The Albigensian Crusade

The Albigensian Crusade was a crusade sent to southern France in 1209-29 against the Catharism, which was considered heretical. The Crusades are best known for the First Crusade, in which the Muslims were regarded as the enemy and the Holy Land was recaptured. However, the Crusades were also dispatched against Christian heretics. This section will explain the background, development, significance and impact of this crusade.

Background of the Albigensian Crusade

 Around the middle of the 12th century, the Catharism began their activities. Their name varied from region to region. The Catharism emerged in the mid-12th century and spread widely in the second half of the century. They were known for their strict asceticism.

 According to their dogma, this world is the devil’s world, and its creator, the God of the Old Testament, is also the devil. Only the New Testament is correct. The human body is a creation of the devil, but the soul is a creation of God. It is in this world that the soul is held in the prison of the body. If one can join the true Christian church, fulfill the commandments, and die, he can go to heaven.

 From their point of view, the Catholic Church under the Pope was the Church of the Devil. They did not admit power or institutions. Because of the severity of their doctrine, they had very few official members. But there were many who supported and agreed with them. At that time, they were called Neo-Manichaeans because of their dualistic ideas. They were especially active in northern Italy and southern France.

 In 1179, the Catharism was declared heretics in the Third Lateran Council. In this age, sects that denied the authority of the Pope tended to be condemned as heretics. However, the condemnation did not stop their activities. The Cistercians, a vigorous religious order at the time, and others tried to deal with this problem.

 In 1198, Innocent III, the leading pope of the Middle Ages, ascended the papal throne. He instituted and implemented a variety of policies. One of them was against heresy. He sent Cistercian friars to southern France to convert them. St. Francis also tried to convert them.

 However, these attempts were unsuccessful. The Catharism were widely supported by many aristocrats and influential people in the city, such as Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse. Therefore, friars were not always free to conduct missionary work for conversion in the first place.

 The Albigensian Crusade

 Innocentius III still did not give up and tried to attract influential people to his side by sending papal envoys. However, in 1208, the papal envoy Castelnau was assassinated by Raymond VI’s men. This prompted Innocentius III to call for a crusade in 1209.

 The lords of northern France responded to this call for a crusade. Simon de Montfort led this crusade. King Philip II of France joined this war. The French crown saw this crusade as an excellent opportunity to extend its royal authority to areas that had been practically autonomous. Therefore, the troop of the king started to capture cities in the south of France, such as Narbonne. It won victories over the Catharists at the Battle of Toulouse and other battles. Theys were captured and burned. In fact, some of them jumped into the fire themselves.

 At the same time, the eradication of heresy continued through missionary work. St. Dominic and others participated in this. The image below shows the scene.

 The crusade was not completed quickly. It continued after the death of Pope Innocent III. His successors also stressed the evils of heresy and the need to destroy it, even by brutal means. They continued to promote this war by issuing indulgences to the participants.

 The rival nobles countered thus. According to them, the Pope and the kings of France showed no interest in Jerusalem, the Holy Land, and would not move toward a true crusade. After the Europeans recaptured the holy city of Jerusalem from the Muslims in the First Crusade, Jerusalem was again taken back by the Muslims. Nevertheless, the Popes do not try to defeat the wicked Saracens by sending a crusade to Jerusalem again. Instead, blinded by greed, they are sending a false crusade against us Christians.

 Significance and Impact of the Albigensian Crusade

 Simon died, and his son Amory took over the crusade. Furthermore, in 1226, the Crusade was led primarily by Louis VIII of France. The Crusaders prevailed, and the Peace of Paris was signed in 1229. This crusade was thus over.

 As a result, the French crown gained substantial control over southern France, which it had not been able to effectively control until then. As mentioned above, this was one of the aims of the French monarchy from the beginning.

 In addition, the Pope used the Crusades as an opportunity to strengthen his universal dominion over the Christian Church. In the 11th century, the famous Pope Gregory VII attempted to establish the supremacy of the Pope over the entire Christian Church. In this vein, his successor Pope planned a major project to take Jerusalem and to demonstrate his position as the leader of the entire Christian Church. In the Albigensian Crusade, the pope was to show his leadership in defeating the internal enemy of the Christian world, which was heresy.

 The Albigensian Crusades also led to the development of the Inquisition in earnest. In order to prevent the emergence of new forces similar to the Catharism, the Catholic Church developed various mechanisms. For example, seculars were prohibited from possessing Bibles. The translation of the Bible into secular languages was also forbidden.
The French monarchy cooperated in the fight against heresy. By its own decrees, it established penalties for heretics, such as confiscation of property and banishment from public office. Similar decrees would be enacted in the Holy Roman Empire.

 However, the Catharism was not destroyed as a result. There were still loopholes in the measures against heresy. Or, they were sometimes protected by the rural nobility.
 The Inquisition could convict a Catharist of heresy, but could not punish him physically. It was the role of the secular authorities to carry out such punishments as burning. Thus, if a nobleman was in conflict with the inquisitors, a Catharist could not be burned. On the contrary, if inquisitors were in conflict with the nobles or the townspeople, inquisitors could be driven out of the town by force. For this reason, the Catharism faction remained powerful in France until the mid-13th century. In Italy, they remained active until around the 15th century.

Scene of the Albigensian Crusade

Recommended or Selected References

朝治啓三, 渡辺節夫, 加藤玄編著『「帝国」で読み解く中世ヨーロッパ : 英独仏関係史から考える』)ミネルヴァ書房, 2017.5

渡邊昌美『異端審問』講談社, 2021

Anthony Bale(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the Crusades, Cambridge University Press, 2018