She whom the Grail suffered to cry itself had the name of
Repanse de Schoye.
Such was the nature of the Grail that she who
had the care of it was required to be of perfect chastity
and to have renounced all things false.
—WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH ¹
I am going to repeat the legend the old Pyrenean shepherd told me:
When the walls of Montségur were still standing, the Cathars kept the Grail inside them. Montségur was in danger. The armies of Lucifer stood before its walls. They wanted to take the Grail to insert it again in the crown of their prince, from where it fell to Earth during the fall of the angels. In the most critical moment, a white dove came down from the sky, and split the Tabor in two with its beak. Esclarmonde, the keeper of the Grail, threw the precious relic into the mountain where it was hidden; in this way she saved the Grail. When the devils entered the castle, it was too late. Furious, they burned all the Pure Ones, not far from the rocky castle, on the Camp des Crémats, the field of fire… .
The tale continued:
All the Pure Ones perished in the flames, except Esclarmonde. Once she was sure that the Grail was in a safe place, she climbed to the summit of the Tabor, transformed herself into a white dove and flew to the mountains of Asia. Esclarmonde did not die. She continues to live in Earthly Paradise.
… Ethnise, where the Tigris flows out of Paradise.
WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH
My shepherd of the Tabor was relating timeless wisdom. Don’t elves play in the moonlight around the crystal clear springs in their native Pyrenees? Don’t the oak trees on the Tabor speak to the shepherds, who are so far from God’s world, by rustling their leaves? The guaranteedauthentic story that the ninety-year-old peasant of Ornolac told me shows that the grandchildren of the Druids and bards, of the Cathars and troubadours, are today’s mystics and poets. He asserted that he saw a snake on the Tabor that bit its tail and shook itself as it formed a circle at the abyss of the Sabarthès toward the snow-covered summit of Montcalm’s peak.
Today, Pyrenean peasants still idealize the world that surrounds them and consider it enchanted. The Cathars and the troubadours are long dead, but can the human desire for Paradise and God ever be extinguished? Three times the Tabor was cursed and three times it burned in flames. Six hundred years later, a day worker from the town of Ornolac pretends to have seen the symbol of eternity: a snake that bites its tail.
Esclarmonde did not die, a shepherd told me on the Pathway of the Cathars. She continues to live… .
According to Wolfram, the Grail Queen Repanse de Schoye was an aunt of Parsifal. Esclarmonde married the Viscount Jordan de Lille y Gimoez, who was in a way the stepbrother of Trencavel, given that the Houses of Carcassonne and Comminges were united in the tenth century under the scepter of Asnar, a Cantabrian prince. For this reason, the coats of arms of Carcassonne and Comminges were identical.
At the death of Jordan (circa 1204), Esclarmonde renounced her inheritance, divided it between her six sons who were of age, and returned to her mountainous homeland. After receiving the consolamentum at the hands of the Son of Belissena Guilhabert de Castres, she established her residence in the Castellar de Pamier, a place that her brother Raimon-Roger (the Raimon Drut of the troubadours) gave her for her widowhood. From there she could rule her dominions of the Tabor. She was the feudal lady of the castle of Montségur, and Ramon de Perelha, another Son of Belissena, was her vassal.
The fortress of Mont Ségur was constructed
With the only purpose to defend other fortresses… .
GUILLERMO DE TUDELA
The Romans called Montségur Castrum montis securi, their most secure and inaccessible Pyrenean bastion.
Montségur was also the most important fortress of Occitania; impenetrable and highly placed, it dominated the plains of Provence. It was a place for which the Pure Ones had a special affection: the first step toward the stars. Only the snowy summits of the Tabor and the starry sky surpassed that mountain, nearly a thousand meters [3,300 feet] in height.
From Lavelanet, a small town about two hours from Montségur toward the plains, the pathway of the Pure Ones winds through the gorge of Lectouire toward the top of the mountains. It is a place of noisy waterfalls, abrupt stone walls, conifers split by the winds, and farmhouses on the sides of the mountain, with names that recall the Saracen occupation: the door of the Tabor.
When I climbed the rock of Montségur for the first time, clouds swirled around the rocky mountain paths, and a storm howled through the pine and elm trees. When I finally arrived at the cliff (abbès) from which a vertiginous pathway leads to the ruins of the heretical fortress, the clouds suddenly parted and before me rose, golden in the sun, a gigantic rocky pyramid, gray and barren. I had never seen anything so savage and inaccessible before. A sea of clouds flew in the periphery like a flag of incense.
