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Author Topic: A 'BRIEF' HISTORY OF THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE: Simon de Monfort  (Read 2328 times)

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Online sidherose

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« on: January 23, 2014, 04:40:08 PM »
I'm posting this here because some people indicated an interest in this matter. This is from a blog that I wrote back in 2011. It is of considerable personal interest to me for a couple of reasons in particular:
the first is because of a vision I once had long before I knew anything about any of this; the second is because I'm descended from many of these people.
I did not know this until about 4 years ago, but it's nothing to get overly excited about and kind of ironic, considering my circumstances in life. This fact and a five dollar bill will get me a Grand Latte at Starbucks. Nonetheless, they are where I come from and so I have endeavored to unravel what happened. Nothing is for certain and some portion (The White Lady chapter, esp.) is speculative on my part because of knowing the documented relationships of all involved which escapes the eyes of many historians. The genealogical 'web' here is fairly convoluted and not readily apparent. The rest is as I've found it reported by historians and scholars.

This is to be read as a history and a research on that history, and nothing more. There are seven installments, which I shall post separately to read as you will.

And yes...I'm even related to this monster.....


If Philip II Augustus, the King of France was not interested in taking up arms against the Cathars and the lords of Languedoc, a northern noble named Simon de Montfort was keen on it. The Seigneur de Montfort-l'Amaury, was also the 5th Earl of Leicester. The de Montfort family were descendants of the Counts of Flanders.

Simon was said to be a very pious man – at least from a Catholic point of view. In 1209, he took on the role of the Captain-General of the Albigensian Crusade. He went with Philip’s blessing, but Phillip apparently turned a blind eye to Simon's methods. Simon’s first target was Béziers a territory which fell under the lordship of Raymond VI of Toulouse. Béziers became a hallmark of what was to come, as well as Simon’s ruthless character.

On July 22, 1209 Simon and his forces came to the town of Béziers. The Catholics were given the opportunity to leave before the Crusaders besieged the city. They refused and fought with the Cathars. Their combined forces were defeated outside the walls and those left were pursued back inside the walls of the town. Those who took refuge in the Cathedral of St. Nazaire and the Eglise de la Madeleine were not spared. The Cathedral was set ablaze and those inside the Church were mercilessly butchered. As the Cathedral collapsed, those who escaped were also slain. Those who remained inside were either crushed or burned to death.

Simon became notorious, and not in a good way. He was seen as a cruel, harsh and treacherous man of no honor and bad faith. He was a terror, with a reputation for slaughtering entire villages. In the village of Minerve, Simon burned 140 Cathars who refused to recant their faith. Prior to the sack of the village of Lastours, it was reported that he took prisoners from the nearby village of Bram and had their ears, noses and lips cut off, and gouged out their eyes. He left one poor soul with one eye, to lead them into the village – a warning to those who would not recant.

Simon de Montfort went on to defeat Peter II of Aragon in the Battle of Muret. The counts of the Languedoc were vassals of the King of Aragon. In 1212, Peter learned that de Montfort had partially sacked Toulouse and exiled Raymond. Raymond happened to be Peter’s brother in law at that time. Raymond went to Peter, asking for assistance. Together they crossed the Pyrenees and arrived at Muret in September 1213 to confront de Montfort's army. They were joined there by Raymond’s militia he had gathered from Toulouse, and the armies of the counts of Comminges and Foix. Raymond tried to convince Peter to starve out Simon’s forces, but Peter rejected the idea and proceeded to mount the battle. The number of Peter’s forces far exceeded those of Simon’s, which no doubt led him to be more than a bit over-confident. Simon’s forces numbered less than a thousand, but approximately a fourth of those were knights and not just regular cavalry or infantrymen. They were also battle-hardened and Simon was – for whatever else might be said of him – a savvy tactician.

Peter was so over-confident he refused his royal armor and instead donned the armor of a common cavalryman. In the disarray and madness that followed, Peter was thrown from his horse and was killed – in spite of or perhaps because of his protestations that he was the king. With their king and leader gone, the Aragonese and Catalan armies fled back over the mountains and deserted the battle. Simon de Montfort had won yet another victory. In military terms, it was a hollow victory, but that never stopped Simon from counting. He was appointed the Count of Toulouse and Duke of Narbonne in 1215.

