Minerve village, the jewel in the crown of Cathar History is just 15 minutes from La Souqueto B&B in the Languedoc! The road from our village winds slowly up the valley following the river Cesse through Bize, Argel and Aigues-Vives. The rivers gentle edges become sharp and defined by gorges as one reaches the stunning village of La Caunette. In the summer the river disappears underground and provides a perfect place for a walk up valley to Minerve.
Minerve was built in the 10th Century and is strategically well placed. It is perched over two gorges where the rivers Bryan and Cesse meet. It’s historical significance is reflected by the fact that the Minervois wine region took its name from the village. It was well protected with double surrounding walls and overhanging ledges but this was not enough to protect the inhabitants of the village from a massacre inflicted by Simon de Montfort during the crusades against the Cathars in France in 1210. Viscount Guilhem of Minerve knew that the 200 men in his garrison could not resist the onslaught. Simon de Montfort laid siege…Four catapults were set up around the village, -three towards the city gates and the fourth – the largest named “Malevoisine” to destroy a well called St Rustique, the villages main waters source. As the walls caved in the Viscount negotiated the town’s surrender. He saved the villagers and his self, but 140 Parfaits who had taken refuge, were burnt at the stake, because they refused to deny their faith. The burning of parfaits was the first in the crusade, a terrible act that was to be repeated for another 34 years until the fall of Montsegur.
Minerve, with its cobblestone lanes and flowery window boxes, is charming.Visitors are welcome to climb the narrow winding streets that lead past shops with pottery, antiques, and wines. This is the place to taste the excellent Minervois wines. These Languedoc wines, mostly reds, are well-structured, becoming silky with age. The white wines, also appealing, are dry, and the rosés fruity.
You can walk from the village down a path to the bottom of the gorge and, when the riverbed is dry, explore the huge tunnels, caverns and natural bridges that the Cesse has carved through limestone. There’s a tourist office that carries maps, guidebooks, cards, and information; a paleontology museum with spearpoints, potshards and 600 million-year-old fossils; and an intriguing museum that shows the history of the area. Its little figurines are set in historic scenes, including the Cathars’ struggle. A good bookstore, Paroli, sells new and used books, has an art gallery, and serves coffee, as well.
One of the finest restaurants in the Languedoc is based in Minerve. It’s called Relais Chantovent. It has a dynamic canter leaver terrace over the gorge. It is a Michelin 1star restaurant but it’s stunning three course menu starts at just €23. A must!
Our B&B accommodation south of france loves the Relais Chantovent.
The incredible stone church is a must see. It remains locked but one must go to the paleontology museum around the corner to open it. There is nothing grand or ornate in this simple 11th-century church, but in it stand two Roman altars, one claimed to be the oldest in Europe. It’s a marble rectangle with Latin markings. Near the church is a memorial to the Cathars, a dove carved into a standing stone. Another reminder of old battles is the single slim tower at the top of the town. It is all that’s left of early defences. This and many wonderful villages and towns are within a short distance away from La Souqueto B&B in the Languedoc.