The Southern French Nobility and the Albigensian Crusade

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The Southern French Nobility and the Albigensian Crusade

The movement was brutally suppressed, but it was not finally crushed by the Inquisition until the 14th century. Persecuted and expelled, they came to settle in southern France, mainly in the province of Languedoc. They took their name from the town of Albi but, in fact, the movement was mainly centred in and around Toulouse. They were also known as Cathars from a Greek word meaning purified. They believed that Christ was the God of goodness, but they held that the Christian church with its corrupt clergy and immense material wealth was the agent of Satan and had to be avoided.

It is hardly surprising that such views alarmed the Roman Catholic Church of the day! In , after attempts at peaceful conversion had likewise failed, Pope Innocent III launched a full- scale crusade. Led by the French baron Simon de Montfort, it brutally suppressed the Albigensians and, in so doing, laid waste much of southern France. Thousands of men, women and children were killed in what amounted to a civil war between the nobility of north and south France.

Despite the ferocity of the attack, groups of heretics survived in isolated areas, and were not finally exterminated by the Inquisition until the fourteenth century. Having gained entrance to the fortress the troops were instructed by the papal legate to kill all the inhabitants on the grounds that "God will recognise his own"! Xxxxx …… Pope Innocent III in office from was one of the most powerful and influential popes of all time.

As we have seen, apart from his campaign against the Albigensians, he launched the Fourth Crusade in , and played a part in the launching of the Fifth a year before his death. Following a visit to them in , the Castilian Domingo de Guzman , preaching the virtues of poverty and penance, devoted his life to their conversion. He stayed with them during the terrible days of the crusade, and afterwards his work was recognised.

In he and his followers were appointed "diocesan preachers", and a year later their order was approved by the Pope. Similar in many respects to the order of St. Francis, it was organised on almost military lines, placed emphasis on education, and later based its teaching on that of Thomas Aquinas. By the early s, houses had been set up across Europe, and some ten years later the order's influence began to spread far overseas when the Dominicans were charged with the world- wide supervision of the Inquisition.

Thomas Aquinas and the religious reformer Savonarola were members of the order. It was in the year that Domingo de Guzman , a native of Castile and a member of a religious community in Osma, accompanied his bishop on a preaching mission to the south of France and came into direct contact with the Albigensian heretics. A series of victories came in the next two years and Raymond VII of Toulouse agreed terms of surrender. The Languedoc region was now part of the Kingdom of France. The Cathars, meanwhile, were not wiped out and their churches and institutions continued in the region, albeit on a reduced scale.

This intellectual approach was slower but far more successful than the Crusades and by the first quarter of 14th century CE the Cathars ceased to exist as an organised and distinct body of believers. Reflecting the ambiguity of the Albigensian Crusade and the uncomfortable truth of Christians fighting Christians, some popular songs of the period criticised the Popes for granting the campaign a Crusade status and its participants a remission of sins.

Rome , in truth I know, without a doubt, that with the fraud of a false pardon you delivered up the barons of France to torment far from Paradise, and, Rome, you killed the good king of France by luring him far away from Paris with your false preaching.

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There has also developed a certain nostalgia and historical myth-making regarding the Albigensian Crusade with southern French people sometimes using the episode as an example of their cultural independence from an overbearing northern France epitomised by the central government in Paris. The heretics have also appealed to the modern mind with their vegetarianism and improved role for women but these facets of culture are to ignore the fact that there were atrocities and bigotry on both sides during the Crusade which began the process of western Christians fighting each other, a situation that would blight European politics and society for centuries thereafter.

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Cartwright, M. Albigensian Crusade. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Cartwright, Mark. Last modified October 19, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 19 Oct This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms.

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Remove Ads Advertisement. The Crusaders were led by Simon IV de Montfort, a man of experience who had already campaigned with success in the region. Bibliography Asbridge, T. The Crusades. Phillips, J. The Crusades, Routledge, Riley-Smith, J.

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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades. OUP Oxford, Rosser, J. Historical Dictionary of Byzantium.

go to link Scarecrow Press, Runciman, S. Folio Society, Tyerman, C. God's War. Belknap Press, About the Author Mark Cartwright. Mark is a history writer based in Italy.


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His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. Related Content Filters: All. Articles 4. Religion in the Middle Ages, though dominated by the Catholic Church The medieval Church established its monopoly over the spiritual The Crusades were a series of military campaigns organised by Christian The crusades of the 11th to 15th century CE have become one of Help us write more We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers.

Recommended Books God's War. Boydell Press 17 July The Albigensian Crusade. The Albigensian Crusades. University of Michigan Press 09 July Cambridge University Press 19 November Chicago Style Cartwright, Mark. Powered by Mailchimp Newsletter Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week:.