le pays cathare

October 9, 2011

Esperaza market is held every Sunday morning. It’s visited by hippies down from the hills and the surrounding villages, especially Rennes-les-Bains and Bugarach, which makes the whole event rather ‘deja-vu’ in atmosphere – apparently similar to Presteigne in Wales. There’s a simplicity about the ethos of ‘hippydom’ that sits rather well within the strong historical overtones or undertones  of the this area of France. Poor cathars, early christians really, secure in their beliefs and just looking for the simple life during 11/12C. were exterminated by those who called them heretics – Roman Catholicism and insecurity!

Remnants of abbeys and castles remain perched on hilltops for the best vantage point over the valleys below. The Abbaye de Saint Polycarpe, near Limoux, has frescoes above the central nave showing scenes from the Apocalypse. The building is modestly beautiful inside  . . .

. . . nearby but higher in the landscape of vineyards and woodland sits the Abbaye of Saint-Hilaire. The fountain is a relatively recent addition. There may have been a well in the cloistered enclosure and probably some herbs or apothecary plants tended by the Benedictine monks. The jets of water  – a metaphor – for the sparkling ‘Blanquette’??.

Roads and squares in the French urban landscape are synonymous with plane trees allegedly introduced by Napoleon in 19C to keep his troops cool! They receive a mixed press – a fungus is attacking this species planted in hot/ dry areas and apparently the trees are causing collisions with bikers – sorry, the tree is static and a thing of beauty – who however, is chasing along making a deafening noise and polluting the atmosphere?

Villerouge-Termenes lies to one side of the road. Park by the road and wander down the village lanes and breathe in the views of the vineyards as you pass on to centre of the small medieval hamlet . . .

. . . by the river that runs along under the castle walls is a Jardin des Simples – a sort of modern apothecary’s garden  – with an attractive explanatory diagram.

The curving street has just been furnished with small front gardens – plants are repeated in a random fashion but the scraps of planting offer up a softness that is very pleasing.

Troubadours, such as Peire Vidal and Ramon de Miraval, wrote and sang about the search for evangelical beauty and the ideal of love and courtesy – simple cathar ethics.

From love come all my thoughts

I only trouble with Love

And all that is done for Love is good. Ramon de Miraval 

Troubadour 12 – 13C

One Response to “le pays cathare”


  1. […] Albi cathedral soars above the town. Gothic and Romanesque architecture rolled into one. Pale pink to rich red –  it’s bricks, bricks and more bricks – hundreds of thousands, millions of relatively light weight units enabled the construction of vaulted roofs – earlier timber roofing could not provide the span to accommodate the huge congregations that gathered following the Albigensian Crusade. […]


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