1208 – 1229
A Crusade against the Cathars (Albigenses) in southern France is launched by Pope lnnocent III.
In the year 1198 Pope Innocent III delegated two simple monks to judge the heretics. “We command”, he says “to the Princes, to the Counts, and to all Lords of your lands, to aid them against the heretics, by the authority that they have been given to punish the evil-doers, so that when Brother Rainier has excommunicated them, the Lords should seize their property, banish them from their lands, and punish severely those who dare to resist. Now, we have given authority to Brother Rainier to compel the Lords to do this, on pain of excommunication and interdiction of their property, etc.” This was the first foundation of the Inquisition6
Pierre de Castelnau, a papal legate in southern France who had been making some progress in converting Cathar heretics (also known as Albigensians) to orthodox Catholicism, is murdered. This sparks an outcry and, later this same year, a violent Crusade against the Cathar and the Waldenses in Southern France called by Pope Innocent III.
Raymond VI of Toulouse agrees to the demands of Pope Innocent III that he act against the Cathars after finding that more than 10,000 Crusaders had gathered at Lyon to lay waste to Cathar areas in southern France. In Toulouse, he maintained the communal freedoms, extended exemptions from taxation, and extended his protection to the communal territory. A poet and a man of culture, he hated war but did not lack energy, as shown by his dispute with the papal legate Pierre de Castelnau, representative of Pope Innocent III. Pierre’s assassination on January 15, 1208 led to Raymond’s excommunication. The excommunication was lifted after Raymond humbled himself before the Pope.
“The Count, who knew the power that a papal bull could have, submitted and did what was demanded of him (1209). One of the papal legates, named Milon, ordered him to go to Valence, to surrender seven castles that he held in Provence, to join the crusade against the Albigensians – his own subjects, and to make due apology. The Count obeyed every requirement: he appeared before the legate, stripped to the waist, bare foot and bare legged, clothed in simple breeches, at the door of the Church of Saint-Gilles; there, a deacon placed a noose around his neck. Another deacon flogged him while the legate held the free end of the noose; after which the prince was obliged to prostrate himself at the door of this church while the legate ate his supper.”
On one side of him were to be seen the Duke of Burgundy, the Count of Nevers, Simon Count of Montfort, the Bishops of Sens, of Auytun, of Nevers, of Clermont, of Lisieux, and of Bayeux, all at the head of their troops, and the miserable Count of Toulouse like a hostage in their midst: on the other side a mob animated by fanaticism of their faith. The city of Béziers tried to hold out against the crusaders; all the inhabitants who sought refuge in a church had their throats cut and the city was reduced to ashes11 . The citizens of Carcassonne, frightened by this example, begged for mercy from the crusaders and their lives were spared. They were permitted to leave their city, almost naked, and all their goods were seized.
July 22, 1209
The city of Beziers in southern France is sacked and its population of around 10,000 massacred by the Abbot of Citeaux during the Crusade against the Cathars. Caesar of Heisterbach, the papal representative, records Abbot Arnaud-Amaury saying “Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” (Latin for “Slay them all! God will know his own.”)
August 01, 1209
Crusaders arrive at the French town of Carcassonne, controlled by Raymond-Roger de Trencavel and believed to be a Cathar stronghold.
August 07, 1209
During the Crusader siege of Carcassonne the city’s access to water is cut off. Raymond-Roger de Trencavel attempts to negotiate but is taken prisoner while under a flag of truce.
August 15, 1209
The city of Carcassonne surrenders to the Crusaders. Unlike at Beziers the citizens are not killed but they are all forced to leave. Raymond-Roger de Trencavel is executed and Simon de Montfort, commander of the Crusader army, assumes control of the city and surrounding region for himself.
Crusaders attack the castle of Cabaret, near the French town of Lastours. Pierre-Roger de Cabarat manages to hold out, however.
Crusaders in southern France lay siege to Bram and, after capturing it, kill the Cathars living there.
July 22, 1210
Citizens of the fortified town of Minerve in southern France surrender to the Crusaders seeking out Cathars. Those who were willing to convert were allowed to do so but the 140 who refused were burned at the stake.
The town of Termes falls to the Crusaders after a siege that had lasted since August.
Crusaders return to the castle of Cabaret and this time Pierre-Roger de Cabaret surrenders.
“In depopulating the Languedoc, the Count of Toulouse was dispossessed. He was able to defend himself only by negotiation (1210). He went again to St-Gilles, to meet the legates and abbots who had led the crusade; he wept before them; they claimed that his tears were tears of fury. The legate offered him a choice: either to cede to Simon de Montfort everything that Montfort had already usurped, or to face excommunication. The Count of Toulouse at least had the courage to choose excommunication: he sought refuge with his brother-in-law, Peter II, King of Aragon, who came to his defence, and who had almost as much reason to complain about the leader of the Crusade as the Count of Toulouse.”
