In the heart of Occitania, straddling the Aude and the Hérault, Minerve welcomes you in a spectacular natural setting, between the gorges of the Cesse and the Brian. History buffs are well catered for, as are nature lovers. What to do, what to see, what to visit in Minerve? Follow the guide!
A village classified as one of the "most beautiful villages in France
Wedged between the Canal du Midi and the Montagne Noire, this hidden gem of the Hérault will delight both lovers of old stones and beautiful landscapes. The village is classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
After crossing the bridge, you are immediately transported back to medieval times. Built on a peninsula in the middle of the vineyards and the Languedoc scrubland, the historic capital of the Minervois can be discovered on foot during a stroll of about an hour and a half. Like a labyrinth, the narrow, steep cobbled streets are an invitation to stroll. The stone buildings, with their pointed arches, bear witness to Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The Templar gate, the ramparts and the tower of the old castle are just a few examples of the rich heritage that Minerve offers to its visitors.
In the heart of the village, the church of Saint-Etienne is also worth a visit. You can see the oldest altar in France, made of white marble, dated 456. Just next door, the archaeological museum is a must for a better understanding of the history of Minerve. A visit to be combined with a walk around the recently restored ramparts. Guided tours are organised during the summer. The view over the Brian valley is splendid!
An ancient Cathar city
For lovers of medieval history, Minerve is a place of pilgrimage not to be missed. It was one of the most important Cathar strongholds during the Albigensian crusade in the 13th century. After the siege of Minerve in 1210 by Simon de Montfort's troops, 150 men and women were burned on a huge pyre set up at the foot of the fortress.
Today, visitors can explore the remains of the Cathar fortress, the Puits Saint-Rustique, and discover a replica of the catapult "la Malvoisine", the most powerful catapult of the siege of Minerve. The visit continues to the foot of the Candela, the last octagonal vestige of the medieval castle (13th century).
DID YOU KNOW? Catharism was a dissident religious movement of the 12th and 13th centuries, rejecting the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathars advocated a simple life and spiritual purity. They were excommunicated and declared heretics. Thousands of them were prosecuted, tortured, put to the sword or sentenced to the stake.
An exceptional geological site
Minerve is also home to some of the most unusual landscapes in the Hérault, in the heart of the Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park. In these limestone plateaus, water has shaped impressive canyons and natural tunnels. A walk in the gorges of the Cesse and its tributary the Brian allows you to admire two astonishing natural bridges. The Pont Grand (228 m long) and its little brother, the Pont Petit (126 m long). They are easily accessible on foot and are among the most beautiful geological sites in the Hérault.
Photo credit : jacqueline macou/ pixabay