One of the absolute highlights of our spiritual journey 2014 “In the footsteps of Mary Magdalene and her successors” through the Languedoc is doubtlessly going to be the visit we are going to pay to the former heartland of the Cathars, namely Albi. This town won notoriety during the Albigensian Crusade, since the Albigenses, the important group of Cathars who used to inhabit this region, namely the North-East of Toulouse, originally come from there. The interior of the church is so breathtakingly beautiful that I rank it among the most impressive sacred buildings I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the photos I have taken are unable to fully express its ravishing beauty. For this reason, I am all the more looking forward to visit this impressive monument of the Cathars together with my fellow travelers in October 2014 again.
Philip Coppens, Kathleen McGowan’s unfortunately too early deceased husband, wrote a very impressive book on the small village in which Mary Magdalene has been worshipped for centuries: „The Cryptogram  of Rennes-le-Chateau“. The book tells the story of Bérenger Saunière, the former country curate who became extremely wealthy by unknown means in the middle of the 19th century, which enabled him to renovate the church which was dedicated to Mary Magdalene out of his own pocket and fashion it in an unusual way.
Already on entering the church one is staggered by the stoup, which is borne by a horned man. There are several depictions of Mary Magdalene in the interior of the building, for instance in a semi-relief on the altar, as statue or on the marvelous windows.
There are many photos in my Facebook album “The Expected One”, in which I have published many albums that accord well with text passages from the same-titled novel by Kathleen McGowan
 A cryptogram is an encrypted text.
A journey on the trails of Mary Magdalene and her successors through the Languedoc – without visiting Rennes-le-Château – is impossible! After all the small mountain village is situated only a few miles from our castle hotel.
Over the centuries treasure hunters have been looking for the “Holy Grail” in and around the village and the small town also gained fame in the last 150 years owing to the legendary country curate Bérenger Saunière, who was an ardent worshipper of Mary Magdalene. Today I am going to show you the charming landscape around Rennes-le-Château, there will be more information on this place in the next blog entries.
On Monday in the week of our spiritual journey we are going to discover the ruins of the Cathar castle which probably possesses the most beautiful view over Languedoc on foot. Already the ascent, which takes about 20 minutes and is not physically demanding, offers a breathtaking view over the placid line of hills right up to the Pyrenees. This mountain chain separates the South of France from Spain and many Cathars used to live in this region. (We are going to visit some of those Cathar caves in the course of our journey, a corresponding blog entry will be posted at a future date).
The castle of Quéribus provided refuge during the so-called Albigensian crusade (1209-1229), in the course of which the institutional Church cruelly persecuted the Cathars, because the castle luckily was never taken.
From up there one can see the small village Cucugnan, which was named after the same-named family in the possession of whom the castle was towards the end of the 12th century. They were friends with the Cathars and sympathised with their faith.
Those of you who have read the novel “The Expected One” by Kathleen McGowan might remember the often-quoted “Château des Pommes Bleues”, in which the protagonists of the book live. I think I have read somewhere that Kathleen McGowan drew her inspiration for the fictitious castle “Château des Pommes Bleues” from the castle and the modern-day hotel „Château des Ducs de Joyeuse“ in Couiza.
However that may be: In the Languedoc region this is the only hotel far and wide which meets my expectations on a seminar hotel, therefore, we are going to stay there with our tour party for five days. Maybe there still is a castle ghost somewhere? Maybe we are going to put one or two things straight energetically in those rooms, who knows? The fact is, at the same time as us an American group is going to stay at the hotel. They are going to walk in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene in Languedoc as well. We are already looking forward to a lively exchange of ideas.
If you leave Carcassonne and drive south through the placid rolling hills and the picturesque vineyards, you reach the abbey Saint Hilaire (Hilarius). The monastery dates back to the 9th century and for a long time was inhabited by monks who stood under the patronage of the counts of Carcassonne.
During the crusades in the Middle Ages, in the course of which the institutional Church tried to obliterate the Cathars, also the monks of St. Hilaire, who were close to the Cathars, were accused of blasphemy. Therefore, their monastery was destroyed. The Romanesque-Gothic church and the beautiful cloister are especially worth visiting.
However, what I consider to be the most exceptional is the semi-relief which represents Jesus hugging a woman and a woman sitting next to him. Who this woman is with whom Jesus is represented to be very familiar, is a question that should be answered by everyone himself. In the course of our SPIRITUAL JOURNEY 2014 I am going to show this beauty spot to the participants.
Once upon a time the castle of Carcassonne was inhabited by a lady named Carcas. Rumour has it that she wangled to end the long lasting siege of the castle through Charlemagne. When nearly all the food supplies had been consumed and the inhabitants of the castle town came near suffering death by starvation, she ordered the last pig to be fattened and to be thrown across the castle walls. The enemies fell for this trick and thought that the castle still was far from being conquered, since the inhabitants obviously still had enough to eat and were not starving. Resignedly they withdrew. Subsequently, Madame Carcas let the bells chime in order to make peace with Charlemagne. Her stone bust can be admired in one of the gateways until the present day.
Carcassonne is a mere tourist village with about 250 inhabitants, the other residents stay in the town for touristic reasons only. In 1997 the beautiful old castle town with its double castle wall was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.