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 France.

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 that:

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 home.

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 1226.

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 everyone.

You can still visit Carcassone today, although it was Disneyfied by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853.

Thanks to The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies at
for the details of the Crusade.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.