The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory: the Albigensian Crusade and the Subjugation of the Languedoc
Lorraine Marie Alice Simonis
Washington and Lee University: Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honors in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, April 11, (2014)
In March of 1208, Pope Innocent III preached the Albigensian Crusade. The crusade, which covered an area from Agen to Avignon and the Pyrenees to Cahors, initiated a new phase in the already strained relationship between the Catholic Church and the Languedoc. The stated aim of the crusade was the rooting out of heresy – specifically, Catharism – from the Languedoc; its main targets were the region’s nobility: first the Trancevals, the family of the viscounts of Foix and Carcasonne, and then the St. Gilles, the family of the counts of Toulouse. Initially, the Pope had attempted to combat heresy through peaceful means, namely, through preaching campaigns. During the decade preceding the crusade, papal emissaries descended upon the region with increasing regularity.
On January 14, 1208, a stableman, “desirous of gaining the favor of the Count [of Toulouse]” stabbed the papal legate Peter Castelnau to death on the banks of the Rhone River. Upon hearing this news, Innocent, who had entertained the possibility of an “armed pilgrimage” in the past, definitively decided to launch a crusade to the Languedoc. According to the troubadour William of Tudela, “then was made the decision which tipped the scales and which caused the death of many men, who died eviscerated, and of many powerful women, and of many pretty young ladies to whom would be left neither coat nor dress.”