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Cathar Village

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Situated on the southern part of the Natural Park of Haute-Languedoc, at the foot-hills of Montainge Noire and only 1 hour drive from the Mediterranean sea, the little village of Minerve, population 122, is in the same time the historic capital of the Minervois region, an outstanding historic AND geologic site and a member of the "Most beautiful villages of France" - "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" - community.
Built on a rocky bluff, Minerve, or Menerba in the local Occitan language, overlooks from an altitude of more than 60 meters (200 feet) the gorges of the Cesse and Brian Rivers.
The Minerve village region - "le Minervois" - was inhabited since the prehistoric times. The region, together with the whole territory that is the present day France - was, between the 1st Century BC and the 5th century AD, part of Roman Empire. It was during this time that a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva was built on the site of the latter village, temple that passed on its name to it.
During Carolingian empire times of the 9th and 10th century "le Minervois" was known as "Pagus Minerbensis" - 'The country of Minerve" - with Minerve as its capital.
Above all Minerve remains in the French history as one of the grievous places of the Crusade against the Cathars. It is here that on July 22, 1210, 180 Cathars who did not renounce their faith were burned alive, after Minerve fell to the crusaders' army at the end of a siege that lasted 7 weeks. The siege ended when, in the middle of the summer with both Rivers Brian and Cesse dry, the crusaders, led by the notorious Simon de Monfort, destroyed the village's only water source, Saint Rustic well, whose remains can be still seen today.
Minerve, the village hovering above two canyons and surrounded by strong defensive walls, was a not to be ignored place during medieval or late medieval warfare and so it participated also in the religious wars of the 16th century when it was a hiding place for Huguenots who were defeated here by the armies of the Marshall Anne de Montmorency.
Besides being a high historic site, Minerve, or more precisely the natural caves called "ponts" formed in the Cesse River canyon walls, where the river actually disappears when in low flow, make an exceptional geological site.
"Le Minervois" region, a patchwork of vineyards, olive orchards, and cypress and Mediterranean pine trees groves, has been well-known since antiquity - it was the Romans the first to grow here vitis vinifera -for its, mostly red, wines.
In the 1st century BC, Cicero, the Roman philosopher and political figure, wrote in his oration "Pro Fonteio" about the quality of the wines produced in "Menerve".
Later, during Middle Ages, the wine producing techniques were improved by the monks of the numerous abbeys of the region: Lagrasse, Caunes-Minervois, Fontfroide, St Hilaire.
Nowadays Minervois produces 3 AOC - Appellation d'Origine Controllée - "Minervois", "Minervois - La Livinire" and "Muscat de Saint Jean du Minervois" in its more than 190 wineries. (The best way to taste Minervois wines is to visit the "La Maison des Vin du Minervois" situated in the town of Homps some 15 km (9mi) south of Minerve)

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