Best Trips 2014 -- National Geographic Traveler : Cathar Country, France | Aude Cathar Country |

Rebellion and Refinement

“We are all Cathars here,” declares an art student, sketching amid the aromatic blossoms and Romanesque arcades of Albi’s St.-Salvi Cloister. He refers to the ascetic, heretical Christian sect that stirred up southwest France in the 12th and 13th centuries. (Some of its followers believed in reincarnation.) Once entrenched in today’s Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon regions, the Cathars were suppressed by the medieval Catholic Church in a series of fierce battles that led to their virtual elimination. Yet their rebellious spirit lives on amid lofty moldering castles, secret trails, and rolling hills fragrant with rosemary, juniper, thyme, and orchids.