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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 85. The Crusades against the Albigenses.


The mediaeval measures against heretics assumed an organized form in the crusades against the Albigenses, before the institution of the Inquisition received its full development. To the papacy belongs the whole responsibility of these merciless wars. Toulouse paid a bitter penalty for being the head centre of heresy.10961096    The Fourth Lateran spoke of the city as quae magis haeretica labes corrupta.10971097    Ep. II. 99; Migne, 214, 647. to it for Provence and Languedoc,—brought upon himself the full wrath and punishments of the Apostolic see for his unwillingness to join in the wars against his own subjects. A member of the house led one of the most splendid of the armies of the first Crusade to Jerusalem. At the opening of the Albigensian crusades the court of Toulouse was one of the gayest in Europe. At their close it was a spectacle of desolation.

Councils, beginning with the synod of Toulouse, 1119, issued articles against heresy and called upon the secular power to punish it. Mild measures were tried and proved ineffectual, whether they were the preaching and miracles of St. Bernard, 1147, or the diplomatic address of papal legates. Sixty years after Bernard, St. Dominic entered upon a tour of evangelism in the vicinity of Toulouse, and some heretics were won; but in spite of Dominic, and synodal decrees, heresy spread and continued to defy the Church authorities.

It remained for Innocent III. to direct the full force of his native vigor against the spreading contagion and to execute the principles already solemnly announced by oecumenical and local councils. To him heretics were worse than the infidel who had never made profession of Christianity. While Christendom was sending armaments against the Saracens, why should it not send an armament to crush the spiritual treason at home? In response to papal appeals, at least four distinct crusades were set on foot against the sectaries in Southern France. These religious wars continued thirty years. Priests and abbots went at the head of the armies and, in the name of religion, commanded or justified the most atrocious barbarities. One of the fairest portions of Europe was laid waste and the counts of Toulouse were stripped by the pope of their authority and territory.

The long conflict was fully opened when Innocent called upon Louis VII. to take the field, that "it might be shown that the Lord had not given him the sword in vain," and promised him the lands of nobles shielding heresy.10981098    Epp., VII. 186, 212; Migne, 215, pp. 503, 527. In the second letter Innocent compares heretics to Samson’s foxes and to beasts, belluas.ymund VI., who was averse to a policy of repression against his Catharan subjects, was excommunicated by Innocent’s legate, Peter of Castelnau, and his lands put under interdict. Innocent called him a noxious man, vir pestilens,10991099    Ep., X. 69; Migne, 215. 1165 sqq. all the punishments of the future world. He threatened to call upon the princes to proceed against him with arms and take his lands. "The hand of the Lord will descend upon thee more severely, and show thee that it is hard for one who seeks to flee from the face of His wrath which thou hast provoked."

A crisis was precipitated in 1208 by the murder of Peter of Castelnau by two unknown assassins.11001100    For another version of the murder, see Lea, I. 146. It has been compared to Becket’s taking-off.e expulsion of all heretics from his dominions the condition of withdrawing suspicion against him as the possible murderer of Peter.11011101    Ep., XI. 26, 32; Migne, 215. 1354, 1361.aymund with France through his uncle, Louis VII., and with Aragon through Pedro, whose sister he had married, interposed difficulties. And the crusade went on. The Cistercians, at their General Chapter, decided to preach it. Princes and people from France, Flanders, and even Germany swelled the ranks. The same reward was promised to those who took the cross against the Cathari and Waldenses, as to those who went across the seas to fight the intruder upon the Holy Sepulchre.

In a general epistle to the faithful, Innocent wrote: —


"O most mighty soldiers of Christ, most brave warriors; Ye oppose the agents of anti-Christ, and ye fight against the servants of the old serpent. Perchance up to this time ye have fought for transitory glory, now fight for the glory which is everlasting. Ye have fought for the body, fight now for the soul. Ye have fought for the world, now do ye fight for God. For we have not exhorted you to the service of God for a worldly prize, but for the heavenly kingdom, which for this reason we promise to you with all confidence."11021102    Ep., XI. 230; Migne, 215. 1546. Innocent wrote repeatedly and at length, encouraging the enterprise. Epp., XI. 33, 229, etc.; Migne, 215. 1361, etc.