Raymond of Toulouse leads an attack Simon de Montfort at Castelnaudary. Montfort is able to escape, but Castelnaudary falls to the Cathars and Raymond goes on to liberate over thirty Cathar towns in the province of Toulouse before his counter-Crusade peters out at Lastours.
However, the enthusiasm to gain Indulgences and wealth multiplied the crusaders. The Bishops of Paris, of Liseux, of Bayeux, hastened to the siege of Lavaur. Eighty knights were taken prisoner along with the lord of this town; they were all condemned to be hanged, but the gallows broke under the weight and the captives were abandoned to the crusaders who massacred them (1211). The sister of the Lord of Lavaur was thrown down a well, and around the well, three hundred inhabitants who would not renounce their faith were burned.
The Children’s Crusade is supposedly launched by the 12-year old French boy Stephen de Cloyes. More than 50,000 children are thought to have been sold into slavery, but many historians disbelieve that this Crusade ever occurred.
April 19, 1213
September 12, 1213
Battle of Muret: Peter II of Aragon, I of Catalonia comes to the aid of the Cathars in Toulouse and Languedoc who are being harassed by Crusaders. Peter is killed and his army flees.
Raymond of Toulouse is forced to flee to England.
Simon de Montfort entered Périgord captures the Cathar castles of Domme and Montfort.
Meanwhile Raymond went to Aragon, hoping to rally support. From there he engaged in secret negotiations with leaders in Toulouse during 1216.
Raymond of Toulouse and his son, both Cathar heretics, return to southern France, raise a large force from the various Cathar towns that had been captured by the Crusaders, and begin to strike back.
Simon de Montfort possibly believed that Raymond was on his way to Toulouse in September 1216; at any rate he returned in great haste from Beaucaire and conducted a partial sack of the city, apparently intended as punishment.
Finally, on September 12, 1217, Raymond re-entered Toulouse again. Simon de Montfort immediately besieged the city once more. Simon was killed during the siege (on 25 June 1218); his son Amaury VI of Montfort took his place, and for five years the Crusade faltered.
Raymond of Toulouse recaptures the city of Toulouse from the Crusaders.
October 1217 to June 1218
Siege of Toulouse
25 June 1218
Simon de Montfort killed by a trebuchet stone. The siege of Toulouse is lifted.
The failure of Louis VIII’s campaigns, from 1219 to 1226, finally permitted Raymond, and his son and successor, to recover most of their territories.
June 03, 1219
The French town of Marmande falls to the Crusaders
Raymond of Toulouse, defender of the Cathars against the Crusaders, dies and his son Raymond takes over for him.
Amaury de Montfort, leader of the Crusade against the Cathars, flees Carcassonne. The son of Raymond-Roger de Trencaval returns from exile and reclaims the area.
Raymond, son of Raymond of Toulouse, is excommunicated.
The Crusade against Cathars in southern France is renewed.
April 12, 1229
The Inquisition is established in Toulouse to eliminate the last of the Cathars hiding in the Languedoc region.
“from the year 1229 under Saint Louis. A council at Toulouse in this year began by prohibiting lay Christians from reading the Old and the New Testament. It was an insult to human kind to dare to say to people: “We want you to believe, and we do not want you to read the book on which this belief is founded”.
“In this council the books of Aristotle were burned, that is to say two or three examples that had been brought back from Constantinople during the first crusades [to the Holy Land], books that no-one understood, and on which it was imagined that the heresies of the people of the Languedoc had been founded. Subsequent councils have placed Aristotle almost along side the Fathers of the Church. So it is that you will see in this vast tableau of human madness, the sentiments of theologians, the superstitions of the people, the fanaticism, infinitely varied, but always constant enough to plunge the land into horror and calamity, up until the time when some academies, some enlightened societies have caused our contemporaries to blush at so many centuries of barbarity.”
The Inquisition launches a ruthless campaign against the Cathars, burning any that they find and even digging up bodies to burn.
“But it was much worse when the king had the weakness to permit into his kingdom a Grand Inquisitor appointed by the pope. It was the leather-worker Robert who exercised this new power, first in Toulouse and later in other provinces.
“If this Robert had been only a fanatic, there would have been, at least during his ministry, an appearance of zeal which might have excused his fury in the eyes of the simple people; but he was an apostate who travelled with an abandoned woman, and to complete the horror of his ministry, this woman was herself a heretic: this is what Matthew Paris and Mousk report, and which is confirmed by the Spicilegium of Luc d’Acheri.
The king Saint Louis had the misfortune to allow him to exercise his functions of Inquisitor in Paris, in Champaign, in Burgundy and in Flanders. He led the king to believe that there was a new sect which was secretly infecting his provinces. On this pretext, the monster caused to be burned any suspects without credit who were not prepared to ransom themselves from his persecutions. The people, often good judges of those imposed upon them by the king, called him only by the name Robert le B. He was finally recognised for what he was: his iniquities and infamous behaviour became public; but what will shock you is that he was merely condemned to perpetual imprisonment; and what will shock you more is that the Jesuit Daniel does not mention him at all in his Histoire de France.”
March 16, 1244