Usson, Pyrenean Castle
How would you feel if you bought a castle and found the treasure of the Cathars had passed this way?
That is the riveting sub-title on the cover of this book! And it was the experience of David Warr, the English Distributor for Val Wineyard Publishing.
Val has known David for more years than either of them care to count. Way back in 1990, when a mutual friend suggested she contacted David about visiting the castle he had bought in the Pyrenees, and she had planned a holiday touring Languedoc, she visited this remote place with its romantic ruined castle, perched on a crag.
Val and her partner took the Andorra road from Quillan, heading deep into the mountains towards the old border between France and Spain in medieval times. Usson castle is sign-posted now, but it wasn't in 1990! "I have always remembered that magic day," Val says.
Usson castle has only recently been known as a Cathar castle. The Cathar history is nearly forgotten. Before Montségur was taken and the Cathars were burnt alive, three daring Perfects smuggled out the Cathar Treasure and it passed through Usson on its way to Italy. The villagers told David the treasure included the "Gospel of St. John the Beloved" in Occitan - and that the archeologists were looking for it!
Now Usson castle houses a museum called Maison de Patrimoine de Donezan, Donezan being the old name for the area ruled from Usson. You can see there - and in this book - what the archeologists found.
During the Crusade against the Cathars, the Lords of Usson offered effective support to the besieged castle of Montségur. There is quite a story there and Val has written it! She became so immersed her friends said she was living in another world.
It tells the story of two English people who loved the south of France, "the Englishman up the hill" beside the castle, David, and Val, who was in the throes of moving to France. It's also the history of the castle, and especially the people who lived in it, which included the fair Esclarmonde, she who was apparently burnt alive at Montségur but changed into a dove, and flew to Heaven. That's why the Dove became a precious symbol for the Cathars.
Everyone who loves the Cathars, or who believes they are reincarnated from them, will enjoy this book.
Especially captivating is the life of Esclarmonde, the "white lady" of Montségur, who lived at Usson. The name Esclarmonde means "the light of the world," and that light which will never die illuminates this book.