Prior to the decimating Papal crusade against the Southern French Cathars, Puivert was known for sponsorship of the arts and poetry. The fifedom and castle served as a meeting place for troubadours in the Aude and Roussillon region and a hospitable refuge for poets and troubadour musicians traveling from Provence. American poet Ezra Pound nursed an interest in troubadour history and translated the troubadour cantos.
Gleaned from various sources, the family story related to Puivert Castle runs like this:
In 1208, a lady named Alpais, the sister of the seigneur of Montsegur and wife of Bernard de Congost, was dying and received the Cathar Consolatum, a ceremony similar to the Catholic communion, blessing and anointment with salve before death. Despite official prohibitions against the Cathars, the family continued its affinity with the sect. In 1232, Bernard de Congost also received the consolatum at Montsegur. His son Gaillard participated in the murder of the Pope’s representatives at Avignonnet, an event that triggered even more aggressive destruction by the invading army under the aegis of the Pope. Alpais and Bernard’s daughter Saissa, a professed Cathar, roasted with the last remaining Cathars at the terminal burning pyre at the base of Montsegur on March 16, 1244.
Religious persecution hid the reality: political greed and a type of civil war. Simon de Montfort, the northern general who burned Béziers and other cities, massacred townspeople and turned over the conquered Cathar lands and castles to his myrmidons, subverting the established clans of the French Midi. The Puivert castle and land went to Pons de Bruyeres, one of the crusading assailants, and the property passed to his son Jean. In 1310, a descendant named Thomas de Bruyeres married Isabelle de Melun and they enlarged the chateau.
I stared at the chateau and swished the brush in a mini-cup of water, finishing the watercolor as the late September sun closed. I hoped families in the region retained some historical knowledge of the persecution and atrocities committed against the Cathars. When I mentioned an interest, local folks would nod in recognition, but it was rare to find anyone with deeper knowledge than the rough facts offered on a wayside historical marker. A typical response would be: Cathars owned the castles and the army burned them out. That is true, but misses the point that the army was there on a trumped-up mission to subjugate a civilized, peaceful and prosperous population who disagreed with the corrupt religious hierarchy who ruled Europe with despotic force.