Thursday, November 4, 2010

Languedoc, 1206-1244

My first post covered the period through 1206, when St. Dominic establishes his base in Fanjeux and the Cathars are rebuilding the citidel of Montsegur. The Pope, of course, gets a full report of what is happening in Languedoc. My timeline continues.

1207. The Pope fails to get France and Aragon to attack Toulouse. Sends legate to Raymond VI of Toulouse; negotiations fail, Raymond excommunicated by legate.

Jan. 1208. Papal legate assassinated, allegedly by an officer of Raymond VI.

Why anyone would think that a heretic killed Raymond VI is beyond me. To be excommunicated from the Church of Satan, as the Cathars considered the Roman Catholic Church, would not seem to be something to get upset about. It is only a Catholic who would find this a cause for alarm. Nonetheless it is just what the enemies of Cathar have been looking for, a fortunate accident, if nothing else, to use as an excuse.

June 18, 1209. Raymond VI makes submission to the Church, is scourged in public at St. Gilles.

1209. Pope Innocent III preaches a crusade against Languedoc, which commences early July. Here is a map of the region that shows the route of the crusaders, from east of Beziers toward Toulouse in the west. They pretty much followed the route of the modern Autoroute, although of course they went on foot and horseback on roads that were considerably less advanced. Ignore the difference below between white and orange; I simply scanned the front cover of my Michelin map, where the white indicates what is covered in the detailed map inside.

July 1209. Citizens of Beziers refuse to give up their heretics. Crusaders massacre tens of thousands, including burning down the Cathederal and other churches where people flee. The Cistercian chronicler reports that the legate reportedly said “Massacre them for the Lord knows his own,” French tours of the area say that the ones responsible for the massacre were undisciplined hangers-on to the army, who acted without orders. Lambert observes that the reported order incorporates a quotation from Tim. II, hence probably was said by an educated member of the hierarchy.

Image: Carcasonne, walled city inauthentically restored in 19th century.

August 1209.
Siege of Carcasonne. The defenders' strategy is to wait til the crusaders have served their 40 days and gone home, but nobody shows any sign of leaving. There is no water. Visconte Raymond-Rogier, presumably guaranteed safe conduct to negotiate surrender, is thrown in prison instead; he soon dies (of dysentery or poison). Inhabitants leave near-naked, presumably offering their worldly goods in exchange for their lives.

The account below, from a kiosk on the Autoroute, somewhat white-washes the event.

It says that peasants had been admitted from the surrounding area. Some accounts say that the ones who left without even any clothes were these peasants. But the crusaders wouldn't have wanted to leave untrustworthy citizens inside a walled city, ready to open the gates when the main body of the crusaders left. They would have put in their own people. This account does not touch on the Viscount's coming out to negotiate, which would presumably have been under a safe conduct pass. Simon de Montfort was made the new Viscount of Carcasonne. That happened in late August. The former Viscount died Nov. 10.

Over the next couple of years, Simon slaughters anyone who resists, and succeeds in burning hundreds of presumed Cathars in the Carcasonne-Beziers vicinity.

Carcasonne, under Simon de Montfort and beyond, will later become the center of the Languedoc Inquisition. There is supposedly a red door behind which is the Inquisitor's office, as well as numerous instruments of torture used. I would like to have seen them, not because I enjoy such things, but just because I would like to compare the comments there with the oft-repeated statements that only the "temporal power" actually used such things, although admittedly at the direction of the Inquisitors. Unfortunately the day I picked to visit seems to have been an obscure French holiday (probably Catholic).

Image: the medieval city behind the walls.

1212. Pedro II of Aragon comes to Raymond VI's aid. He attacks at Muret; along with thousands of others, he is killed. Simon systematically burns crops and takes towns around Toulouse.

1215. Raymond capitulates, and Simon enters Toulouse triumphantly.

1216. Toulouse rebels; Simon returns and this time destroys the city's defenses.

1217. Toulouse rebels; Raymond VI allows the walls of Toulouse to be rebuilt. In the siege that follows, a stone from a catapult kills Simon de Montfort. His successor and son proves incompetent and uninspiring. Raymond (d. 1222) allows Cathar houses to re-open in Fanjeux and elsewhere, and Guilhaberte preaches freely.

1226. Louis VIII invades Languedoc. Crops burned, wells poisoned, livestock killed, orchards cut down.

1229. Peace of Paris, Raymond VII, son of Raymond VI, cedes Toulouse to France effective at his death, accepts scourging in Paris.

1227-1232. Inquisition formed, with Dominicans as chief agents in Languedoc and northern Italy.

1232. Raymond cooperates with Inquisition. Guilhabert de Castres persuades the lord of Montsegur (with tacit assent of the Count of Foix) to strengthen fortifications and allow Cathar settlement. 400-500 live in fort and in the village below.

