Glimpses of some of the history of the region.....
The doctrine of Catharism was based on the belief that the kingdom of God is locked in battle with an intrinsically evil material world created by Satan. Among other things, Cathars believed that anything connected with the physical body - materialism, eating, sex, indeed life itself was ultimately to be renounced.
The followers of this doctrine took inspiration in the struggle to free the spirit from the flesh from an ascetic branch of the clergy called "Bons Hommes". These men lived as close to the doctrine as possible, they were vegetarian, chaste and did not handle money; they lived solely on alms. This was in marked contrast to the richness and materialism of the Catholic clergy of the day and it is not surprising that many people were attracted to the new doctrine. The new religion spread from the Balkans and took greatest root in the South West of France between the 11th and 13th Centuries. Montauban, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Albi and Beziers were particular strongholds. Preaching was in the old Occitan tongue (Langue d'Oc)
The followers of this faith did not use the term "Cathar". In fact they called themselves Christians except that they did not subscribe to all the sacraments of the Catholic church. Because of this, Catharism was branded a heresy, and was increasingly seen by the Pope as a serious threat .
Rome branded the followers of the new faith "Albigensians", and after several attempts to suppress the heresy by negotiation and papal edicts, finally launched the Albigensian crusade in 1208. There was political support also available from the Kings of Northern France who were happy to have an excuse to do battle with the Southern nobility. The purge was very bloody and cruel resulting in thousands of Cathars being slaughtered or burnt at the stake. By 1321, Catharism in Southern France had been destroyed.
Other topics of particular interest which may appear here later include:
The Knights of the Templar (who had a command post in Vaour, a village about 5 miles away)
The Hundred Years War, in every part of the region was at some time captured by the English then recaptured by the French
The Wars of Religion, where the animosity between towns held by the Catholics and by the Hugenots (French protestants) was intense. It was the protestants who caused the destruction of Penne castle.