Join us on a 7 day guided tour of sacred and historical sites associated with 'the Four Heresies' in south west France. Running annually since the late
1990s, our good value tours continue to attract much support and unfailing praise!
Here is an opportunity to visit 'the Land of Heresy': The Albigensians, Templars, Troubadors and Black Madonnas, the Grail and early Protestantism; time to absorb the echoes of that 13th century flowering of a noble culture in Europe, which embraced Christian, Gnostic, Jewish and Muslim ideals and which venerated the 'Feminine Ethic'; time to wonder at that thread of consciousness whose origins predate Christianity and whose traces are now reawakening - as predicted by the Cathars themselves over 700 years ago!
Come and visit the Languedoc (the language of Occ), be beguiled by it's incredible beauty and honour, a sacred landscape that inspired the 'spiritual' Renaissance a century before it emerged as a cultural movement in Northern Italy. The dualistic Cathar philosophy - associated with the Bogomils of the Middle East - emerged simultaneously across large parts of 12th and 13th century Europe, but eventually established its main influence in the Languedoc region of south west France, where it was ruthlessly persecuted (almost to extinction) by the Roman church. Our itineray includes some of the famous Black Madonnas and Magdalene images celebrated in this region. We cannot guarantee access, because these 'heretical' images of 'the goddess and Oneness with the universe', are always threatened by the church and sometimes locked away for 'safe keeping' - even stolen! However, we keep an eye on them and a good number are usually on view.
Isobel was born at the end of WWII in London's East End of an Irish-Jewish-mongrel heritage and grew up with a keen awareness of social injustice and genocide. She was drawn to Bosnia Herzegovinia in 1994 when the Bosnian 'War' was at its height taking up an invitation from Bosnian women to join a series of Peace Conferences in war torn Bosnia called 'Through Heart to Peace'. Their commitment was to non-violence and living in harmony with their neighbours, whilst under threat of extermination. She became involved with and managed the Bosnian Holidays project, which provided times of respite for highly traumatized children, young people and women survivors at a project Centre in the French Languedoc region and later, in England. The work has now evolved from 'hands on' to 'hands off', with many deep friendships forged and regular exchange visits still continuing. In the past, funds were raised for the
project in collaboration with Wholistic World Vision's renowned 'Cathar Tours'. During her time in the Languedoc, where she still lives, she has acquired much
knowledge of this region's heretical history and culture.
Medieval minstrels, Carcassone
Day 1 (10/10)
Early afternoon pick up at Carcassonne airport or Rail station and drive some 90 minutes north to our atmospheric Chambres D'Hote accommodation in LAUTREC, where we spend the first three nights. This perfectly preserved and walled medieval community - high on the list of most beautiful French villages
- is perched on a hilltop set in an exquisite, timeless landscape.
Dolmen de Fades (Dolmen of the Fates or Fairies)
After an introduction and briefing by Isobel, we drive to the imposing town of ALBI for sightseeing with time to explore the huge red brick cathedral - built to symbolise the church's power over the 'Albigensian heresy', the basilica of St Salvi, the Toulouse Lautrec art gallery and the city's river banks and picturesque streets. After lunch we continue to Notre Dame de la Dreche to see a Black Madonna and the tranquil Roman healing Spring. Return to LAUTREC to enjoy the charm of the village.
Drive to nearby MAZAMET to visit the newly opened and controversial "Museum of Catharism", beautifully and lovingly presented by the best of local researchers based on historical facts - rather than romantic "New Age" contemporary Grail theories! Picnic lunch nearby in HAUTPOOL - a medieval and picturesque former Cathar community on a hilltop with a Visigoth castle ruin. Continue to the burial site of 11 noble Cathar women at the ruined chapel of St Julianne on a hilltop, where Catharism lived and thrived. The site was only recently discovered and partially restored.
Travelling south over the Black Mountains, we drive to LASTOURS - a steep climb to Cabaret, Surdespine and Quertinheux and a spectacular mountainside setting for three ruined castles associated with the Cathars. In the first decade of the 12th century Cabaret had become Languedoc's foremost Troubador shrine in the pilgrimage of 'courtly love'. After a picnic lunch we continue to CARCASSONNE to see this fine example of a (restored) medieval fortified city - seat of the Trencavel family, defenders of the Cathar heretics. Later, we continue to our hotel at Alet-les-Bains, near Rennes-le-Chateaux for the next 4 nights stay.
Rennes Le Chateau Church
We drive to AIGNE - the medieval 'snail village' built in a spiral - where we work with powerful vortex energies and visit the church with its Black Madonna and the artists galleries.
Continue to nearby MINERVE to explore this fortified town sited dramatically on cliffs at the juncture of two gorges, where 140 'Parfaits' were burned as Heretics on the feast day of Mary Magdalene in 1210. The day ends with an attunement at a neolithic long barrow burial site before returning to our hotel at Alet-les-Bains for dinner.
In the morning we explore the ancient town of Alet-les-Bains with it's Nostradamus connections and visit the inspiring new "Angel Gallery" at the Spa's original water source - see www.lorriesangels.com. Lunch and sightseeing at RENNES-LE-CHATEAU - the former Visigoth capital of the region. This enigmatic small hilltop village has more recently - especially since the DaVinci Code - become a focus for 'Grail searchers'! We visit Abbe Sauniere's grave (recently removed from consecrated ground by the Roman Church), the Tour Magdala and the unique, symbol-laden church. A conspiracy paradise!
Day 8 (17/10)
Morning return transfer and drop off at CARCASSONNE airport and rail station. Tour ends.
ACCOMMODATION & TRANSPORT: In comfortable and atmospheric accommodation - both establishments were formerly Bishop's residences: one set into the town walls of Lautrec with a garden designed by Le Notre (plus a swimming pool!) and the other in a beautiful park with ancient Temple ruins adjacent to the river at Alet-les-Bains.
Rooms with private facilities. Vehicles driven by the tour guide.
PRICE: 900 Euros per person in shared accommodation. Single supplement 150 Euros (limited). Price includes Bed and Breakfast plus transport and guiding. Air fares, any entrance fees and other meals in private homes (the first 3 nights) and local restaurants are extra.
NB Due to wildly fluctuating exchange rates, we are quoting in Euros to avoid surcharging. Only a fuel surcharge might be required if prices rise substantially in 2013.
DEPOSIT: 200 Euros. Balance due in full 8 weeks prior to departure.
NB. REFUNDS. Only available for the deposit and final balance if your place is subsequently sold (insurance advised!).
By email to Wholistic World Vision, France, e-mail: email@example.com