Hérault (34210) Population: 135 Altitude: 227 m
Minerve is a 13th-century fortified village with Pre-Roman and Roman heritage. Minerve is completely touristique, and for a very good reason: it's a remarkably beautiful medieval village in a faboulous setting. Minerve sits on a high, rocky spur overlooking a deep gorge in a wild and open forested area.
Minerve is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
The villlage is very tightly confined to the high and narrow rocky ridge where it is perched. There are many remains of the 13th-century fortifications, ramparts and towers. There are some remains, but not much, of the 13th-century castle.
Minerve is a "Museum Village", with no particular life of its own, and probably pretty desolate except during the summer. However, we strongly recommend visiting, because of its unique beauty and its setting. The village has a few shops, cafés and restaurants for the visitors, and a great little museum about the region's Cathar past.
Minerve is in the Minervois, a natural region located at the south-eastern edge of the forested Black Mountain (Montagne Noir) and the Haut-Languedoc Natural Park. The immediate area has low hills and valleys, and rivers cutting through with twisty gorges. To the south the hills taper into the Aude river valley (and Canal du Midi) between Carcassonne and Narbonne.
The origin of Minervois goes back to the Romans' name for the area, recorded in 843 as pagus Minerbensis, or country of the Minerves.
Other little villages can be found spread out along the edge of the mountains to the east and west of Minerve, with ten other communes having Minerve in the name, including Argens-Minervois, Caunes-Minervois, Villeneuve-Minervois and Bize-Minevois.
Parking and Walking
There's a single, unique parking lot for visitors, located up past the northwest (pointed end) of the village, with signs on the approach roads to Minerve direct you to the lot. Parking cost is reasonable: 3 euros (2013).
It's a long walk down to the village on a steeply sloped "road", but at least there are no stairs.
Dolmens, Grottos, Tumulii
The Aldène Grotto is an archeological site located 4 km west of Minerve (actually in the commune of Cesseras). This grotto has remains from the Early Paleolithic (Ages of Humankind), including cave paintings and footprints of cave bears and hyenas.
The Grotte d'Aldène has signs of frequent occupation during the end of the Bronze Age and into the Iron age, and signs of human presence here have been dated back to 8000 BC.
GPS: 43.353890, 2.698389
History of Minerve
First record, 873 Menerba
Prehistoric: The area of gorges and grottos around Minerve has many vestiges from the Bronze Age, including scores of dolmens and tumulii, and some oppidums.
Gallo-Roman: A Pre-Roman oppidum was located on the natural bridge over the canyon, and the site was the capitol of the pagus Minerbensis. the Romans' name for this area as recorded in the year 843.
Medieval: The Chateau of Minerve was documented in 873. At the beginning of the the 13th century the citadel of Minerve was a refuge for the Cathars, who were protected by the population. But, after seven weeks of seige, Simon de Montfort conquered the town; 180 "parfaits" were burned alive.
There are cafés and places to eat, even a sandwich shop. But you might think about popping down to La Caunette (3 km) to lunch at the Café de Pays and have an authentically local Plateau Salade Chevre.
Minervois wines were renowned by the Romans two thousand years agon, and mentioned by Cicero.
The regional wines have their own classification, Minervois AOC (see Wine Classification) as a Languedoc-Roussillon wine, with the Minervois red wines being the best known.