The "Albigensian Crusade" was the name given to the 1209-1255 campaign to wipe out the Cathars in the Langue D'Oc region in southern
The motivations for the Crusade were, like all of the other Crusades, political, with trappings of religious fervor thinly disguising naked grabs for power.
A full discussion of Catharism is for another node; suffice it to say
When, in 1208, a Papal legate was assassinated and Raymond protected
the killer, Pope Innocent III excommunicated Raymond and called for
a crusade in the Languedoc.
Raymond soon changed his tune, was reconciled with the church, and in
one of the supreme ironies of the whole affair, was put in charge
of the crusade.
The first campaign in the Crusade was the 1209 siege of Beziers which
ended in the mass slaughter of the entire town. This siege is where the
phrase "Slay them all. God will know his own." originated.
The countryside quickly emptied, and the crusading army marched in.
The legendary siege of Carcassone took place at this time; the siege
was short and the fortress was razed, but everyone was allowed to leave
with the clothes on their backs.
The whole time, Cathars were being rooted out. Hundreds were burned
at the stake at a time.
The conquered lands were given to Simon de Montfort and the army went
Raymond wasn't all that happy with the Church for creating a new rival
to his authority, and the Church wasn't entirely convinced of his atonement
and shut him out of affairs. He managed to form an alliance with
King Philip of Aragon, who also felt threatened by Simon, but Philip
was killed during the 1213 siege of Muret while he was stupidly attacking
Simon's army with only his knights.
Simon then called for help from the King (who was busy defeating the
English at Bouvines). The Dauphin Louis VIII came and
tore down some town walls. Raymond had his lands stripped from him,
split between Simon and Raymond's son Raymond VII.
Fighting went back and forth between the elder Raymond and Simon until
Simon was killed in 1218. The Crusade lost its steam as Simon's
son Amalric went home to Carcassone. Raymond
VI died in 1222.
But the Crusade wasn't over.
Both Amalric and Raymond VII were declared heretics in 1225 and Pope
Honorius III declared a new crusade. Louis VIII quickly conquered Avignon
and Provence and was slogging his way through the Languedoc when he died
In 1229, peace was made in Paris. Raymond VII swore allegiance to
King Louis IX, was reconciled to the Church and given Provence back.
His house was eventually reduced to minor nobility.
The Inquisition triggered revolts in many Languedoc cities for several
years thereafter. These were invariably put down with much bloodshed.
The remaining Cathar knights were eventually holed up the the Pyrenees
fortress of Quéribus (les Corbières) which fell in 1255.
The Albigensian crusade is often confused with the suppression of the
Knights Templar in the early 14th century, and Cathar mysticism is often
found mixed mixed in with the conspiracy theories surrounding the Templars.
These events happened a century apart and were not related.
However, the Crusade had some lasting effects:
Greater control of the French King over France.
An expansion of the Inquisition, yielding greater control for Rome over
You can still visit Carcassone today, although it was Disneyfied by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Thanks to The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies at
for the details of the Crusade.