The Cathar Country Tour
The Cathars, the Knights Templar, Rennes-le-Chatêau, The Saunière Mystery,
The Da Vinci Code, The Magdalene, The Mystery of Mont Cardou
The Cathar Country Tour
On this epic adventure we will be visiting the Cathar Country; lands steeped in mystery and legend stretching back beyond Old Testament times. The Cathar Country is in the Languedoc, nestling in the foothills of the Pyrénées in the South of France. It boasts a rich, diverse and fascinating history all set within some of the most beautiful and spectacular countryside anywhere. These lands known now as the Cathar Country were the home to the mighty Visigoths, the mysterious Merovingian kings, the Knights Templar and the mystical Cathars themselves who suffered most cruelly and bravely for their beliefs. More recently they were the home of François Bérenger Saunière, the priest of the tiny hilltop hamlet of Rennes-le-Chatêau, who’s intriguing story inspired a BBC documentary series, the world best seller ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ and the international block-buster novel and Hollywood movie, ‘The Da Vinci Code’. This tiny hill top hamlet of Rennes-le-Chatêau has truly become World famous.
We will head for the Languedoc and Aude Valley and back to the time of the Knights Templar and the Cathars. In the lands of the Cathar ‘Heretics’ we will explore a variety of aspects of some of Europe’s most intriguing history. We will visit Cathar and Knights Templar castles perched high upon mountain peaks, including the amazing Chatêau Montségur, the site of the final tragic massacre where the Cathars marched singing into the flames of their enemies. For the second half of your time in the Cathar Country you will be immersed in the fascinating story of the priest Bérenger Saunière and the Rennes-le-Chatêau mystery.
Day 1. Meet in Carcassonne
On your arrival in the Cathar Country Neil will meet you at Carcassonne airport or Rail Station and take you to the Hostellerie de l’Evêché, The Old Bishops Palace hotel and our home for the next 8 days. The hotel is located in the peaceful and serene medieval spa town of Alet-les-Bains, famous for its mineral waters, thermal springs and as an historic religious centre of pilgrimage. Legend has it that alchemists and cabbalists of medieval Europe once lived in Alet-les-Bains and the house of Nostradamus is to be found in the main square. Our stay will be on a Dinner, Bed & Breakfast basis, which means we will be taking advantage of the gourmet cuisine of Christian Limouzy, owner and chef, who graduated from the École Hotellière des Pyrénées in Toulouse and who promotes the regional cuisine as well as family recipes. The wine served free with dinner is also sourced from the Cathar Country.
Alet-Les-Bains, The Hotel & Mirepoix pictures
Day 2. Crusade against the Cathars, Chateau Lastours & Le Cité Carcassonne
Today we will begin our exploration into the story of the Cathars with a visit to the mighty Chateaus of Lastours, a major stronghold during the Albigensian crusade and where the tours and chateaus of Cabaret, Régine, Surdespine and Quertinheux are a spectacular site perched on the high peaks above the peaceful town sitting on the banks of the river Orbiel.
In the afternoon will visit the spectacular walled city of Carcassonne. Le Cité is everyone’s childhood dream of a medieval citadel. You will have free time to delve into the Cathar and Templar history, as did Hitler’s army who are said to have searched down the town well for occult secrets. On our way home we will call in at the Notre Dame de Limoux, a typical example of a church of the dark Madonna with related symbolism.
Day 3. Montsegur the last stand of the Cathars
The spectacular Castle of Montségur sitting high up on a mountain peak was the place where the Cathars faced their infamous last stand. We will have the opportunity to climb up to the castle, take in the awe-inspiring atmosphere and visit the ‘Cathar memorial’ to this tragic day.
Béziers, Minerve, Carcassonne & Notre Dame de Limoux pictures
Day 4. Cathar Castles
As the crusade against the Cathars continued on its deadly course any remaining Cathar followers were increasingly forced into friendly fortified mountain top communities. Apart from being effective places of asylum for all visitors these peaceful communities were places of fun and jollity where wandering troubadours would entertain with poems and songs in ‘old Occitan’ and we will visit two of these spectacular mountain top Cathar Castles.
Cathar Castles pictures
Day 5. Free day in Alet-les-Bains
A well earned rest day and an opportunity to explore the town of Alet-les-Bains, including the ancient Abbey remains, the Nostradamus House with wonderful esoteric carvings, the medieval streets and buildings and of course the swimming pool and healing springs.
Day 6. The Medieval Cathar towns of Mirepoix and Fanjeau and the Vals Rock cut church
We will pay a visit to the picturesque Medieval Cathar towns of Mirepoix with its unique painted buildings and Fanjeau, both places you won’t forget. The facinating and spectacular Rock cut church in Vals takes you right back to the times of the Cathars.
Rennes le Chatêau pictures
Day 7. Father Saunière, Rennes le Chatêau and the story of the three priests
Today we will look at the amazing mystery that surrounds the now infamous Berenger Saunière as we head for the hilltop hamlet of Rennes le Chatêau, the centre of the Da Vinci Code story; the Holy Bloodline, the Magdalene and some intriguing sacred geometry. We will begin with a discussion of the background of the Saunière mystery, in the out-door cafe overlooking the Rennes le Chatêau church and then have plenty of time to look around this church dedicated to Mary Magdalene and the ‘Saunière Domain Museum’. On the way we will have a drive up to Montazels, to see Saunière’s birthplace.
In the afternoon we will visit the town of Rennes-les-Bains, where the churchyard holds a couple of interesting secrets. Nearby are a few interesting and related places such as the ‘Devil’s Armchair’, possibly associated with Rennes le Chatêau and the so called ‘Camp Grand Capitelles’, mysterious ‘Beehive’ type structures covering whole hillsides, there are many theories about this unusual place but none which fully explain it, or are there?. We will also climb up to the small town of Coustaussa where Father Gélis, a close friend of Saunière’s, met a terrible and tragic end.
Rennes-les-Bains, Coustaussa & the Camp Grand Capitelles pictures
Day 8. Return to Carcassonne
To bring your exploration to a close Neil will transfer you to Carcassonne airport/station for your journey home. If your flight is not until the following day ask Neil about booking a further day in the hotel and have another day in the wonderful Cathar Country.
All this and some of the most beautiful, spectacular & breathtaking landscapes in the world and many more gems of the Cathar Country.
Price For the 8 Day tour – £1.700
£400 non refundable deposit to secure a place please – Balance by 1st May – Single Supplement £100
Includes – All transport from pick-up at Carcassonne airport/rail station, Dinner, Bed & Breakfast (including wine) & many site entrance fees
Does not include – air fares and insurance (please make arrangement for private travel insurance cover).