Magazine article History Today

Carcassonne Falls in the Albigensian Crusade: Aug 15 1209

Magazine article History Today

Carcassonne Falls in the Albigensian Crusade: Aug 15 1209

Article excerpt

Nest after buzzing nest of heresy was smoked out by the Roman Catholic church in 12th- and 13th-century Europe. The Waldensians, Cathars and other groups had inherited the dualism of the gnostic sects of Christianity's earliest days, who believed that the material world was evil, created and controlled by a great malignant power, not by the good God. The Church accused them of worshipping this power of evil, Satan, the enemy of God.

The Cathars of southern France, known as Albigensians after the city of Albi, a stronghold of heresy, were admired and protected by many of the local lords, most notably Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Pope Innocent III called on him to wipe the heresy out and in 1208 sent a legate who was murdered on the day after an angry meeting with Count Raymond by one of the count's servants. The count did not punish him and was generally believed to have been involved in the killing. The pope now proclaimed a crusade against the Albigensians and called on the warriors of France to avenge the legate's death: 'Forward, soldiers of Christ! Forward, volunteers of the army of God! Go forth with the Church's cry of anguish ringing in your ears!'

Arnald-Amaury, Abbot of Citeaux, was put in charge of recruitment and an army of barons and knights from northern France, who saw prospects of rich pickings for themselves, the lands of the conquered southern French lords responded to the call. By June 1209 the main crusading force had assembled at Lyon. Jonathan Sumption, the historian of the crusade, estimates it at about 10,000 fighting men with another 10,000 or so camp followers and non-combatants.

The crusaders, joined by the outwardly repentant Count Raymond, headed south for the area around Albi and the lands of Raymond-Roger Trencavel, Viscount of Beziers and Count Raymond's nephew. He tried to negotiate terms with them but Arnald-Amaury sent him packing. In an unusually hot July, the crusaders reached the city of Beziers and demanded its surrender. The demand was refused and on July 22nd the citizens attempted a sortie against the besiegers. They were driven off by some of the camp followers with clubs and tent poles. The city's defenders panicked and the crusading warriors were able to press in through the gates. The city's inhabitants were slaughtered without distinction of age, sex or religious identity. A monk reported Arnald-Amaury saying, when asked how the Catholic citizens could be distinguished from the Cathars: 'Kill them all, God will recognise His own. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.