Raymond and his allies continued their battles to regain their lands with some successes. The battles raged on in the years 1216 and 1217. In the later quarter of 1217, Raymond returned to Toulouse and Simon saw his chance to get Raymond once and for all. Simon besieged Toulouse for nine months. He finally met his end on the 25th of June, 1218. According to a song or chanson written about the Albigensian Crusade, his head was smashed by a rock catapulted from a mangonel operated by the women of Toulouse.

Simon was buried in the Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire at Carcassonne. His body was later moved home to Montfort l'Amaury by his son. There is still a tombstone in the Cathedral called "of Simon de Montfort" in the South Transept. Reportedly the inscription on the stone envisaged Simon as a saint in heaven, enjoying the favor of God's reward for his deeds in life. His enemies left him a far different epitaph:

The epitaph says, for those who can read it
That he is a saint and martyr who shall breathe again
And shall in wondrous joy inherit and flourish
And wear a crown and sit on a heavenly throne.
And I have heard it said that this must be so -
If by killing men and spilling blood,
By wasting souls, and preaching murder,
By following evil counsel, and raising fires,
By ruining noblemen and besmirching paratage,
By pillaging the country, and by exalting Pride,
By stoking up wickedness and stifling good,
By massacring women and their infants,
A man can win Jesus in this world,
Then Simon surely wears a crown, resplendent in heaven.


I invite you to read the page from which the above quote was taken and compare the idea of ‘paratage’ that was espoused by the Cathars to the principles and practices of ‘God’s warrior’ Simon de Montfort and his Church.

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« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2014, 04:42:18 PM »

Raymond VI’s excommunication had been lifted in 1209 when he recognized the threat of the forces gathering against them. However, he was excommunicated again in 1211. Raymond was excommunicated several times. Raymond-Roger de Trencavel had gone to the leaders of the crusade and sought accommodation from them but was refused audience. The lords of the Languedoc banded together and had retaken many towns captured by the crusaders during the early years under the leadership of Raymond VI. However, the crusaders would return and take them back. The fortunes of the battle see-sawed back and forth like this for several years until the battle of Muret and Simon de Montfort’s eventual end in 1218.

The Fourth Council of the Lateran was convoked by Pope Innocent III by a papal bull dated April 19, 1213. The council was to gather at Rome’s Lateran Palace in November of 1215. The Third Crusade had failed miserably, resulting in the capture of Constantinople and large portions of the Byzantine empire by the Muslims. The results of the Fourth Crusade to this point had alienated the Church to the people and major lords of the Languedoc. Innocent felt was time to reinstate and reformulate papal involvement with the Crusades both in the Holy Land and on European soil. The Council declared the Fifth Crusade to free the Holy Land of the powerful Ayyubid Muslims of Egypt. Measures dealing with heretics were re-opened and discussed, as well.

The Council was attended by Raymond VI of Toulouse, his son Raymond (VII) and Raymond-Roger de Foix. They were there to dispute the threat of their territories being confiscated by the Church. Guy de Montfort, the brother of Simon de Montfort argued that the Church should confiscate their territories. Raymond’s son-in-law, Pierre-Bermond II of Sauve attempted to lay claim to Toulouse and was rejected. Toulouse was awarded to Simon de Montfort. The lordship of Megueil was separated from Toulouse, entrusted to the bishops of Maguellone. The lordship of Megueil was Raymond VI’s by his marriage to Ermessenda, the Countess of Megueil. Provence, also one of Raymond VI’s possessions was also confiscated and kept in trust for Raymond VII – if he showed himself worthy of having it. That is, if he denounced the heretical Cathars and no longer aided them.

It was in 1215, the year of the Council that Simon was awarded Toulouse and Narbonne. In April of 1216, Simon ceded these lands to Philip Augustus II, the French King.

Innocent III died in July of 1216 and was succeeded by Honorius III, who was by all accounts a ‘kinder and gentler’ man, but the Fifth Crusade and the war on heresy were still high on his agenda. Philip Augustus was more concerned about his newly acquired lands of Toulouse and Narbonne than he was about the Cathars, for Raymond VI had retaken Toulouse in 1218. Amaury de Montfort, Simon’s son had taken up his father’s leadership of the Fourth Crusade, but Amaury was not the tactician or the warrior his father was. His attempts to retake Toulouse in 1219 failed and several more of Simon’s holds fell to the embattled Raymond and his allies.

