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Float Gently Through Turbulent Cathar History on Barge Trips in France

February 17th, 2014

Languedoc: Rich History of a Beautiful Destination

The peaceful vineyard clad countryside of Languedoc hides a turbulent history. In the thirteenth century, a bloody crusade was launched by the Catholic Church over a Christian heresy called Catharism. Castles that are now viewed as scenic were once the last defense of a minority that didn’t even speak French. At that time, southern France was a patchwork of smaller kingdoms and duchies with borders that shifted on a regular basis. One of them encompassing much of southern France was Occitania. The language of the area was known as “les langues d’oc”—which is the origin of the name for the region of Languedoc. Thus, the Cathars, in what is now France, were fighting not just for their religious freedom, but also for their independence as a cultural minority.

Visit Historical Treasures on Barge Cruise Excursions

Today you can explore this fascinating and disputed territory on the guided excursions included on our barge trips on the Canal du Midi. You will take an excursion to Minerve, the ancient hilltop village overlooking the confluence of two rivers where the peaceful Cathars were besieged by Simon de Montfort in 1210. A local museum re-creates the Cathar seige with a miniature diorama.

La Candela of Minerve

La Candela of Minerve is all that remains of the fort beseiged by Simon de Monfort in 1210.
140 Cathars perished by fire when they refused to renounce their faith.
Photograph by Beth Hanson,

Whether you make your home aboard a charter barge with your own private party or join other passengers on a hotel barge, you will visit the city of Carcassonne, which is hailed as the most complete medieval fortified city remaining in Europe today.

Cite de Carcassonne in Languedoc

Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the most well preserved walled city in Europe.
Photograph by Beth Hanson,

From the deck of Anjodi or Athos as it passes through Beziers, you will have the opportunity to glimpse the hilltop city where all the townspeople were massacred when they refused to renounce their faith as demanded by Pope Innocent III and the French king Philippe II Augustus.

The modern day city of Beziers

Beziers, where Simon de Montfort sacked the city and killed all the residents to eliminate the Cathars. Photo courtesy of European Waterways.

Aboard any of our Canal du Midi barges, you will have the opportunity to trace the footsteps of the Cathars as they peacefully and valiantly struggled to retain their independence.

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Learn more about the engineering marvel of the Canal du Midi >
Discover Carcassonne – the jewel of Languedoc and the Canal du Midi >

If you’re ready to float through history, contact us today to book a barge trip on the Canal du Midi.

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


Carcassonne – The Jewel of Languedoc and the Canal du Midi

December 19th, 2013

Daily excursions are a highlight of a canal or river barge cruise. When cruising in the south of France on the Canal du Midi, you are immersed in a region which offers natural beauty, a rich history, and many lovely villages and small towns to explore on foot or by bike.

Carcassonne - a medieval city nestled in the Languedoc vineyards

Carcassonne- a medieval city nestled in Languedoc vineyards

Carcassonne – a Canal du Midi Barge Cruise Attraction

Carcassonne, a stunning fortified town that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight of the Canal du Midi barge trips. Though people have been living on this site for millennia, since before Roman times, Carcassonne is mainly known as a prime example of a European medieval fortified town – maybe the best of its kind in all of Europe. It is amazingly well-preserved and is yours to explore with all of its ramparts and towers.


St. Nazaire Basilica is known for its extraordinary stained glass

Carcassonne Sightseeing

What is there to see and do in Carcassonne?

  • Transport yourself to medieval times as you explore the amazing fortifications with its double walls and winding streets.
  • Find the bust of Madame Carcas at the Narbonne gate and learn about the legend of how she saved Carcassonne from a siege ending in the joyous ringing of bells (“Carcas sona”)
  • Step into the ancient and majestic Basilica of St. Nazaire. The grand organ and colorful windows can’t be missed. Simon de Montfort, leader of the crusade against the Cathars of Languedoc, was buried in the basilica before being moved by one of his sons.
  • Visit Chateau Comtal and walk the ramparts for beautiful views of the countryside.
  • Brave a visit to the Torture Museum, which displays a variety of medieval instruments of torture.
  • Try some of the local dishes, including cassoulet, which combines sausage, duck, and beans.

Be sure to bring a camera with you and take lots of photos of the architectural details. Soak in the atmosphere and get transported to another era. Your tour guide with the barge will give your visit more meaning, as you’ll better understand the historical significance of this very strategic site.


Ancient Carcassonne overlooks the new city and the Canal du Midi

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Contact us for more details about our barge trips on the Canal du Midi. We will take you to unforgettable locales.

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988