towards the river.  Here are the shells of the towers and gates that once stood against the Crusaders.  These defences are a mixture of round and rectangular towers joustling against and over the edge of the cliff and still proudly opposing the reconstructed Malevoisine across the River Cesse on another crag.  On the west side of the town the river dives through a natural tunnel under the adjoining spur.

The castle stood to the north, blocking the castrum off from the higher part of the ridge.  Little remains of the fortress except for the candela - a slender fragment of wall standing on a rock base - and what is said to be one side of an unimposing enceinte hard against the cliff edge.

Why not join me here and at other French castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry

  • Index

  • Home