In 1221, Raymond and his forces retook Montréal and Fanjeaux, forcing the Catholics to leave. Raymond VI died in 1222 and his son Raymond VII who had also been fighting battles to regain their territories took up where his father left off. Like his father, Raymond VII of Toulouse was excommunicated by the Council of Bourges in 1225 for his continuing fight against the forces of the Church.

Philip Augustus II died in 1223 and was succeeded by his son Louis VIII. Louis mounted a campaign in 1226 to take back his father’s lands. Louis was already well seasoned in battle, having spent his earlier years fending off John Lackland of England’s attempts to take back Normandy. You might know John better as the ‘evil King John’ the brother of Richard the Lionheart from tales of Robin Hood.

Roger-Bernard the Great, Count of Foix went to Louis ‘the Lion’ suing to keep the peace but Louis rejected his overtures. Roger-Bernard and Raymond VII had no choice but to take up arms against the new king. Many fortified towns and castles surrendered to Louis’ forces without a fight, until he came to Avignon. There Louis engaged in a three month siege and finally took Avignon in September of 1226. Louis returned to Paris after taking Avignon, but contracted dysentery on the way home. He died in November of 1226 in his chateau at Montpensier in Auvergne and was succeeded by his son Louis IX.

Louis IX was not of the age of majority to take the throne himself, and so the throne was taken by Queen Regent Blanche of Castile, Louis VIII’s widow. Blanche allowed the Crusade to go on under the leadership of Humbert de Beaujeau. Humbert took Labécède and Vereilles in 1227 and Toulouse in 1228. Queen Blanche then offered Raymond VII a treaty. She would recognize him as the ruler of Toulouse if he would enjoin the fight against the Cathars, return the Church’s properties that they’d seized, turn over his castles and destroy the walls and defenses of Toulouse. She also stipulated that he had to marry his daughter Jeanne to Alphonse, the brother of Louis VIII. This made Alphonse the Count of Toulouse and Poitiers. Their heirs would inherit Toulouse and Poitiers upon Raymond VII’s death. If they had no issue, which they did not, the inheritance would revert to the King of France. With little choice in the matter, if he wanted peace at long last, Raymond VII signed the treaty at Meaux in April of 1229. It is reported that he was then seized, flogged and imprisoned for a short time. The treaty nominally brought an end to the Albigensian Crusade, and put Raymond VII in a position that was not to be envied.

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« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2014, 04:44:16 PM »

I’m going to digress briefly here, since the subject of Blanche of Castile has been raised. Her part in this drama is not just relegated to the Treaty of Meaux, signed by Raymond VII in 1229. She will reappear in the drama at a later date, in a similar situation.

In his book “Montségur and the Mystery of the Cathars” Jean Markale says this of Queen Blanche’s actions in 1229 and later:

“Blanche de Castille’s attitude remains inexplicable and prompts a number of questions. It could well be asked if Raymond VII might not have had secret means of applying pressure in order to receive such indulgence when, as an excommunicate and declared rebel, he was liable to the confiscation of his domains. In any event, we know that Queen Blanche has left a strange imprint in the popular memory of Cathar country, particularly in Razés, where a mysterious treasure is attributed to her. It is true that her name is also associated with the widespread belief throughout the Pyrenees in the existence of the White Lady; in other words, a female fairy who rules over the underground world of caves that are quite numerous in this region.” [pg. 34]

I have some revelations to relate that may explain her actions to a large degree. It’s not quite so mysterious and dark as Jean Markale would have it sound. As a member of a royal family, Blanche (b. 4 March 1188, d. 26 November 1252) likely would have been very much aware of her own ancestry. Her own ancestry was the stuff of legends, for she was the great-great granddaughter of Roderigo Diaz de Vivar, otherwise known as El Cid. His daughter, Cristina Elvira Rodriguez de Vivar was the wife of Ramiro Sánchez de Monzón who was in turn the father of Queen Blanche’s grandfather García Ramírez the King of Navarre.

