occitan map 3
Occitania originally covered a third of south west Europe, with up to 15 million inhabitants stretching from Spain to Italy. Occitan as a written language dates back to the Troubadours, and although recognised as an official regional language in Italy and Spain, France only succeeded in gaining the same rights in 2014. In 2016 the regions of Languedoc- Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées joined together, with an overwhelming vote to rename the area Occitanie.
Troubadours were composers and performers of Occitan lyrical poetry and courtly love during the middle ages (1100-1350). They were not travelling players, but came from educated backgrounds,  with some of their literature surviving today. Interest in the culture and arts of the Troubadours revived in the 19th century, and in 1904 Frédéric Mistral won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his long poem Mireille, written in the Occitan language.
Knights Templar
knights T
The order of the Knights Templar began in the early 12th century as an elite religious fighting force, given the rights to 'take up the sword' in defence of the church.  The warrior monks owned nothing themselves, having given all they had to the Order. As a result they became a substantial financial power, leading to a ruthless war with King Phillip. Knights were believed to have escaped with archives and treasure, leading to endless stories, but nothing has ever been found...?
The Cathars
cathars 2 Peyrepertuse Queribus
There isn't a great deal known about the Cathar religion as texts were destroyed during the Inquisition in the 13th century. What is known is that ordinary men and women were called the 'Bons hommes' and the ' Bonnes Femmes' or Good Christians, who were expected to live an honest and good life. The Cathars believed that the body held both good and evil, known as 'dualism', and the only redemption was to undertake Consolamentum, which was their most important ceremony. In this a spirit would descend from heaven and inhabit the body, removing all sin. Most people would take the ceremony within hours of death. It could only be admistered by a 'Parfait' or 'Parfaite', the spiritual elite, who led a life of austerity and charity, much respected by the people.

The Cathar religion thrived from the 11th to 13th century, and as the Catholic Pope saw them gaining popularity, especially with the nobles in the area, he began a crusade to destroy them, in order to maintain the power of the Church and gain lands in the region. In 1204 a crusade of terror began against the Cathars, with the intention of destroying all believers and their castles, mostly in the area surrounding the fortresses of Montsègur and Carcassonne. Although many were rebuilt after the siege, there are truly magnificent castles remaining such as those at Quéribus and Peyrepertuse. 

A popular though unsubstantiated theory is that a small party of Cathar Parfaits escaped from a fortress before the massacre and it is believed to this day that they took with them 'le trésor cathar'. What this treasure consisted of has been a matter of considerable speculation: claims range from sacred Gnostic texts to the Cathars accumulated wealth, which may have been significant holy relics. 
B Sauniere 3
Rennes le Chateau R le C tour
At the end of the 19th century, the hamlet of Rennes-Le-Chateau became the centre of a troubling mystery. Abbé Saurnière, who took over the church, undertook restoration works, thanks to a loan granted from the commune. As work began on the alter, a cache was uncovered which contained gold coins, and a chalice that exists today. This wouldn't have been enough to explain the life of the abbot, and some suggest he may have discovered a crypt, but as to its contents... a mystery!

A few years later, the inhabitants were astounded by the way their churchman lived. Important excavations were undertaken. The church completely renovated, the Abbot bought land, built the luxurious Villa Béthanie, with the Magdala tower as his personal library, and filled his garden with exotic plants. But what did he discover in his church? A secret, a treasure? There are many theories and one includes the discovery of the Holy Grail...

Abbé Saurnière was known to be an eccentric man, living a life of style and decoration that left many ambiguous messages. At the entrance to the church, under the statue of the Virgin, he had a Visigothic pillar replaced by an upside down Cross of Silence. The giant stoup at the entrance is supported by Asmodeus the Devil, the walls are decorated with strange paintings and reproductions, in short, myth or mystery, everything seems to indicate a place that conceals a deep secret...