March 16th 1244. Tears and blood on Montségur. In the scree stood the stake where 255 Cathars died burnt alive… Come here! At the beginning of the path leading to the castle, we can see a stele commemorating the tragedy, at a place known as Prats dels Cremats. The terrible Field of the burned!
The place where the stake was raised, in a big fold. Inside, Cathars packed like cattle. Sick persons, men, women, old and young, all pushed in the fire. Just imagine the horror, the howls of pain, the unbearable smell of roasted flesh...
The lord of Montségur, at the time of the stake, was the Cathar Raymond de Perella. His daughter, his wife and mother-in-law died in flames… he just looked at their ends, helpless. His daughter Esclarmonde will become the famous White lady of Montségur. A ghost, a wandering soul who appears some nights in the ruins to weep for the victims… Human madness! But why??
Montségur was fortified in 1204 and immediately hosted an important Cathar community. Cathar? A religion considered like a heresy by Catholic Church, but which spread like wildfire in the 12th and 13th c. Heresy meant chases and inevitable slaughter. Especially when in 1242, in middle of this mess, members of the terrible Holy Inquisition were murdered in Avignonet.
So what? Murderers were knights from Montségur… the cup was full! An army of 10 000 men besieged the castle. The siege lasted 10 long months: at the end, Cathars surrendered. Forced to renounce to their faith, those one refused and preferred the second option: the stake. More than 200 died and Montségur was razed in 1244.
Tradition says that Cathars’ treasure would be hide somewhere in the castle or in the area. Yes, the area! Especially in the neighbouring cave of Lombrives: 5 Cathars, the night of the stake, escaped from Montségur bringing a big booty with them...