A group of Cathars sought refuge in the village in 1210 after the massacre at Béziers during the Albigensian Crusade. The village was besieged by Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester.
After 6 weeks Minerve’s only water supply was cut off. The villagers negotiated with their attackers and were spared from death. But 140 Cathars refused to give up their faith and were burned at the stake on 22 July.
Minerve is officially recognised as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The Most Beautiful Villages Of France”). In the Middle Ages, it was an imposing Cathar city with double surrounding walls, built by the Viscounts of Minerve.
Of the original fortifications, only a slender tower survives. But the village still has plenty of charm, with arts and craft shops, galleries, bars and restaurants aimed at the thousands of tourists who visit Minerve each year.
Minerve was built at a meeting point of the Cesse and Brian rivers. Only residents are allowed to drive across the narrow bridge that links Minerve to the outside world. All other visitors park at the top of the hill and walk down the gorge on a dramatic approach into the village.
The cobbled medieval streets can be steep and uneven in places, so suitable footwear is recommended.
The drive from Minerve to Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois takes 25 minutes (11 miles, 18 km). There is a charge for parking in the visitor car park at the top of the gorge.
You could combine a visit to Minerve with l’Oubilo, the only olive-growers cooperative in the Aude department. As well as a shop selling olives and olive-based products such as oils and soap, they conduct highly-rated guided tours.