The photos are of the Chateau de Montségur, the “seat and head” of Catharism’s last, tragic, inspiring holdout in the fall-winter-and-spring of 1243-4.
When the siege ended and the 200 Parfaits and Parfaites within finally surrendered, they were given two weeks to recant and reconvert to Roman Catholicism or be burned alive at the stake.
Instead of their numbers dwindling, they actually grew to 224. That is to say, in the face of gruesome, imminent death and the total extinction of their religion, these martyrs actually inspired two dozen more converts who were burned to death along with them at the base of the mountain on March 16, 1244.
Their faith and their example were certainly stronger than ours.
Now, I’m not one to brag (he brags), but along with the indomitable uber-blogger AgathaO who is visiting from America, I made my way to the top of this very peak today in icy rain and heavy wind so strong I worried we’d fall off a few times. In thin, wet khakis. With a raging, bowelshaking norovirus. And brand new bifocals.
We were sick as dogs, middle-aged, unprepared for the foul weather and altitude, and more blind than not. Also, she has a bum leg. And I kept lying down on anything level enough to support me, which wasn’t much.
It might have taken us hours and hours and we might or might not have left a goodly part of ourselves along the way on those slopes owing to the nasty bug, but when it comes to hanging in there for history, we still gots it.
Our ascent and descent under these conditions certainly dramatized the old, old story of this rugged place where so many valiant True Believers persevered and then perished.