On Tuesday we took a little hike up Montsegur. Its an old Cathar Fortress and you can go back a few posts to catch up on the history of Catharism. Montsegur sits atop a pug, which I think may be of volcanic origin. It is a haul to the top, not long but steep. We had gotten an early start and were out of Leran at 8:00 am, consequently, we didn't have to pay at the toll booth which they have set up halfway to the top. You reach it as you just begin to think you might make it to the top and past the point of no return.
Mathilde, being Dutch and from one of the flattest places on the planet should be excused for her fear of heights. She got to an exposed place on the trail and could go no further. Nancy and I abandoned her to whatever fate had in store for her and trudged on for another ten minutes to the top. We took her picture as we said goodbye, not knowing if we'd see her again.
From the top you could see the plains of Southern France off in the haze, as well as Lavalenet and Mirepoix. The fortress seems small and rather insignificant and not the kind of place you'd want to be defending against the all-powerful pope and his army. There were some eight hundred defenders and it was hard to imagine enough places to eat, sleep, cook and take care of bodily functions. But I'm sure their thoughts were elsewhere, probably on mere survival. They must have hauled water up to the fortress on mule or donkey trains. After the siege began, the pope's armies could easily have cut off supplies and the Cathars would have been dependent upon stored food, and water from precipitation. It's really a sad story, the Cathars being burned at the stake for their beliefs by a church founded in the name of love, but there it is.
The little town of Montsegur sits down on the slope of the hill and is a nice place for coffee after the steep hike.