This was my idea, the Cathar Trail. To begin with, I could not bear the idea of being close to the Pyrenees Mountains and not check them out. After all, I am a mountain person….give me a hill, and I will climb it. Show me a ridge, and I will seek out the view of the other side. It is the Colorado in me, and the summers with my grandmother in the mountains near Aspen that feed this aspect of who I am.
And, then there is the history of the Cathars, and the Crusades, and the curiosity about the early history of the Church and the Catholics that spur me on. Needless to say, I am not going to jump into anything quite so heady here…just a teaser for things to come. Let it suffice to say that the Cathers thwarted the authority and very sovereignty of Pope Innocent III, which caused the Church to call for a crusade against them for heresy. The defeat of the Cathers, at the hands of the Church, resulted in the installment of a seneschalsy form of administration. This form of governance allowed the Crown to take control of the Cathar city states and basically superseded the Occitan feudal system. I got quite caught up into this historical era while visiting this region.
We did not have time to explore the full Cather Trail…we devised a reverse order plan that allowed us to visit the last two fortresses on the trail. Coming from Carcassonne we were able to see Foix, pictured at the top and Montsegur below. Both impressive, but Montsegur was the most intriguing to me because it is less accessible and not at all restored. I just felt the weight of its strategic importance looking up at it from the trail head, not only for its significance with the Church’s crusade, but also as a stronghold against Aragon on its southern border.
Another sweet surprise on this adventure is Mirepoix (Mira pwah), a small village situated on the road to Foix. We caught the Winter Market in the town square. Dave found his half timbered houses (see below) and I found Martina Leyendecker in her shop, CREATION DE VETEMENTS EN SOIE ET LIN. There it was, this lovely grey jacket, created by Martina from a boiled wool fabric imported from Paris. It was a perfect fit…believe it was waiting for me. Martina hemmed the sleeves and we visited. One of those nice connections…reaffirms the “six degrees of separation” I experience frequently. Not only does Martina speak great English, she has family in Pennsylvania and Michigan, AND if that weren’t enough, we share the same saint’s name. I was baptized Martina Josephina as there are no saints named Montie…go figure!
We left this beautiful place and headed back to Carcassonne in time to stroll along the Midi Canal and have a wonderful meal in one of the many outside cafes that dot the streets of the bastide. Then it was back to our apartment for a good night’s rest before another road trip to Provence the next day!