The département of Aude carries a rich historical legacy. Outstanding landmarks, such as the fortress citadel at Carcassonne and innumerable hilltop castles of the Middle Ages, are scattered around the dramatic landscape.
The history of these strongholds is intimately tied to the events that shook the Languedoc region in the XIII century, when the crusade against the Cathars, followers of what was called the Albigensian heresy, focused widespread attention on the area.
Pope Innocent III demanded a crusade in 1209. Headed by Simon de Montfort, crusaders destroyed Béziers and Carcassonne. Amaury de Montfort, Simon's son, went into Marmande with his soldiers and massacred more than 5,000 men, women and children for the crime of heresy.
The crusade ended under the regency of Blanche de Castilles in 1229. The last resistance group was headed by Montségur and persisted until 1244. On March 16th of that year, more than 200 Cathars were burned alive for refusing to deny their faith. They were so convinced of their beliefs that they sang while agonising in the fire.
After the fall of the citadel of Montségur, it is believed that survivors hid the Cathars' treasure in the Caves of Lombrives to escape the Inquisition. To this day, the exact location and the contents of that treasure remain a mystery.