Visit Minerve (Languedoc-Roussillon, France)
The fortified medieval village, with many of the fortifications still in place, is perched on a naturally defended rocky peninsula high above a canyon in the barren Languedoc landscape - Minerve is above the gorge carved by the River Cesse before it disappears underground into a natural tunnel.
Minerve and the cathars
The most infamous event in the history of Minerve took place here in the early 13th century. In 1210 a group of cathars, having escaped from Béziers that was under attack in the Albigensian crusade, found refuge in the heavily fortified village.
It took the brutal Simon de Montfort six weeks of siege, but eventually the village gave in, after a catapult bombardment destroyed the only well in the village (the Puits Saint-Rustique) and following the surrender of the town 140 cathars were burned at the stake.
Things are slightly more tranquil nowadays, and Minerve is an attractive town to visit and explore, with narrow streets winding between old stone houses.
Cars must park at the car park just outside of the village and the entrance to Minerve is by the remains of the castle that once stood here. The Candela (castle) dates back to the 13th century but it is just the tall octagonal column which remains.
Near the castle is the very ancient (11th century) roman style Church of Saint Etienne that stands at the top of the village. Its altar is thought to date back to the year 456.
Next to the tourist office is the Martyrs road along which it is thought the Cathars walked on their way to the stake. One of the houses on the street belonged to the House of the Templiers.
One of the original gateways into the town can also be seen. This is the 'Porta Bassa' and was one of the two main gateways into Minerve. Take the path down to the river bed from here and then walk along the riverbed towards the lovely old stone bridge which crosses the gorge. Below this you can see a natural bridge in the rock of the cliff-face.
Back up the hill in the town walk to the other side of the town where you can see the gorge from another angle and see a large remaining section of the fortified walls. Across the river from here is a reconstruction of a medieval weapon called a birdtrap or a 'malvoisine'. This flung rocks from across the gorge to the walls of Minerve and the well of Minerve.
The region around Minerve has been occupied since prehistory, and some of the artefacts from the area can be seen in the small Museum of Archaeology and Prehistory in Minerve (small entry charge payable).
While here, try and find time for a walk or two in the surrounding region - the paths and tracks around the nearby cliffs are a great introduction to the countryside of the area.
The landscape around the village is of gorges, causses and cliffs, often forested, which creates a very lovely environment to explore on foot or by bike. You will also see the vineyards, Minerve having given its name to the famous wine of the region, Minervois.
Within the quiet valleys you will come across numerous small hamlets and villages that also merit an exploration such as Aigne, La Liviniere, Cesseras, Beaufort, Siran and Azillanet among others.
Photos of Minerve
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Tourist classifications for Minerve
Minerve is classified as a one of the most beautiful village in France (plus beau villages)
Address: Minerve, Olonzac, Béziers, Herault, Languedoc-Roussillon, 34210 || GPS: latitude 43.354, longitude 2.7464
Map of Minerve & places nearby
Highlights close by
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Minerve, France
- Gouffre de Cabrespine - site of natural beauty (23km)
- Haut-Languedoc - regional natural parc (25km)
- Olargues - most beautiful village (26km)
- Narbonne - secteur sauvegarde (28km)
- Fraisse-sur-Agout - ville fleurie 4* (28km)
- Abbaye de Fontfroide (Narbonne) - religious monument (29km)
- Enserune - national monument (30km)
- Lagrasse - most beautiful village (31km)
- Carcassonne City - grand site of france (35km)
- Carcassonne - heritage site (35km)
The French version of this page is at Minerve (Francais)