Today, our last day together, we will visit Minerve, another Cathar stronghold and site of persecution and death.
For all the history of death and sadness in both Montsegur and Minerve, it is possible to find places of beauty and peace within their surrounds.
Minerve is perched high above the meeting place of two rivers La Cesse and Le Briant. These rivers disappear underground tunneling through deep gorges. Visitors are welcome to walk the winding cobblestones paths, past pottery shops, antique shops, restaurants and sweet shops.
No vehicles are allowed, all visitors must park outside the village and walk across an ancient stone bridge. Today little is left of the original village except for an 11th Century stone church. Near the church is a stele dedicated to the Cathars, a dove carved into a standing stone. Below the dove are the words Als Catars 1210.
From the church we walk in silence along the Rue des Martyrs, the Way of the Martyrs, down into the riverbed. It was here on 22nd July 1210, 140 perfecti refused to recant their faith and were burnt at the stake. Like Montsegur’s Field of the Burned the river bed of Minerve is a place of tormented souls.
I have felt this before on the hills behind Henderson Field Honiara, at Culloden Scotland and the fields of the Somme I have visited.
If you stand still you can feel the sounds of the dying. It is in the riverbank walls and river stones, in the trees, on the open plains. There is a sadness that will never be removed.
We are contemplative as we walk quietly back to the bus. It is inevitable we begin to think of today and realize history has taught us nothing.
Leaving Minerve we drive towards Aigne, the snail village…so called because the streets, shaped like a snail, wind into the centre. Beneath the cobblestone spirals, flow telluric currents, electric currents that flow underground. These currents result from natural causes and are extremely low frequency. The homes in this village are steeped in history.
Now it was time to return to Alet-les-Bains for a walking tour of this medieval village. Once a walled city with its own Abbey, Alet-les-Bains now has a population of approx. 500. The ruins of the walls and Abbey are well preserved and worth a visit.
While some of the group walk to the medieval home where Nostradamus was believed to live, I walk beside the river. The water here comes from the second largest underground lake in the whole of France, clean, fresh and icy.
Later I meet the rest of the group and we visit the Angel Gallery, a short walk from Hotel L’Eveche. Lorrie’s Angels is a gallery of beautiful paintings plus a shop and garden.
Within the gallery is a natural fountain; the water is the healing water of Alet-les-Bains. You can drink it if you wish.
The Angel Gallery used to be the beloved Thermal Baths in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Unfortunately the Gallery is now closed.
“The sky and its stars make music in you.”
Tonight is our last night together. After dinner we move upstairs to the banquet room where we are entertained by Ani Williams, one of the world’s most celebrated harpists. Ani has done seminal work in the study of sound healing and the relationship between the Music of the Spheres and the human voice.
I have always loved the harp but never knew why. I love the look of them, the sounds and often thought about owning one. What I have now discovered is harp music is a powerful tool for healing. The harp has been shown in clinical studies to have measurable therapeutic benefits for reducing stress and anxiety, inducing restful sleep, and helping listeners release physical and emotional suffering. Now I understand.
With a glass of sparkling, much laughter and reminiscing we wish for a night without end.
How does one describe such an amazing journey? Friendships that you know will last a lifetime and experiences to leave you in wonder of what the world has to offer.
Although many of us live across the world from each other our friendships have been forged in a mutual amazing experience. These cannot be undone. I know without a doubt we will meet again, Sacred Ireland, Sacred Britain, Sacred Italy or a simple visit.
I will finish by saying thank you to Kathleen and Isobel for bringing us all together on this most excellent adventure.