The South-East of France is such a diverse region. Of course, there is the Mediterranean with its gorgeous beaches and crystal clear water. However, don’t forget about the inland areas. When you drive up the winding roads to the historic village of Minerve, the amazingly beautiful area and stunning nature will overwhelm you.
It is no wonder that Minerve is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France. Previously an ancient Cathar fortress, surrounding gorges naturally protect the village. These gorges eroded at the place where the two rivers La Cesse and Le Brian come together.
The village perches on a high ridge, which offers a naturally strong defensive protection. However, this position could not stop Simon de Montfort to burn 140 Cathars in the village square in 1210. To remember the Cathar martyrs there is a memorial stone with a dove carved into it near the church.
Minerve is very well-preserved and will bring you straight back to the Middle Ages with its curvy and cobbly streets. The village itself is a real joy to visit. However, you can also go on an adventure by exploring the ‘Pont Naturels’, or the naturally formed bridges. To get to them, turn right on the cobbled downward street, called Rue de la Calade, just after you have passed the tower, or ‘La Candela’. Follow the signs, and you will come to the river by the ‘Poterne Sud’ – the South Postern.
Naturally formed bridges
If the water of the river Cesse is not too high, you can even go through the tunnels. The small bridge is 110 meters long and the big one 250 meters. Very impressive to see, especially when you think that these natural bridges date from millions of years ago.
If you walk back to Minerve via the other entrance, you will encounter a bad neighbour. Back in 1210, Simon de Montfort encircled the village for six weeks by placing four catapults around the ramparts. The largest catapult, named ‘Malevoisine’ – meaning bad neighbour – was set up to destroy the most important water supply: the San Rustic well.
In the end, Viscount Guilhem of Minerve and most of the villagers surrendered. Except for the 140 Cathars, who refused to give up their faith and were burned to death at the stake. Fortunately, there is more to Minerve than this tragic history. You can end your visit with some fine wining and dining at one of the delightful restaurants, like the Relais Chantovent.