Our upland dolmens are very well known – to a very few. Minerve has received a packet of funds to safeguard and promote its brief rôle in the Cathar saga. From Carcassonne airport and onwards across the departement, there are frequent declarations that this area is significant – for one reason only: Cathar heretics were martyred here.
Naturally anyone with a grasp of history that extends beyond a few centuries in the Middle Ages, is quickly sickened by this mono-diet.
The fact that those preposterously precipitous ‘Cathar Castles’ were not built by Cathars rarely gets mentioned. After the ‘shock and awe’ of places like Peyrepertuse, Puilaurens, Quéribus, Aguilar & Termes, Minerve village is a welcome relief to those who are ‘historically challenged’. It’s the more manageable, ‘daily soap-opera’ version of the Albigensian drama; it has convenient (if spectacularly ugly) carparks; there are no vertiginous climbs – and it has plenty of cafes and shops.
It also has a tiny museum that chronicles the fact that the Cathar ‘episode’ was but the briefest blip on a much wider screen. Prehistory and protohistory have been shunted into a dusty side room, while the melodrama of mediaeval ‘romance’ hogs centre-stage.
Les Causses de Minerve have supported a variety of peoples for thousands of years, attested by the nécropoles of Le Bouys, and Les Lacs. Further west are other concentrations of Neolithic and Chalcolithic and Bronze Age communities. To the eastern end of Les Montagnes Noires there are further groupings around Assignan,Villepassans and Cébazan.
But just to the side of Minerve are two small ‘causses’ with their own little-known megalithic tombs : Mayranne and Coupiac. They too have a history – though it is difficult to visualise a community of hill-shepherds on this bleached-out limestone pavement.