‘D’ací a 700 anys el llorer florirá!’
In 700 years the laurel will blossom!
A t the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Valencian Community hosted the first great European exodus, that of the Cathars or bons homes who, persecuted by the French inquisition because of their Christian orthodox beliefs fled from the South of France, crossing the Pyrenees and more than six hundred kilometers to take refuge in various municipalities of the Valencian Community region.
Now, almost 700 years later, we can relive this great adventure, making an extraordinary journey into our more unknown and exciting medieval past through the lands and legacy of these first refugees, who brought their traditions and culture with them.
The diverse settlements of Els Ports and the Maestrat, like Morella or Sant Mateu and, also the city of Valencia were their main dwellings, contributing greatly to its medieval splendour.
This route links the territories of the French Midi, Catalunya and Aragon with the the Valencian Community and allows us to relive an important episode in our history and the experience of those who had to flee their lands in search of a new life and freedom.
“I am the king! And darkness came to Occitania and the light went to Valencia”
Persecuted and harassed, numerous Cathars (“pure” in Greek) fled from the region of Toulouse, Carcasonne and Albi in Occitania, to the new lands conquered a few years earlier by King Jaume I, whose father had died in the battle of Muret for defending the rights of vassalage and its population, largely composed of Cathars.
The Cathars were integrated into the society that welcomed them and they notably influenced the development of key economic sectors for the Valencian Community such as livestock, textiles, Gothic architecture and medieval art, boosting the remarkable commercial and cultural expansion of Valencian regions in the late Middle Ages.
Els Ports and the Maestrat, the new country of the Cathars
This route from the French Midi towards the south, utilised the historic Roman roadways, medieval paths and, above all, the cattle transhumance routes that were exploited for their displacements. A visit to various localities of Els Ports and Maestrat, such as Morella or Sant Mateu will allow us to observe the legacy of those Cathars who settled in these lands.
The last Cathar Guillem de Belibaste affirmed that “Morella will be the new Jerusalem” as he discreetly settled in Morella, between the narrow streets of the old Jewish quarter and the Plaça dels Tarascons, still perfectly recognizable today in the urban framework of this town.
The last Cathars
In Sant Mateu an important Cathar colony existed that used to meet in the Mauri family home, coming from the small Occitan village of Montaillau. Its memory is latent in places like the walk that surrounds the town wall, dedicated to one of the Cathars who lived there.
Following this route, we can see the same landscapes and monuments and we might also feel the whisper of its singular history.
“He who does not remember his history, is obliged to repeat it”
Seven hundred years later, the visit to the medieval precincts of cities like Morella, Catí, Sant Mateu or Peñíscola, or to emblematic places in the Valencian city, like the Lonja or the Cathedral, will allow us to discover traces of the cultural historical legacy of those who, persecuted for their beliefs and convictions sought hope for a better future in the lands of the Valencian Community.
Source/Written by: Agència Valenciana del Turisme.