A Journey in Search of a Saint and Her Heretics.


Our pilgrimage starts upon your arrival in Marseille on the afternoon of Friday, May 17th, 2019 and ends when we deliver you to Toulouse Airport on the afternoon of Saturday, May 25th, 2019. Please note that should you wish to travel earlier or remain later than the dates above, you are free to do so. As some of you may elect to stay on in the Languedoc region for a few days, we have not included the accommodation for the night of May 25th in our price. We can make recommendations regarding places to stay should you wish to do so.

You will spend your first two nights in Arles, the first city Mary Magdalene is said to have visited after landing in Gaul. Arles sits on a low hill where the Rhône River branches in two parts to the sea. The town dates back to the 7th century BC, and was a major Gallo-Roman city. The major Roman sites, such as the Arena and the Theater, are unique in that they are integrated into the houses and buildings of the town. The streets of this city are truly medieval in character: narrow and winding between ancient buildings. Automobile traffic is permitted on many of them, but walking is much easier than driving.


Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer
From Arles we will journey southwest into the heart of the Camargue to Stes.-Maries-de-La-Mer where legend has it that Mary and her party made landfall after their epic journey across the Mediterranean from Egypt. The refugees in the boat were: Mary Jacobe; Mary Salome; Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary Magdalene and Martha; St Maximinus; Cedonius, who was born blind and cured and Sarah, the servant of Mary and Martha. After landing safely, the group built a small oratory in thanksgiving. The disciples wandered off their separate ways. Mary Magdalene went to Ste-Baume, and Martha went to Tarascon. Marie Salome, Marie Jacobe and Sarah remained in the Camargue, and were later buried in the oratory.

Massif de la Ste.-Baume
The next day will be spent treading the very ground where Mary Magdalene herself supposedly lived and preached. It was to Ste- Baume, a place historically known as a place of pilgrimage for the worship of the Mother Goddess, that she is said to have come, perhaps to find a home among the priestesses who lived and practiced their ancient faith in this remote region. As legend would have it, it was from here that she founded her early Gnostic Church before withdrawing to seclusion for the final 33 years of her life. Or did she? Is it reasonable to assume that the same strong, single-minded woman who survived the ordeals that myth and legend would have us believe, suddenly abandoned her mission to withdraw as a sorrowful and broken-hearted penitent for what amounted to a large proportion of her life?  On the other hand, is there another story about Mary with an alternative ending?  It is in the heart of this region that we will spend the day walking the paths through the forests of the Massif de la Ste.-Baume, visiting and meditating at the places sacred to Mary’s life and memory, as we seek to uncover our own answers to this fascinating riddle.

La Couvertoirade
From Arles, we will journey westward, towards Gincla in the heart of the Languedoc. Time permitting, en route we will visit the ancient fortified hill town of La Couvertoirade before entering the Languedoc. La Couvertoirade provides one of the finest examples of a walled medieval town to be found anywhere in France. During medieval times, a chapter of the Knights Templar was located in La Couvertoirade and played a crucial role in the town's development. Their influence is obvious even today.

During the remainder of our trip, we will be staying at the beautiful Hostellerie du Gran Duc at Gincla in the heart of the mountains of the Languedoc which features outstanding local cuisine. From there we will be hiking to Cathar castles and other sites important to the legend of the Magdalene and our Tradition. Apart from our day-to-day hiking, we will visit various sites on our rest days. Our evenings will be spent enjoying various informational lectures and entertainment, including a performance by the Troubador group, La Rosa Trobadoresca.

The Rosa Trobadoresca is an early music ensemble created in 2003 by Nicolas Dedieu; it specializes in the interpretation of troubadour poetry using instruments that have been reconstructed from the medieval period. Its spellbinding and intriguing ancient melodies are sure to captivate and carry the listener to far away lands… Members of the ensemble are Philippe Groulard, Jacques Khoudir, and Nicolas Dedieu.

The following is a sampling of the various sites we may visit during the course of our trip.

Châteaux de Lastours. The three castles of Cabaret, Quertinheux, and Surdespine were begun in the 11th century, and by the 13th century, houses extended down to the mountain to the River Orbiel, where a Cathar parfaits’ village was located. The brothers Jourdain and Peire-Rogièr de Cabaret held the land from the Trencavel family and welcomed, among others, troubadours Raimon de Miraval and Peire Vidal, who wrote songs in praise of Jourdain’s wife, Loba de Pennautier. In 1209, during the Albigensian Crusade, Simon de Montfort’s attack failed, and under Peire-Rogièr, Cabaret became a focal point of Cathar resistance. In 1227, Humbert de Beaujeu besieged Cabaret, and it was forced to capitulate two years later. The French troops then destroyed the village and the castles. The fourth castle, la Tour Régine, was built after 1229 when the three other castles were reconstructed.
Alet-les-Bains.  Originally the site of a Roman temple to Diana, in 817, Alet became the seat of a Benedictine abbey, called Abbaye Sainte-Marie d’Alet or Notre Dame d’Alet. Between 1167 an 1197 a large wall was built to fortify the town, which was held by the Trencavel family.  In the village, medieval half-timbered houses, including that of Nostradamus, still line its narrow streets.
Aguilar. Dating from the 11th century, Raimon de Termes defended his castle of Aguilar for four months against Simon de Montfort in 1210, but he was forced to yield when rats infected the castle’s water supply. Raimon was cast into the dungeon in Carcassonne, and Ramon’s young son, Olivièr de Termes fled to the court of Aragon. There he met several other faidits (dispossessed nobles), including Raimon-Rogièr Trencavel’s son Raimon Trencavel, who had a similar history and helped Olivièr eventually win back his castle of Aguilar nearly thirty years later.
Padern. The 11th century castle of Padern belonged to the Abbey of Lagrasse during the Albigensian Crusade. Chatbertz de Barbeira, possibly with the help of Guilhèm-Raimon de Peyreperteuse, chased out the monks and also those living further up the mountain at the tiny Prieuré de Molhet.
Quéribus. The 11th century Quéribus castle was the last Cathar stronghold. After the fall of Montsegùr in 1244, it became a refuge for faidits under the protection of Chatbertz de Barbeira. Benoit de Termes, Cathar bishop of Razes, took refuge until his death in 1241. After the successful siege, the castle surrendered in 1255.

