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The Cathar Memorial at Les Cassès (Toulouse)

This windy promontory to the west of Toulouse near Saint-Félix-Lauragais is an unforgettable place which you need to visit, or at least know about, if you have any interest in the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade. There are also some good walks nearby and wonderful views of the Montagne Noire and the Pyrenees. If you want to see photos, go to Protected content .

The Mémorial Cathare was created in Protected content mark the 800th anniversary of a mass burning carried out here by Simon de Montfort and the Bishop of Toulouse. Its centrepiece is a thick sheet of iron plate mounted vertically on a block of stone. Shapes have been cut out from the iron to create an image of a heretic being burned at the stake, based on an engraving from the mid-thirteenth century. Around the perimeter of the gravel circle are eight more blocks of stone. Each one carries a plaque listing the names of towns and villages where other bloody events took place during the Cathar wars. The earliest is Protected content , when the Cathar bishops may have held their first synod a few kilometres up the road in Saint-Félix-Lauragais (historians are still debating whether this event really took place). Then there is the fall of Béziers in Protected content , the first action of the crusade when 20,000 of the town’s inhabitants – Cathars and Catholics alike – were butchered. The final date is Protected content the last known Cathar parfait was burned in Villerouge-Termenes. The death of Guillaume Bélibaste marked the end of Catharism in south-west France.

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