At the turn of the year XNUMX, all over Europe, many religious deviations from Christianity appeared. However, prisoner of its internal struggles, the Church of Rome did not see them coming, or so little… They reflected a deep spiritual malaise of Western society in the face of the errors of the Church in place, considered distant from the Christ message. . Among them Catharism...

Cathar ideology

Catharism developed in France in the XNUMXth century. The preachers made a strong claim to Christianity and called themselves the only true disciples of the apostles, practicing like them absolute poverty and the work of their hands in order to live.

The Cathars put forward a dualistic idea of ​​creation, opposing two worlds: one good and the other bad. The first is the work of God, the second is this lower world, evil. They also denounced a church too rich and linked to the powerful. They are known today under the name of Cathars, but at the time, they called themselves good Christians, apostles, good men, coated, good beards.

Did you know?

The word Cathar comes from the Greek “Katharos” which means “pure”.

The inquisition, the crusade against the Albigenses

In 1209, after several decades of condemnations and warnings, seeing the futility of attempts to return to the fold by speech, Pope Innocent III launched a crusade against those who were then called “heretics of Albigensia”. The first crusades then concern the Counts of Albi, before extending to the whole of the great south.

The crusades thus opposed for more than 30 years the inhabitants and lords of the south of France to the envoys of the Catholic Church.

Catharism in Ariège

In 1233, the Inquisition was created in Toulouse, charged with definitively repressing heresy. By relying on a technique very to the point of denouncing and cross-checking the archives, the inquisitors will hover over the region a real terror.

The Cathar phenomenon in Ariège often boils down to Montségur, a legendary high place which was occupied in 1204 by a Cathar community and in 1232 became the seat of the dissident Church. It was besieged and taken in 1244, more than 200 Cathars were burned there.

Château de Montségur Ariège Pyrénées
Montségur Castle © ADT09-Oscarrodbag

However, there was an echo and resonance of this Catharism in other places in Ariège: Durban-sur-Arize, Saverdun, Durfort, Dun, Mirepoix, Roquefixade, Péreille, Montferrier, Villeneuve d'Olmes, Saint Quentin-la -Tour, Laroque d'Olmes, Bélesta, Lavelanet, Bénaix, Montségur, Foix, Tarascon-sur-Ariège, Lordat, Château-Verdun, Ax-les-Thermes, Rouze, Miglos, Quié, Saurat, Montaillou, Rabat-les- Trois-Seigneurs and Prades are all villages affected by the Inquisition. Each road, each church, each ruin, tells a little about this time.

Cathar bursts were observed until the beginning of the XNUMXth century, especially in Haute-Ariège, between Tarascon-sur-Ariege et Ax-les-Thermes. Then the last communities went into exile in Catalonia and Lombardy before disappearing.

Musée du Château de Foix

The characters of Catharism in Ariège


The castle of Foix traces the history of Middle Ages and Catharism in Ariège, the museographic space presents in a clear and playful way the characters who played a role.

We discover for example Esclarmonde of Foix nicknamed "the great Esclarmonde", Raymond-Roger de Foix and many other characters from the Middle Ages to the great Gaston Phébus.

Did you know ?

To discover the main places of Catharism while hiking, there are two itinerant trails: The path of the fellows - GR®107, from Foix to Berga in Spain and the Cathar Trail - GR®367, from Port-la-Nouvelle in Aude to Foix.

Lexicon of Catharism

  • Abjuration = solemn renunciation of the faith that one professed.
  • Consoling = unique Cathar sacrament, baptism by the laying on of hands or baptism by the Holy Spirit "comforter". Conferred on novices to mark their entry into religious life or to dying for the salvation of their souls.
  • Dualism = philosophical and religious doctrine positing the existence of two creative principles, coeternal and antagonistic: God, Good, and matter, Evil.
  • Inquisition = institution responsible for prosecuting religious deviants, by extension courts responsible for prosecuting heretics.
  • Perfect) = inquisitorial term to designate the men and women religious of the Cathar Church, whom their believers called good Christians, good men or good women.

The sites of visits and so-called Cathar castles in Ariège