From the ramparts:

View of village from above, from a postcard:

1235. Dominicans expelled from Toulouse, on orders of Raymond VII and the consuls of the city.

1241. Raymond promises Louis IX to destroy Montsegur.

1242. Raymond VI rebels.

1243. Council of Beziers decides to destroy Montsegur. French troops sent by the French regent Blanche of Castile land on SW coast, on territory belonging to English king. He has been warned but puts up only a weak defense. Foix negotiates a separate peace with France, and Toulouse is forced to follow suit. On May 13 French troops besiege Montsegur, soon joined by Languedoc conscripts. In November, the new Cathar bishop, Bertrand Marty, declines offer from Cathars in Cremona Italy to settle there.

March 1244. Montsegur defenses breached. Truce negotiated March 1. Surenders on March 14. Mass burning March 16. Oldenbourg thinks that a local who had been supplying food was forced into divulging the secret path to the top, by jailing his family and threatening to burn them. This photo of Montsegur shows some indication of its vulnerability.

Before the surrender, 21 believers take the Consolamente, ensuring that they will be burned at the stake. According to tradition, "Le Bruler," the burning, took place just below the castle, although some sources say that the 200 or so Cathars were taken to another site. The ashes probably were not buried there, as ashes were usually dumped in a river. This would have been to intimidate Catholics who believed that the body had to survive in one piece for the resurrection. Cathars did not believe in the resurrection of the physical body, but rather of the soul or spiritual body. Here is my photo of the field below the castle.

There is also this one, from a tourist brochure.

Here is a 13th century drawing of someone being burned at the stake, reproduced in many books. I am not sure whether it is scratched on a wall or from a book. I think it is meant to be sympathetic, given the look of quiet determination on the person's face.

There is also a monument to the dead, erected by a Society for Cathar Remembance and Study.

Behind the monument, you might notice the parking lot full of cars. I was surprised to find so many people there, including tour buses. It was a French holiday period. There were even free talks on-site every hours in French, as we can see below.

To return to a more serious note, perhaps here is a good place for me to a Cathar prayer, the beginning of which I found on a postcard at Montsegur. The prayer appears in the original Occitan and French translation in Rene Nelli's Ecrivains Nonconformiste du Moyen-Age Occitan, Vol. 2. An English version appears in Oldenbourg's Massacre at Montsegur, p. 376. I made an English translation of my own before I knew the one in Oldenbourg. My main mistake is in the verbphrase I translated as "mistake yourself": it should be "are deceived," if the one in Oldenbourg is right. Another possibility is that it means "make a mistake" and the verb I translated as "err" means "stray" (as in "knight errant").

The reference to knowledge as well as love suggests a Gnostic orientation. The material world is an alien world, as the soul devoted to the God of good spirits is from elsewhere.

The prayer goes on to relate how Lucifer lured angels into this world, with the promise that they would have the power to enjoy both good and evil, rather than only the good, as above--i.e. he promised knowledge of good and evil. The angels tried to escape, but they met a "sky of glass" from which they only slid back down. Perhaps this is a reference to reincarnation. But God came down from heaven and "took ghostly shape in Holy Mary," the prayer concludes. There is no suggestion that Jesus is an angel himself. It does seem to say that Jesus had only a spiritual body, not a physical one.

For more extensive discussion of this prayer, with a reproduction of the rest of it, see the Appendix to this blog, at th end.

There are stories of a secret Cathar treasure that was removed from Montsegur by a small party of knights. Hitler among others did quite a bit of digging in the area to find it. Some people think that it was just books. I think that there were actual objecdts of value, such as jewelry, because people made bequests to the Cathars. These objects would have been used to pay bribes to protect Cathars elsewhere, either in the Languedoc or in Italy, where they were now coming under attack. The knights would have gone from castle to castle, protected by sympathetic local nobility, a series of castles that stretched across the region. For example here is Perepyteuse, in a photo from the upper castle down onto the lower one.

By the same token, the burning is by no means the end of Catharism in the region. It was mainly old Cathars who couldn't travel who died there. followed by intense Inquisition activity throughout region over the next 50 years. Cathar perfecti could still travel by hidden paths, and they and refugees traveling to Italy or Catalonia had the castles as places to rest on the journey. The Church hierarchy was also intact; there was a bishop of Toulouse, for example, Bernard of Oliba, who is recorded as being in Cremona by 1451. But the survival of the Cathars didn't last. One by one the castles fell to the Inquisition's forces. And Italy and Catalonia also had inquisitions, although not as effective yet as the one in Languedoc. Bernard of Oliba was captured in 1476, burned in 1478.

1255. Queribus, last “Cathar castle” in Languedoc falls to Inquisitors, eliminating refuges for Cathar travelers. It was not taken by direct assault. Rather, the son of the owner was imprisoned by the Inquisition and his father told that if he wanted the son back, he would have to surrender the castle. After evacuating any visitors, he did so. It is now a popular spot on the "Cathar trail." One website reports that between 1980 and 2000, the number of visitors to the nearby village increased by a factor of ten.

1 comment:

  1. More detail, including where that sketch of a heretic being burned at the stake comes from at