Minerve and the Cathars

A decorative wrought iron cross next to the Marie’s (mayor’s) office in Minerve, a village in the Hérault department of southern France; in which a group of refugees sought shelter in the village after the massacre of kinfolk at nearby Béziers in 1210.

Followers of Catharism – a Gnostic movement between the 12th and 14th centuries – they were considered to be good Christians, but still underwent prolonged religious persecution by the Catholic Church, which did not recognize their unorthodox Christianity.

The village was besieged by the army of Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester for six weeks before it surrendered. Four catapults or trebuchets were set up, three to attack the village itself and the largest, to destroy the town’s well. With the town’s only water supply cut off, the Commander of the 200-strong garrison, Viscount Guilhem of Minerve, gave in and negotiated a surrender in order to have the villagers and himself spared from death.

However, the 140 Cathars refused to give up their faith and convert, and were burned to death at the stake. The victims of yet another religious schism are commemorated by a dove, roughly hewn in the peace sculpture just visible below the wall light on the right.


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