Together with Lavelanet (inuxta castrum montis securi), Montségur defended the access to the Tabor and the caves of Ornolac, which were protected on the Tabor’s other flank by the Castle of Foix, the fortified city of Tarascon, and the fortifications of the Sons of Belissena: Miramont, Calmés, and Arnave. The Sons guarded the access to the Tabor in Mirepoix, Montréal, Carcassonne, Rocafissada, Belasta, Quéribus, and other cities and castles of similar names.
In Montségur, only the noblest knights of Occitania protected the Church of Amor. The mountains, where myths and fables were woven together over thousands of years; the caves, where the memory of ancestors and ancestral civilizations lived on in their magical labyrinths; the woods and springs that inspired songs and prayers—all were sacred for the Occitanians! The Tabor was their Great National sanctuary.
Even today, you can find at each step unmistakable vestiges of that grand civilization. The caves of Sabarthès contain fossilized skeletons, mammoth bones, and Stone Age utensils revealing the presence of prehistoric man, along with countless shards of Greek pottery, Phoenician glass works, and Celt Iberian bronze ornaments. On the rocky white walls, prehistoric pictures shine and mysterious runes await deciphering. At the tops of the mountains, underbrush and brambles hide the impressive ruins of temples and cities.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Druids and the bards were no longer the custodians of the Parnassus of Occitania; this task had fallen to the Cathars and the troubadours. In the fourth century, the Priscillianists rebaptized the range with the name Tabor and dedicated it to Saint Bartholomew, the Apostle of India and Persia. The sacred mountain of Abellio was converted into the Tabor of the exalted Trinity. The peaks of Saint Bartholomew, Soularac, and the rock of Montségur symbolized the divine trinity: Agnostos [the unknown], the Demiurge, and the Paraclete.
The Cathars roamed around the lakes of the Druids telling their converts stories of the golden coins that their spiritualist ancestors, like themselves uninterested in money, had thrown into the depths of the waters. In the shade of a menhir or seated on a cromlech, they spoke of the Grail:
A stone whose essence is most pure:
This stone is also called the “Grail.”
WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH
Maybe the Pure Ones told their attentive disciples a legend that is well known today in Provence and Languedoc; it recounts how Lazarus, Martha, Maria Magdalena, and Saint Dionysus Areopagite (a disciple of the Apostle Paul) took the Grail to Marseille, where Maria Magdalena kept it with her in a cave near Tarascon until her death.
The supreme Minne changed men into poets and poets into sons of God, sons of the muses whose sovereign was Apollo, Artemis’ brother. Are not Heaven and the gods inventions that come from the desire for paradise, a desire of every human being?
Troubadours, knights, and ladies who ascended Montségur to await the “kiss of God,” as the Talmud calls the scythe of death, lived in an immense monastery whose doors were protected by strong castles, whose walls were the rocky walls of the Tabor, whose roof was the blue of the sky, whose cloisters were caves, and whose “Colegiata” was the cathedral at Lombrives.
The Church of Amor was religiously the faithful counterpart of the empire of the Occitan Minne, whose leys d’amors, as was said, were brought to the Earth from the sky by a hawk. The Grail in turn fell to the Earthly world when Lucifer was expelled from God’s throne. The leys d’amors and the Grail were two symbols of the religious and temporal Minne that Heaven presented as gifts to the Earth.
The laws of the Minne established as its fundamental thesis that it should exclude bodily love and matrimony. The Minne is the union of souls and hearts; love is passion that dissipates with sensual pleasure.
Catharism demanded chastity as sine qua non for the “perfect” life. The supreme Minne was the marriage of the human soul with God-Spirit. Carnal love carries with it the death of the contemplation of God and fusion with him.
Troubadour Guilhem de Montanhagol’s poem (which we cited earlier when we tried to explain the Occitan idea of the Minne) could be applied to the Church of Amor in the following terms: Men have to have a pure heart and think only about the supreme Minne. This is in no way is heresy, but rather the sublime virtue that makes humans into the children of God.
The troubadours were the legislators of the leys d’amors. The law of the Minne, of the Church of Amor, was the Gospel of the disciple whom the Lord loved:
This is my commandment: that ye love one another as I have loved you.
When I go to heaven I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever… .
JOHN 15:12; 14:16
Two men ride at the head of the army:
Abbot Arnaud, who the Pope sent as his legate, and
Count Simon, whom the knights named
As their commander to lead the crusade
Horrible pair! Cold and clever, the one,
Fast as windswept flames the other,
So Simon and Arnaud ride together
Associates, in thought and action.
Wherever their horses ride,
Followed by brash shock troops,
Not only the grass of Languedoc is lost,
But also the future sowing of joy
LENAU, THE ALBIGENSES