Awed by the sound of the coming storm, Raymund offered his submission and promised to crush out heresy. The humiliating spectacle of Raymund’s penance was then enacted in the convent church of St. Gilles. In the vestibule, naked to the waist, he professed compliance with all the papal conditions. Sixteen of the count’s vassals took oath to see the hard vow was kept and pledged themselves to renew the oath every year, upon pain of being classed with heretics. Then holding the ends of a stole, wrapped around the penitent’s neck like a halter, the papal legate led Raymund before the altar, the count being flagellated as he proceeded.11031103    See full description in Hurter, II. 317 sq., and Lea, I. 150 sq.

Raymund’s submission, however, did not check the muster of troops which were gathering in large numbers at Lyons.11041104    Hurter, II. 322, always careful, speaks of the army as a zahllose Menge, and then of 50,000. Lea, I. 152, is inclined to accept a much larger number, 20,000 knights and 200,000 footmen.ergy. At their side were the duke of Burgundy, the counts of Nevers, St. Pol, Auxerre, Geneva, and Poitiers, and other princes. The soldier, chosen to be the leader, was Simon de Montfort. Simon had been one of the prominent leaders of the Fourth Crusade, and was a zealous supporter of the papacy. He neglected not to hear mass every day, even after the most bloody massacres in the campaigns in Southern France. His contemporaries hailed him as another Judas Maccabaeus and even compared him to Charlemagne.11051105    Hurter, II. 325 sqq., dwells upon his virtues, including the virtues of humanity and fidelity. Hefele, also a Roman Catholic, V. 843, calls him cruel, grausam. The council of Lavaur pronounced him the "brave soldier of Christ and the invincible warrior of the Lord’s battles,"intrepidum, Christi athletam et invictum dominici praelii bellatorem, Mansi, xxii. 887. The Fourth Lateran honored his services as having exceeded those of all others in fidelity and courage. By his mother, Alice, he inherited the earldom of Leicester which passed to his son Simon. See Stephen, Dict. Nat. Biogr.

In spite of the remonstrance of Raymund, who had joined the army, the papal legate, Arnold of Citeaux, refused to check its march. Béziers was stormed and horrible scenes followed. The wild soldiery heeded well the legate’s command, "Fell all to the ground. The Lord knows His own."11061106    Caedite eos, novit enim dominus qui sunt ejus, Caesar of Heisterbach, V. 21; Strange ed., I. 302. And so Caesar adds, "an innumerable multitude were killed in that city." Hurter speaks of the "unbridled frenzy" of the troops, zügellose Wuth, II. 331. Describing other scenes of carnage during the crusade he uses such expressions as "horrible butchery,"furchtbarer Gemetzel, "heartrending barbarities,"empoerende Graeuel, pp. 420, 423, 427, etc. He expresses the charitable hope that the abbot of Citeaux did not say what was ascribed to him by so good and churchly a witness as Caesarof Heisterbach. Brischar, in Wetzer-Welte, I. 434, speaks with horror of the barbarities of Simon’s troops. legates, Milo and Arnold, the "divine vengeance raged wonderfully against the city.11071107    Epp. Inn., XII. 108, 109; Migne, 216. 137-142. Ultione divina in eam mirabiliter saeviente

At Carcassonne the inhabitants were allowed to depart, the men in their shirts, the women in their chemises, carrying with them, as the chronicler writes, nothing else except their sins, nihil secum praeter peccata portantes. Dread had taken hold of the country, and village after village was abandoned by the fleeing inhabitants. Raymund was again put under excommunication at a council held at Avignon.11081108    Hefele, V. 846 sqq.g them six thousand Germans.11091109    Hurter, II. 383, 416.

Again, in 1211, the count of Toulouse sought to come to an agreement with the legates. But the terms, which included the razing to the ground of all his castles, were too humiliating. The crusade was preached again. All the territory of Toulouse had been overrun and it only remained for the crusaders to capture the city itself.

Pedro of Aragon, fresh from his crushing victory over the Moors at Novas de Tolosa, now interceded with the pope for his brother-in-law. The synod of Lavaur, 1213, appointed referee by Innocent, rejected the king’s propositions. Pedro then joined Raymund, but fell at the disastrous defeat of Muret the same year, 1213. It was a strange combination whereby the king of Aragon, who had won the highest distinction a year before as a hero of the Catholic faith, was killed in the ranks of those who were rebels to the papal authority.11101110    Pedro’s son, Jayme, ascribed his father’s defeat to his moral laxity. The Albigensian nobles had placed their wives and daughters at his disposal and, it is reported, he was so weakened the morning of the engagement that he could not stand at the celebration of the mass. Lea, I. 177.11111111    Hurter, II. 567. land, including Toulouse, was granted to Montfort, and the titles conferred on him of count of Toulouse, viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne, and duke of Narbonne.11121112    As an illustration of how the best of friends may fall out, Montfort’s right to the title, duke of Narbonne, was vehemently contested by Arnold of Citeaux, who claimed it as archbishop of Narbonne, an office to which he had been appointed.

