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Mysterious history of Occitania

  The mysterious history of Occitania
La Madeleine and the Mysticism

The Cathars

Occitania is often called the Land of the Cathars, Le Pays Cathare. The name Cathar was given to those who received the catharsis and followed an old form of Christianity. They lived in many parts of Europe, but here in Occitania, where people could still live in harmony and relative peace, Catharism flourished.

It has been a huge misunderstanding that the Cathars were anti-Christian. On the contrary, they were good Christians who merely had another view on Christianity than the roman catholic church and its dogmas. They were not dangerous and lived a quiet, peaceful existence. Especially in medicine they had much knowledge. The great Lords of Occitania, some of whom belonged to the Order of the Knights Templar, were fond of them and protected them when the crusade against the Cathars began.

Many Cathars fled to the fortified cities and castles, but when city after city fell, people fled to Montségur. But even this seemingly impregnable castle was eventually taken in 1244.

From Montségur, as legends tell us, a small group of Cathars fled and took with them one or more items, which were never found by the crusaders. Even today we can only speculate. Was it the Grail, a green jade bowl, was it the heir of the royal bloodline of Jesus, was it knowledge or was it all of these? We may never find out.

This period is also known for its Arthur legends, Grail legends and the songs of the Troubadours. Today, the castles of the Lords are known as Cathar Castles. Some were restored, others are romantic ruins and all of them are worth a visit, but we will only name the most important ones below.
The Knights Templar, who were very rich, wanted to live here in Occitania. This would have become their home base, free from the rule by kings or popes. They obeyed no one. Both king and pope would not tolerate this any longer. On Friday 13th 1307 the Templars were arrested, tortured for confessions of heresy and soon after the Order was liquidated. Their leaders were even burned at the stake. The only place left for the Templars to exist was Scotland, while in other countries the Order simply changed its name, e.g. in the Knights of Christ in Portugal. Many of their possessions were hidden in caves, sealed church vaults or, as legend tells us, shipped to Nova Scotia in their last hours before the arrest. Only one man was perhaps able to find at least a small part of their treasure.  
The Holy Grale

This man is the charismatic abbot Saunière of Rennes-le-Chateau, who suddenly became very rich at the end of the 19th century, after he had opened the vaults beneath the village church of La Madeleine (Mary Magdalene) in order to restore the church. No one knows exactly what he really found. Another theory tells of documents and the story of Mary Magdalene, who came to Occitania in the 1st century AD (44 or 45 AD). She may have taken with her several items, on which the world still speculates today. Was it the Holy Grail, ancient knowledge, a bowl or cup (silver or jade), the children of Jesus (the Grail bloodline) or all of this? We may never find out exactly.

Other religious groups which were not tolerated in the rest of Europe, like the Cathars, flourished in Occitania. They did not believe that Jesus died on the cross, did not need a church and certainly no dogma. This was the cause of their dreadful fate, because it lead to one of the bloodiest episodes in history. Apart from the crusades to the Holy Land, there was another crusade, the Albigenzian crusade. Peaceful, loving and hardworking people who merely had a different faith, were tortured and burned alive. To be absolutely sure that no Cathar would escape the flames, the Dominican Order and the pope created an institution to cause so much fear, that people would betray their own parents, siblings, or neighbours. The Holy Inquisition. However, not all Cathars were killed. Many fled to the mountains, and many perished from hunger or cold during this harsh journey. Others simply went underground or founded small villages deep into the mountain forests. Did these people possess holy relics, the knowledge of the Magdala, did they protect the Grail bloodline? And how can we trace all this in modern day Occitania?

The Inquisition

Cathar castles are all over the land. Holy water places and other sanctuaries remind us of Artemis, Isis and the Magdala (or Black Madonna). Esotheric orders such as the Freemasons and Rosicrucians leave mysterious symbols in churches and on gravestones. Medieval painters include secret codes in their paintings which are only visible to the initiated (solis sacerdotibus). A parchment arrives in Paris which proves that Jesus was still alive in 45 AD. And it vanished without a trace.
Many books are written about the Enigma of Rennes-le-Chateau in which authors speculate on Templar gold, the true story of the 1st century, a tomb in which the remains of Jesus rest, and little by little we discover pieces of the puzzle hidden by the church of Rome. The image which is now becoming clearer everyday, reveals that the legends are no legends at all. They are hidden pieces of true history. The mysterious history of Occitania.

Copyright Anneke Koremans (

de l'Abbé Saunière -

Musée de l'Abbé Saunière - Rennes-le-Château

Experience an amazing place to visit ... Rennes-le-Château offers a variety of sites to visit, where traces of François Bérenger Saunière, also known as the Abbé Saunière, can still be found: the Church of Saint Mary Magdalen (10th century), its gardens, the presbytery of the Abbé Saunière (where he lived from 1885 to 1917) which has been converted into a cultural and historical area, the Abbé Saunière's Estate, the Magdala tower, the Béthanie Villa and the orangery...



Shrowded in mystery, myth and legend, the peak of Mount Bugarach majestically dominates the wider area around Rennes-le-Château. The farming village is in the region of the Cathar castles, situated on spectacular rocky outcrops. Regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, Cathars sought refuge in these castles in the 13th century when Pope Innocent III launched a full scale crusade against them. The village lies next to the Pic de Bugarach, a rocky peak which, at 1230 metres, is the highest point of the Corbières range of hills. The peak is dwarfed however by the nearby Pyrenees and offers splendid views of the range. Made of limestone with galleries of caves beneath it, the peak is a geological oddity, since its top layers are millions of years older than its bottom ones, making it an 'upside down mountain'. The peak of Bugarach has been shrouded in mystery, with various claims that it houses aliens in cavities beneath the rock. The internet abounds with tales of the late President François Mitterrand being curiously heliported onto the peak, of mysterious digs conducted by the Nazis and later Mossad, the Israeli secret services. There is talk of the area, near to the Cathar castles, holding the Holy Grail or the treasure of the Templars. A visit to Bugarach is said to have inspired Steven Spielberg in his film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind – although the actual mountain he used is Devil's Tower in Wyoming...



Minerve has been selected as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (‘The Most Beautiful Villages Of France’). Historically, the village has been the capital of the Minervois wine region. The main bridge leading into the village is closed to all passenger vehicles not owned by residents of Minerve. Of all of the original fortifications, only a slender octagonal tower, known locally as the Candela, survives. The village is situated on top of the gorge of the River Cesse in a naturally strong defensive position. Near the village the river disappears underground in large, naturally-carved tunnels...

Mysterious history of Occitania

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