Cristina Elvira had a sister named Maria Rodriguez de Vivar, who was married to Raymond Berenguer II, the Count of Barcelona. They had a daughter named Jimena Diaz (b. 1101, d. 1169), who was married to Roger III de Foix. In turn, their son was Roger-Bernard I “the Great” de Foix, the father of Esclarmonde de Foix, who is also reputed to be the White Lady. Esclarmonde’s mother was Cecile de Trencavel and her brother was Raymond-Roger (Raimond Drut) de Foix, the father of the twins Esclarmonde d’Alion and Loup de Foix.

Of course, Blanche’s direct ancestors played no part in the Albigensian Crusade, but some portions of her family were heavily allied with the Counts of Toulouse. Possibly, Blanche was playing both sides against the middle trying to protect her relations and their heirs, as well as protecting her husband’s and subsequently hers and her son’s lands. No doubt she must have found herself in a strange and compromising position along with Raymond VII of Toulouse.
Raymond VII and his father were a shining example of what can happen when one goes against the wishes of the Pope and rebels against the Church. Blanche knew from what had happened with them that she couldn’t refuse to act against the rebels. She and her regency would be subject to excommunication by the Pope as well if she did not do so. This might in turn endanger her son’s eventual succession to the throne, because he was still in his minority. Louis IX was about 15 years old when she brought Raymond VII before her at Meaux and offered the treaty. The fact that she had Raymond flogged and ‘briefly’ imprisoned would seem to be for show more than anything else. This wouldn’t be the first time, or the last, that something was done for the sake of appearances in all of this – particularly in the person of Raymond VII himself. One might wonder if at the same time she was laying down stipulations to Raymond, she was also giving him a bit of queenly and ‘motherly’ advice. There is a relationship there of which no one seems to be aware, although it is historically verifiable if one might care to dig.

What comes next is a bit of a mind twister, because of the inter-relations of the royal families of Europe. I shall try to explain it as simply as possible. Raymond VII was the son of Raymond VI’s fourth wife, Joan Plantagenet, whose father was Henry II Plantagenet. Henry II was Queen Blanche’s other grandfather. Another of Henry's daughters was Eleanor of England the Queen of Castile, who was the mother of Blanche of Castile. Queen Blanche was Raymond VII’s great-aunt through her own aunt Joan Plantagenet. This might go a very long way toward explaining her actions toward him.
Was Blanche the White Lady? Certainly, her name means ‘white’, but it would seem that Markale must be referring to the treasures and records of the Cathars. These are said to have been placed beneath either the fortress or the settlement on the pog upon the request of Guillabert de Castres to Raymond de Périella, the seigneur of the fortress at Montségur. Guillabert de Castres was the head of the Cathar church during this time. In this case, if that is indeed the treasure to which Markale is referring, then that would be more associated with Esclarmonde de Foix (the first Esclarmonde) than Blanche of Castile. His reference there is rather vague, but the so-called ‘treasure of the Cathars’ is the most well-known and sought after treasure in the region. The name of the Albigensians broken down also means ‘the white people’, from albi or alba - 'white', and gens - a family line or just ‘people’.

Was the White Lady – whoever she may be – a Queen of the Fey? That is a whole other subject that encompasses a few thousand years, as well as a horrendous number of ‘begats’ that are as complicated as the genealogies of the royal families of Europe. They are a precursor to those royal genealogies. These genealogies are historically attestable up to a point, and then fall off into the murky realm of myths and legends such as the Grail, and the Merovingians. The Merovingian genealogies are only historically attestable up to Clovis I. Not even his paternity is a sure thing – variously said to be Merovech after whom the lineage was named, Chlodio the Long Haired King of the Salian Franks or a creature of myth known as ‘the Quinotaur’.

Often these myths and legends are taken for ‘gospel truths’ that people like to take for fact when they are myths and legends. As they say however, “where there is smoke, there is fire”. These myths and legends do seem to have some basis in the lives of several historical groups of people and their propensity to worship certain deities brought westward from the Middle East in times past. From these same groups of people came the royal houses of Europe, but not always and necessarily by the routes some would have you believe.

