Pays Cathare or the Noble Ruins Remembering the Cathar Heresy

 

Chateaux de Lastours. Pays Cathare, Languedoc, France.

Chateaux de Lastours. Pays Cathare, Languedoc, France.

The whole land was filled with blood, castles were taken by storm, villages were lying in ruins, bonfires were blazing everywhere burning hundreds of people, the population was almost destroyed by the Crusader army led by Simon de Montfort hired by the pope. Did you think it happened somewhere in Palestine? No. It was Languedoc, France, which 800 years ago was named Occitania or Pays Cathare and belonged to the Cathars, people who dared to think about Jesus Christ in their own way, not according to the pope’s way. The head of the Catholic Church declared this doctrine to be the Cathar heresy and tested in Occitania a new method of getting rid of unwanted people—burning them at the stake—which would later became known as the Holy Inquisition.

Why burn people? Why not just kill them with well proven methods? Because their graves and memorial stones could remain and become places of worship for new heretics. Instead, nothing but ashes would be left after a fire. However, the pope was wrong. Memorial stones on the fields of mass burnings of Cathars in Languedoc were established, and today, we will stand near one of them at the foot of the famous ruins of the Cathar castle, Chateau de Montsegur.

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Museo Borghese, Roma: 100 percent Concentration of Beauty

 

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Museo Borghese, Roma, Italy.

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Museo Borghese, Roma, Italy.

“Startling concentration of beauty.” A very bright phrase. I heard it in one of the series of Michael Portillo’s “Great Continental Railway Journeys.” He used it in his description of a famous city. Guess which one? Of course, it was Venice, the city with a startling concentration of beauty. However, I should add, “but only from a distance.” When you immerse yourself into Venice, you start to find some flaws in its beauty: dilapidated houses, peeling facades, street sweepings…. What can we do? This is a city with a very complicated fate.

Do places with flawless 100 percent concentration of beauty exist anywhere in the world? Of course. We found one such place in the city of Rome, Italy, with the help of Saga Travel. This is the Museo Borghese which is housed in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. When you pass the ground floor, buy tickets, and go up to the first floor, you find yourself in the kingdom of good taste, luxury, and incredible beauty. Everything is beautiful here: floors, walls, ceilings, paintings, and, of course, sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. I have already been to many museums of the world; this one was the smallest, but the most beautiful I can remember.

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Castles in Switzerland: Oberhofen Castle

 

Castles in Switzerland. Oberhofen Castle.

Oberhofen Castle. Switzerland.

Most fans of ancient castles travel around Great Britain, France, and Germany, but few of them know anything about Swiss castles. Of course, the best things in Switzerland are nature—wonderful mountain peaks and lakes, endless forests, and flower meadows—and surprisingly low prices… The latter was a joke. But I think it’s fair to say that dozens of well-preserved castles perfectly complement the Alpine landscape.

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