The fortified bastide of Cordes-sur-Ciel in Tarn is one witness of the long confrontation dominated on one side by the counts of Toulouse, defenders of Catharism, and on the other side the de Montforts father and son, who led the crusade ordered by the Pope.
Founded in 1222 by Raymond VII, count of Toulouse to re-house the inhabitants of a village razed by Simon de Montfort, the town of Cordes-sur-Ciel is famous for its wealth of Gothic heritage interest. The façades here feature enigmatic sculptures where you make out symbols and episodes from its Cathar history. It is also said that in 1233 the townspeople threw three Inquisitors down the mysterious well under the market hall, which is 114 metres deep.
Not far away, the village of Penne occupies a stunning site in the Aveyron Gorge. The ruins of the castle there tell of the determination of Amaury de Montfort. After plundering the entire region, his father Simon had finally been killed in 1218 at the Siege of Toulouse. This event took place close to the Théâtre Sorano and is today commemorated by a plaque.
South of Toulouse, the pretty village of Saint Félix Lauragais also played an important part in Catharism: the first council of the Cathar Church took place in the château here in 1167. Some 130 years later, the Cathedral of Sainte Cécile in Albi was built in Tarn, a powerful signal sent out by the Church to demonstrate its triumph over the Cathar heretics.
Still in Tarn, other places are part of the history of the epic Cathar era, such as Mazamet and the eyrie castle at Hautpoul in the Montagne Noire.
Cordes-sur-Ciel, Toulouse and Albi are among the Great Tourist Sites in Midi-Pyrénées.