In spite of all of this or perhaps because of it, there is a great deal of strangeness and other-worldly intrusions that are attendant with these stories. This includes Montségur and the Cathars. Recall, if you will my own tale at the beginning, regarding my vision of the girl running through the forest. I am not the only one to have such visions of or on that fateful pog of Montségur. We can only guess at the significance and meaning of it and how it relates to those who’ve had these experiences as individuals. I can only reveal what I have about the hitherto overlooked relationship between Queen Blanche and Raymond VII, because of where my own vision led me - not without a lot of research that I probably would not have undertaken - were it not for that vision.

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« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2014, 04:47:24 PM »

There seems to be some uncertainty about the details of what the Cathars believed. It is noted that like many other religious sects or movements in ancient times, that there appears to have been some variations in the rules and beliefs of different Cathar groups. This was certainly true of early Christianity, itself. Let us examine in this article the roots of Cathar beliefs, so we may better try to understand them.

Catharism originally did not have a ‘church’ or bishops in the beginning of the movement. This came later and they styled their organization after the Church of Rome, ironically enough. They were simply groups of people who believed in certain ideas and concepts. Many of those ideas and belief appear to have come from other, earlier eastern gnostic belief systems.

They were divided into the two groups, the ‘perfecti’ and the ‘credenti’. The perfecti served as their teachers, guides and holy persons and were upheld to live their lives as ascetic exemplars of their faith. The credenti were not held to the same stringent rules as the perfecti, and were the average person who happened to be a Cathar.

The Cathars believed that each being was enlivened by a ‘divine spark’ that had fallen from heaven to become trapped in the material world which was created by an evil demiurge they called Rex Mundi, the King of the World. This is very similar to Gnostic beliefs, however it goes back even further than that to a belief system that was most likely developed in the Far East by a certain Iranian prophet named Mani. Mani’s philosophy became known as Manichaeism, but it was heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Buddhism. Mani’s father was a member of the Messianic Jewish sect known as Elkasites, who were one of the many various groups of Christians in the early development of Christianity. These in turn were a branch of the Ebionites, who advocated voluntary poverty. They too were seen as heretical in their day by the early Church and most of what is known about both sects is largely derived from polemics against them by the early Church Fathers.

Like Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism is based in a rigid dualistic belief of good versus evil which are locked in a constant struggle for domination of the world and the souls of men. Like Buddhism, they believed in the sanctity of all life and that each person was responsible for their own salvation. Those who did not escape the bonds of the material world were reincarnated, according to how they’d lived their previous life. The Cathars also believed in reincarnation. There was always another chance to escape and become reunited with the Wholeness, the True God. No one could save you but yourself. Jesus was a prophet, much like John the Baptist and was not born of a miraculous union but was the flesh and blood son of Mary and Joseph, who rose above the material world.

It is said that Mani traveled to what is now Afghanistan and there learned Buddhism from the Caucasoid Saka (Scythian) people who lived there. These have also been called ‘Tocharians’. Their beliefs seem to have been a sort of gnostic Buddhism which may likely have been heavily influenced by the earlier teachings of the Greek Pythagoras. They were highly active in the development and spread of Buddhism in the Far East. Speculating now, Pythagoras may have in his turn been influenced by one of these same people and their beliefs for he was an Ionian Greek. The Ionians were well known in India and were called Yavana. They were originally Mycenaeans and like the Tocharians, the Mycenaeans also had A and B languages, the B language being that of the common folk.

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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2014, 04:48:37 PM »

The idea of a ‘divine spark’ most likely came from philosophies earlier native to this region of Afghanistan Mani visited, for this inner flame was simply a new version of the kundalini. The ‘coiled serpent’ sleeping at the base of the lowest muladhara chakra was the spark of the Divine Mother that again enlivens each and every created thing in the material world. This earlier philosophy however was seen as a part and parcel of the evil in the world by the Zoroastrian Persians on the other side of the mountains. The Divine Mother was the consort of the Divine Father in the form of Shiva. She had created the world for His pleasure to experience and observe Life in all its forms. Shiva was a rather ‘equal opportunity’ god, who forgave even demons their sins, if they did penance enough for them. This was usually accomplished by meditation, fasting and ascetic practices. This in turn carried over into Buddhism, which was far more forgiving than Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism seems to have developed out of ‘Indian’ Brahmanism, where the supreme god was Brahma. Anyone familiar with the history and mythology of Vedanta knows that Brahma and Shiva didn’t exactly get along with one another early on, in spite of the fact they were two parts of the later trinity of gods of Vedanta. The third god was Vishnu, whose avatar Krishna was seen in several religions to be one of the prophets. This trinity can somewhat be compared in many ways to the Christian trinity, wherein Brahma is the Father; Vishnu is the Son who reincarnates in times of trouble, and Shiva as the Holy Spirit who is both male and female. Given that Jesus was said to have taken instruction in India and it is a documented fact that Thomas the Disciple ‘returned’ there after the crucifixion one might suspect that Mani was on to something.

