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Travel to France for the Besieged and the Beautiful in Languedoc

Find cheap airfare to France where eight hundred years ago, these castles in Languedoc, a region of vineyards and olive groves that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Pyrenees in the southwest corner of France, were hideouts of the Cathars, a zealous religious sect that denounced many basic tenets of the Catholic Church. Pope Innocent III was alarmed by the Cathars’ growing popularity, so in 1208 he declared a crusade to eradicate them.

Waves of cross-bearing warriors from northern France and Germany obeyed the holy call, laying siege to Cathar strongholds, slaughtering the heretics and pillaging their lands with a savagery that was startling even by the standards of the Middle Ages. In Béziers, at the northern edge of resistance, over 15,000 men, women and children — the entire population of the town as well as hordes of hapless refugees — were butchered. (The crusader monk Armond Amaury famously told his troops, when asked whom to spare, “Kill them all, God will know his own.”)

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