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Chateaux in Ariege
The castles of the Ariege are inextricably linked to Cathar history. They were mainly built in c1000 by local lords and noblemen seeking to protect their lands from the King of Aragon (who wanted to see Roussillon become part of Spain). At the beginning of the 13th-century, these castles transformed themselves into Cathar strongholds and witnessed much struggle, torture and bloodshed.
The Cathars were a 13th-century Christian sect who disagreed with the corruption of the Catholic Church. They believed in the duality of good and evil, abstained from sex, renounced all worldly goods and were vegetarians. The Cathar movement was based in Languedoc-Roussillon but doomed to disaster when Philippe II of France ordered a Crusade, led by Simon de Montfort, to wipe out the heretics. The Cathars largely took refuge in the remote, defensive castles of the Ariege and Aude departments. They could thus see their attackers coming from miles which meant they were well prepared for the King of France's blood thirsty troops.
After the Crusade against the Cathars, the castles were rebuilt to defend France from the King of Spain's ongoing advances. However, the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 saw Roussillon pass into French hands. The defensive function of the castles was lost. Some of the castles are now being reconstructed in an attempt to boost tourism to these remote parts (especially in the Aude). Almost all of the castles afford the most fantastic views of Cathar castle country and are a step back in time.