As you can see, the Cathar beliefs are deeply rooted in what the Church and even certain Jewish sects considered to be heretical in nature. Mani sought to improve upon Christianity by incorporating what he learned and considered to be the best of dualistic Zoroastrian beliefs, as well as Gnostic Buddhism. This of course was anathema to the Church Fathers, because they were the ones supposed to be dictating dogma, not some heretic. Mani saw himself as the next and last prophet after Jesus – the Paraclete foretold in the New Testament.

Manichaeism had two groups of persons in its church, the ‘electi’ and the ‘auditors’. The electi were much like the Cathar perfecti. The auditors served the electi and hoped to become electi themselves one day. In many respects, the Cathar credenti served the perfecti as well and looked forward to the day or life when they too would become perfecti. Their ‘service’ however was of a more mundane aspect in learning from, providing and caring for those who were their holy ones.

Like the Manichaeans, the Cathars seem also to have originally believed that Jesus was a flesh and blood man who had ascended to heaven by the way in which he lived his life. They did not hold that he was the ‘son of God’ or in his pre-existence. Later on some groups did acknowledge these beliefs, but whether or not it was a matter of expediency in protecting themselves from the wrath of the Church remains to be seen. The beliefs of Mani’s father, with which he was raised, stated that you would be forgiven if you did something openly, as long as you did not believe it in your heart. Doing things for the sake of appearances is a tactic of self-preservation that has been adopted by several religious groups. Whether or not this was part of the Cathar doctrine or simply a way to protect themselves out of necessity is up for question.

Again, much of what has been said about the Cathars and their beliefs comes from ‘confessions’ extracted under torture, condemnations and observations of Dominican inquisitors like Bernardo Gui and often echo similar confessions and condemnations of anyone with any power who fell out of favor with the Church, including the Templars. There are some very clear beliefs however that we may take away from this:

They believed in reincarnation; the sanctity of life; a dualistic world of good vs. evil; a simple life devoid of ostentation and frivolous belongings, and being responsible for their own ascension back into the Wholeness of Creation. They also believed in the equality of the sexes – that men and women were equal beings. They did not believe in marriage in the sense that it had taken in the Roman Empire – to protect ones properties and inheritances. People were united because they desired to be together and for no other reason.

Some of these things posed issues for those who were lords, sympathizers and defenders of the Cathars. We shall look into that a bit in the next article as well as continuing the story of the Albigensian Crusade.

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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2014, 04:52:04 PM »

Montségur was far from a monastic sort of enclave, such as we might think of today – i.e. as in a Buddhist monastery. In point of fact the fortress itself was a garrison and most of the people who lived in the village were not Cathars themselves. This can be said because large quantities of animal bones were found buried around and on the pog, and Cathars we are told did not eat meat except fish. The perfecti and credenti that lived there most likely lived in the village and only went into the fortress in times of siege for protection. Certainly the soldiers in the garrison were not Cathars, or they could and would not have been soldiers. Their wives and children may have been, but not the soldiers themselves.Village life was like life in any other village that supported itself and its people of the time. There were chores to be done, clothing to be made, things to be fixed and fashioned, as well as livestock to care for.

Cathars were spread all over the Languedoc-Rousillon and not all congregated in one area. There were even Cathars in Italy and other countries. They were however centered predominantly in what is now southern France. The lords of the Languedoc remained independent lords and answered to no king. This coupled with the fact that heretics lived in the lands of, and were protected by these lords was a recipe for trouble and a thorn in the sides of both Rome and the French monarchy. The monarchy wanted those lands and the Church wanted the heretics gone.