. In 1204, Raimon de Pereilha and his cousin Pierre-Rogièr de Mirepoix decided to rebuild the dilapidated castle under the advice of Esclarmonde de Foix as a refuge and a center of Cathar activity. In 1233, Guilhabert de Castres requested that the site become the seat of the Cathar church. In 1241, Raimon VII of Toulouse halfheartedly besieged Montsegùr without success The murder of two chief inquisitors of Toulouse and about eight of their friars by the knights of young Peire-Roger de Mirepoix, son-in-law of Raimon de Pereilha at Avignonet on May 28, 1242, precipitated the final military expedition to conquer the castle. About 10,000 French troops began the siege of Montségur in the spring of 1234, which and lasted nine months until its surrender in March 1244. Approximately 220 Cathars were burned en masse at the foot of the mountain. Those who renounced the Cathar faith were allowed to leave, although the castle itself was completely destroyed.

The castle dates back to before 1180, and it provided a refuge for Cathars during the Albigensian Crusade. The first lords were the de Pailhès branch of the Rabat family.  In the middle of the 11th century, Roquefixade belonged to the counts of Toulouse, although conflicts saw it change hands several times between them and the counts of Foix.  The lords of Roquefixade were related to the Pereilha family, and Raimon de Pereilha, whose family owned Mirepoix, was married in 1205 at Roquefixade, with Corba de Lanta, daughter of Jourdain de Lanta and the Marquise de Villemur de Pailhès.
Peyreperteuse.  The lower part of Peyreperteuse or Pèirapertusa castle was built in the 11th century by the kings of Aragon, although archaeological excavations show it having been settled by the Romans, and a reference to a castle first appears in 806. It belonged to the Count of Besalú, then to Barcelona, and then to Narbonne, under fief to Aragon. Peyreperteuse collaborated with Puilaurens in offering a refuge for faidits and Cathars fleeing the crusade. The castle was never besieged; Guilhèm de Peyreperteuse refused and was excommunicated in 1224. Peyreperteuse remained free until 1240 when it surrendered to the French, who built the higher part of the castle.
Gorge de Galamus. The Gorge de Galamus was created by the River Agly (River of Eagles) forging a deep gash between tall rocks. First mentioned in the 15th century, a Franciscan hermitage and chapel are situated halfway down the rock face in a natural grotto.
Camps sur l’Agly. Camps sur l’Agly’s castle was first mentioned in 1020.  It served as a refuge for the faidits during the Albigensian Crusade.  Its 13th century church is now dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Puivert. The 12th century Puivert Castle belonged to the de Congost family who were practicing Cathars and owed allegiance to the Trencavel.  Alpaïs de Congost, wife of owner Bernard de Congost, became a parfaite.  Known as the troubadour castle, there are recorded festivities from as early as 1170. The castle surrendered to the crusaders in 1209 after only 3 days and was taken by one of Simon de Montfort’s lieutenants. The de Congost family members took refuge at Montségur. Ruins of the original castle lie behind the present castle, which was constructed in the 14th century. In the Musicians’ room are sculptures of musicians with different instruments  - bagpipes, flute, drum, rebec, lute, guitern, organ, psaltery and the vièle à archet.

The earliest mention of the town dates to the 10th century. Mirepoix was captured in 1209 by Simon de Montfort and given to one of his lieutenants. The town, originally on the right bank of the Hers-Vif, was destroyed by a violent flood in 1289 when the levee at Puivert ruptured and caused massive flooding that destroyed the whole village. It was rebuilt in 1290, on the other side of the river. The layout of the town center has not changed since that time. At the heart of Mirepoix is one of the finest surviving arcaded market squares - Les Couverts - in France. Houses dating from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries border the square. The owners of Mirepoix were the Pereilha family, and in 1204 Forneria de Pereilha (mother of Raimon de Pereilha) became a Cathar parfaite and opened a community.
Caudiès de Fenouillet.  Le Castel Fizel comprises the ruins of a castle of the Counts of Fenouillet, constructed in 12th century. It was the seat of the Viscounty of Fenouillèdes, which depended alternatively on the counts of Toulouse and the kings of Aragon; the latter gave it to Raimon-Rogièr, Count of Foix. The Viscount of Fenouillet was a Cathar.
Puilaurens. The castle of Puilaurens technically belonged to Aragon and, at the start of the Albigensian Crusade the castle was under the protection of the powerful Fenouillet viscounts, often helped by the lords of Peyreperteuse and Cucugnan. It never fell during the crusade, although Simon de Montfort attacked it. Guilhèm de Peyreperteuse reputedly commanded the castle in 1229, and its castellans were members of the Catala family – Peire and his son Rogièr. Its last military commander was Chatbertz de Barbeira, who also defended the castle of Quéribus.

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