Discover The Pyrenees
Mystical Montsegur and the Cathars
The Cathar region of France is fascinating as it has an incredible amount of history, mostly turbulent. As a result of its past, it has an array of Romanesque abbeys, medieval villages and castles. One such village is Montegur, a typical Cathar stronghold back in the 11th century.
The Cathar Story
In Medieval times Catharism was the prominent religion in the Languedoc. Unfortunately, it was a religion that was in confrontation with Catholicism, which at the time, was the major belief of the rich and powerful. The Cathar faith is an altogether different interpretation of the gospels and in particular the excess and material life of the bishops and priests. As a result of this conflict more than half a million men, women and children were massacred in what was known as the Albigensian Crusade, a twenty-year war against the Cathars. Once the most civilised area in Europe, by the end of the 14th century it as eradicated. A sad product of misplaced power.
This is a typical Cathar village which you visit on our Carcassonne and Cathar Trails tour. In the present it is a quaint village with cobbled streets and a castle sitting atop a local "pog" or mountain. It is hard to imagine that 750 years ago this was the site of one of the last Cathar strongholds. Refusing to renounce their Cathar faith, hundreds of people marched to the castle and met their end there. However, there is something in the air here, an atmosphere of a past that is almost tangible.
Languages of the Pyrenees
Most people will know that the primary languages of the Pyrenees are Spanish and French since these mountains form a natural border between these two countries. However, there are several other languages spoken here too including, Catalan, Basque, Aragonese and Occitan!
The Basque language is the most fascinating as it does not belong to any of the European language families but is what is known as an "isolated language" or "lonely language". In other words, its history and origins remain a secret. Another such language is Korean, but there are around 100 isolate languages in the word currently. It is spoken on the Atlantic Coast and in adjacent mountain valleys. During Franco's dictatorship in Spain, it was forbidden but it is now once again the official language of the Basque region.
The official regional language of Catalonia, which stretches to the south of Tarragonaand all the way north to the French/Spanish border and into the Pyrenees and Andorra. It’s a Romance languageand some believe it’s a dialect of Spanish evolved from the vulgar Latin that was spoken by the Romans who colonised the Tarragona area.
Also a Romance language and one that originated in the Middle Ages. It is spoken by fewer than 10,000 people in the province of Huesca. Although it was once spoken by all inhabitants of Aragon but not Catherine of Aragon who spoke Spanish, Latin, French and Greek, which were the more "educated" languages of that time.
A Romance language but a dialect of Catalan, still spoken in certain areas of southern France and amazingly even in some Occitan valleys in Italy and Spain's Val D'Aran. Over a hundred years ago the French central government banned it from being taught in schools, but it continues as it is intrinsically linked to the traditions and legends of these areas, particularly farming and when referring to animals and plants.