Given what we think the Cathars believe and the principles by which they lived, it is fairly well certain that the lords of the Languedoc were not Cathars themselves. They owned property and they engaged in warfare. They were powerful local lords fighting to keep control of their hereditary holdings and titles. We know they were at least nominally Catholic by the fact that several of them were excommunicated not just once but many times. That is not to say however that some of their wives and children were Cathars. We know that the daughter of Roger-Bernard I de Foix was a Cathar, Esclarmonde de Foix, who was a perfecti and is known as such in historical records. At the time she took her consolamentum, she did so with three other ladies of high rank, Aude de Fanjeaux, Fays de Durfort and Raymonde de Saint-Germain. Esclarmonde de Foix was present at the Conference of Montreal in 1207, an attempt at a peaceful debate and settlement with the Catholic Church, represented by Dominic Guzman. Dominic Guzman would become Saint Dominic, who later led the Inquisition. The year after the debate, Innocent III declared the Albigensian Crusade.

It is necessary as well to understand that women of noble status often retired to convents when they became widowed or divorced in these times and in times previous to this. By Salic Law women rarely inherited their husbands’ lands or titles upon the lord’s death, unless they were a ‘queen regent’ themselves – i.e. they were the daughter and heir of a king or a lord. Blanche of Castile was a queen regent, for she was the daughter of a king, Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of Aragon, who was also a queen regent. Even in this case, they acted only as regents in the kingly sense if the heir, a son, was in his minority – under aged. When the son reached his majority, he became king but his mother was still ‘the Queen Regent’, while his wife was simply ‘the Queen’. A ‘lady’ married to a king who became his widow was called a ‘dowager queen’, and inherited nothing unless it was her father’s lands and titles and she had no surviving brothers. While the lords of the Languedoc did not adhere to monarchies and their rules, they too inherited by Salic Law established by Clovis I, the first historically verifiable King of the Salian Franks, who came to be known as the Merovingians.

Esclarmonde de Foix was a widow in 1200 when she turned to the Cathar faith, which infers that before that she was probably a Catholic herself. It is therefore nothing exceptional or extraordinary in the fact that she ‘retired’ to live a more or less monastic life as a perfecti and spiritual leader. What is unique and extraordinary about her is that she became the symbol and the legend that she remains to this day. That however, is not entirely due to anything in particular that she did in her life. She was a good woman who made every attempt to help people: she established schools for girls and hospitals as well as a home for the elder parfaits. As far as anyone knows for certain, that is the extent of her doings. Such acts did qualify one for sainthood in those times on occasion, but Esclarmonde de Foix was not a Catholic. The story of her turning into a dove and flying away with the equally legendary Cathar Treasure, the Holy Grail, was most likely a fiction invented by Otto Rahn, the Nazi medievalist. To my knowledge, there is no mention of it before his telling of it. If indeed, as he claimed, he was told this by local shepherds it may have been a legend that had risen up around the fortress, the pog and the Cathars in the neighborhood. Places like Montségur tend to engender and invite legends, and not without good reason. But truly, it was the pog, the fortress and the crusade and its circumstances more than anything else that brought a certain fame, or infamy, upon the place – depending on whose side you’re on – and made it and Esclarmonde icons of the times and the Cathars themselves.

The reason for this will be revealed in the next installment.

*'Pog' is what the mountain on which the Montsegur fotress is built.

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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2014, 04:57:48 PM »

On 13 April 1233, Pope Gregory IX officially established an inquisitorial system in France by announcing that he would be conferring unlimited authority upon the Preaching Friars (the Dominicans) to combat heresy. He appointed Fr. Robert le Bourge as General Inquisitor for the Kingdom. The Inquisition had come to the Languedoc. By the Treaty of Meaux, Raymond VII had ceded the Languedoc to the French Crown. French troops had also come to the Languedoc occupying what were now lands belonging to the monarchy and the Capetian dynasty.

