THE SITE OF THE BURNING OF THE LAST GREAT HERETIC
A picturesque village of the Corbières, clustered around its castle. Surrounded by the typical landscape of this area consisting of barren, reddish hillside, etched by vines and Mediterranean scrub. Both the castle and the village were bitterly contested for centuries by the archbishops of Narbonne and the local nobles such as the Termes and Peyrepertuse families. Traces of such struggles can be found from the 12th century.After the crusades a new lord of Termes came onto the scene, Alain de Roucy, a Northern baron who came to spread Christianity against heresy, which however did not stop him from usurping the lands of the Bishops, like his occitan predecessors, provoking the intervention of Pope Onorio III. But history remembers Villerouge-Termenès, especially due to the fact that it was here that William Belibasto was burnt on the stake in 1321, the last Catharist “prefect” of whom the name is known.
RE-LIVING THE MIDDLE AGES
The castle has been cited in documents dating back to the 12th century. It has a squared form and is embellished at the corners with rounded towers. Featuring a great fortified door surmounted by a tower, a vast building on the southern side was used as stables and cattle sheds, which has been perfectly restored and which now houses a shop and a Medieval tavern. The interior features a splendid courtyard and large dining halls which are still used for banquets, with ribbed Gothic vaulting. Access is provided by a curious staircase excavated in the walls. The village was in the 12th century surrounded by bastions, of which the massive San Giovanni Door remains. Outside the walls is the church of St. Etienne with a splendid retablo representing the scenes of the life of the Saint. The building built between the 13th and 14th century features a single rounded nave and flat apse.
BELIBASTO, A TRULY HUMAN HERO
When Belibasto climbed on to the stake in front of this castle, over a century had passed since the beginning of the Crusade. Neither armies or the Inquisition had succeeded in completely eradicating the Catharist faith which had taken such a deep hold on the Provençal lands.
Belibasto was a truly remarkable individual; of peasant origin, he joined the movement almost by accident, after killing an argumentative shepherd. He followed a Catharist “prefect” in Catalonia, and learnt and then preached to the best of his ability, and tried to become a “prefect” also, but was often not successful. He was subsequently betrayed and arrested by the Inquisitors, but he always refused to renounce his faith, preferring death at the stake. Although he was not perfect he proved a true hero of his faith.