Montségur  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Montségur is a commune of the Ariège département in France. It is famous for its fort and was one of the last strongholds of the Cathars.

History

In 124344, the Cathars (a religious sect considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church) were besieged at Montségur by 10,000 royal Catholic French troops at the end of the Albigensian Crusade. In March 1244, the Cathars finally surrendered and approximately 220 were burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the pog when they refused to renounce their faith. Some 25 actually took the ultimate Cathar vow of consolamentum perfecti in the two weeks before the final surrender.

In the days prior to the fall of the fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the French lines carrying away a mysterious "treasure" with them. While the nature and fate of this treasure has never been identified, there has been much speculation as to what it might have consisted of — from the treasury of the Cathar Church to esoteric books or even the actual Holy Grail.

Montségur is often named as a candidate for the Holy Grail castle — and indeed there are linguistic similarities in the Grail romance Parzival (circa 1200–1210) written by Wolfram von Eschenbach. In Parzival, the grail castle is called Monsalvat, similar to Montségur and with the same meaning: "safe mountain, secure mountain." The name of Raymond de Péreille, the actual historic seigneur of Montségur, has a slight similarity to the protagonist of Eschenbach's epic, the knight Parzival. In Jüngerer Titurel (1272) by Albrecht von Scharfenberg, another Grail epic, the first king of the Holy Grail is named Perilla.

Myths and legends apart, the history of Montségur in actual fact is both dramatic and mysterious. The siege was an epic event of heroism and zealotry: a veritable Masada of the Cathar faith whose demise is symbolized by the fall of the mountain-top fortress (although isolated Cathar cells persisted into the 1320s in southern France and northern Italy).

The present fortress ruin at Montségur is not from the Cathar era. The original Cathar fortress of Montségur was entirely pulled down by the victorious royal French forces after its capture in 1244. It was gradually rebuilt and upgraded over the next three centuries by royal forces. The current ruin so dramatically occupying the site, and featured in illustrations, is referred to by French archeologists as "Montsegur III" and is typical of post-medieval royal French defensive architecture of the 1600s. It is not "Montsegur II," the structure in which the Cathars lived and were besieged and of which no trace remains today.

This is a discrepancy that the French tourist authority underplays and one that Cathar enthusiasts often overlook, especially when discussing Montségur's alleged solar alignment characteristics said to be visible on the morning of the summer solstice. This often mentioned solar phenomenon, allegedly occurring in an alignment of two windows in the fortress wall, has not been scientifically surveyed, measured, recorded, or confirmed.

The Groupe de Récherches Archéologiques de Montségur et Environs (GRAME) (Archeological Research Group of Montsegur and Vicinity), which conducted a definitive 13-year archeological excavation of Montségur in 1964–76, concluded in its final report that:

"There remains no trace within the current ruin of the first fortress which was abandoned before the 13th century (Montsegur I), nor of the one which was built by Raymond de Péreille around 1210 (Montsegur II)..." (Il ne reste aucune trace dan les ruines actuelles ni du premier chateau qui était a l'abandon au début du XIIIe siecle (Montsegur I), ni de celui que construisit Raimon de Pereilles vers 1210 (Montségur II)...)

The small ruins of the terraced dwellings, immediately outside the perimeter of the current fortress walls on the northeastern flank are, however, confirmed to be traces of authentic former Cathar habitations.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Montségur" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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