Sworn to allegiance to the ruling monarchy and to be a good Catholic and take up again the fight against the heretics, Raymond VII made several half-hearted attempts to lay siege to the pog under the watchful eyes of the French troops and envoys of both Crown and the Inquisition in 1241. His forays yielded no result, and he declared that the pog could not be taken. This would be reported back to Paris and hopefully be the end of it. Raymond VII was stalling for time, and a window of opportunity to drive out the troops and take back his domains.

In addition, he had no legitimate male heir. He had only his daughter Joan, by Sancha of Aragon. By the Treaty of Paris (1229) with the French Crown, he had to give Joan in marriage to Alfonso, Louis IX’s brother. In this manner, the crown was assured of gaining these lands upon Raymond VII’s death. He was also trying to divorce Sancha so he could marry a woman who could give him a male heir, but the Crown and Church were balking this action to protect their own interests. It seems Raymond finally succeeded, for in 1241 he did divorce Sancha and married Margaret de Lusignan in 1243. Margaret was the daughter of Hughes X de Lusignan and Isabella d’Angouleme. Isabella had previously been married to John Lackland (‘evil King John’), who was a son of Raymond’s grandfather Henry II Plantagenet of England. The Church quickly played this trump card and declared Raymond’s marriage to Margaret void on the grounds of consanguinity. Even if he did have a son by Margaret or even another daughter, the child would not be a legitimate heir.

Whichever way he turned, things were looking bleak for Raymond. He must have felt tremendously frustrated, but he didn’t give up the fight. The question remains as to whether or not Raymond was ‘using’ the Cathars in his opposition to the French Crown having taken his lands. They represented resistance to the northern monarchy and there had to be a general cause to rally around. The Crusade and its results had left the local populace in opposition toward those who would take away their culture, their language and their lands. The ‘cause’ thus became more than something personal to Raymond and the other lords – at least outwardly. They were all struggling, however, to maintain their own titles and lands.

History has it that in 1242, Raymond was the architect of a plot that arose amongst the lords of the Languedoc against the Crown. This plot involved not only the counts of Foix, Comminges, Armagnac and Rodez, but the viscounts of Narbonne and Béziers, Hughes X de Lusignan (Comte de la Marche), and no less than Henry III Plantagenet. Reportedly, Frederick II the Holy Roman Emperor was also aware of it. Frederick was often at odds with the papacy himself over the Fifth Crusade, and was excommunicated four times. The plot was to form a rebellion against the Crown. It would seem however that Blanche and Louis became aware of the plot and determined to thwart it. It is thought that the following actions were deliberately undertaken to set the rebellion off before their adversaries could solidify their plans and positions. They had a previous model to work with in what happened with Pierre de Castelnau, and there was even more reason for the people of the Languedoc to hate the Inquisition since the Crusade.

In May of 1242, two inquisitors appeared at the castle of Avignonnet and set up a tribunal. The castle was commanded by Ramon d’Alfaro, the bailiff of Raymond VII. Ramon d’Alfaro sent a message to Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix at Montségur informing him of the presence of the inquisitors. Brothers Armand Guilhem of Montpellier and Étienne of Narbonne were both cruel and fanatical. They’d left many enemies and much bitterness in their wake. Pierre-Roger’s announcement of the news of the inquisitors’ presence at Avignonnet to the village and the troops of Montségur was the match that set fire to the planned rebellion. Those at Montségur had family and loved ones to avenge. Jean Markale reports:

“A group of about fifty knights and men-at-arms converged and made their way toward Avignonnet. While en route, their ranks were swelled by sympathizers who also had kinfolk to avenge. This expedition was in fact far from secret – everyone knew that the men were determined to murder the Inquisitors – but oddly enough, nobody alerted the future victims.” [Montségur and the Mystery of the Cathars – pg. 33]

Ramon d’Alfaro guided the angry throng into the castle himself. The inquisitors, their notary and bailiffs were all murdered. The news spread rapidly as those involved returned home, and soon the whole region was up in arms. Moving quickly, Raymond took himself and his men to Albi and occupied it. Albi had once belonged to him, but the Crown had taken it. Like it or not, the rebellion had begun and he had no choice but to act on the plans that were in place.

What happened next happened very quickly, reinforcing the idea that the rebellion was deliberately provoked by the Crown.

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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2014, 04:59:49 PM »
That is the end of the blog. What happens next is the long siege of the pog and Montsegur.


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