The complications in Southern France were one of the chief questions brought before the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215. Raymund was present and demanded back his lands, inasmuch as he had submitted to the Church; but by an overwhelming majority, the synod voted against him and Montfort was confirmed in the possession of his conquests.11131113    Harter, II. 567 sqq.; Hefele, V. 881 sq., 902 sq.; Potthast, Regesta, I. 439. Raymund’s son made a personal appeal to Innocent for his father, the pope bade him "love God above all things and serve Him faithfully, and not stretch forth his hand against others’ territory" and gave him the cold promise that his complaints against Montfort would be heard at a future council.11141114    In a passage recapitulating Innocent’s relations to the war, Hurter, II. 709-711, says that, although it was in part carried on without regard to the principles of humanity and right, and beginning as a religious war, it was turned into a war of aggrandizement, yet Innocent was guiltless, his sole purpose being to purify the land of heresy.

The further progress of the Albigensian campaigns requires only brief notice here, for they were converted into a war of territorial plunder. In 1218, Montfort fell dead under the walls of Toulouse, his head crushed by a stone. In the reign of Honorius, whose supreme concern was a crusade in the East, the sectaries reasserted themselves, and Raymund regained most of his territory. But the pope was relentless, and again the sentence of excommunication was launched against the house of Toulouse.

In 1226, Louis VIII. took the cross, supported by the French parliament as well as by the Church. Thus the final chapter in the crusades was begun, a war of the king of France for the possession of Toulouse. Louis died a few months later. Arnold of Citeaux, for nearly twenty years their energetic and iron-hearted promoter, had preceded him to the grave. Louis IX. took up the plans of his royal predecessor, and in 1229 the hostilities were brought to a close by Raymund’s accepting the conditions proposed by the papal legate.

Raymund renounced two-thirds of his paternal lands in favor of France. The other third was to go at his death to his daughter who subsequently married Louis IX.’s brother, and, in case there was no issue to the marriage, it was to pass to the French crown, and so it did at the death of Jeanne, the last heir of the house of Toulouse. Thus the domain of France was extended to the Pyrenees.

Further measures of repression were directed against the remnants of the Albigensian heresy, for Raymund VII. had promised to cleanse the land of it. The machinery of the Inquisition was put into full action as it was perfected by the great inquisitorial council of Toulouse, 1229. The University of Toulouse received papal sanction, and one of its chief objects was announced to be "to bring the Catholic faith in those regions into a flourishing state."11151115    Potthast, 9173.

The papal policy had met with complete but blighting success and, after the thirteenth century, heresy in Southern France was almost like a noiseless underground stream. Languedoc at the opening of the wars had been one of the most prosperous and cultured parts of Europe. At their close its villages and vineyards were in ruins, its industries shattered, its population impoverished and decimated. The country that had given promise of leading Europe in a renaissance of intellectual culture fell behind her neighbors in the race of progress. Protestant generations, that have been since sitting in judgment upon the barbarous measures, conceived and pushed by the papacy, have wondered whether another movement, stirred by the power of the Gospel, will not yet arise in the old domain that responded to the religious dissent and received the warm blood of the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and of Peter de Bruys and his followers.

The Stedinger. While the wars against the Albigenses were going on, another people, the Stedinger, living in the vicinity of Bremen and Oldenburg, were also being reduced by a papal crusade. They represented the spirit of national independence rather than doctrinal dissent and had shown an unwillingness to pay tithes to the archbishop of Bremen. When a husband put a priest to death for an indignity to his wife, the archbishop Hartwig II. announced penalty after penalty but in vain. Under his successor, Gerhard (1219–1258), the refractory peasants were reduced to submission. A synod of Bremen, in 1230, pronounced them heretics, and Gregory IX., accepting the decision, called upon a number of German bishops to join in preaching and prosecuting a crusade. The same indulgence was offered to the crusaders in the North as to those who went on the Church’s business to Palestine. The first campaign in 1233 was unsuccessful, but a second carried all the horrors of war into the eastern section of the Stedingers’ territory. In 1231 another army led by a number of princes completely defeated this brave people at Altenesch. Their lands were divided between the archbishop of Bremen and the count of Oldenburg.



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