In 12th and 13th
centuries, a new religion, Catharism, was established across the
south of France. This "alternative" Christianity was perceived
as a serious threat by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), his clergy
and his successors. Under the reigns of the French Capetian kings
Philip I Augustus (1180-1223), Louis VIII (1223-1226) and Louis
IX (Saint Louis 1226-1270), a "holy" war of unprecedented
violence and savagery, combining mainly northern French barons and
the papacy, was undertaken between 1209 and 1229, against the Cathars
in the southern Languedoc-speaking regions (the langue d’oc
was a language very similar to Catalan today). This crusade was
also against the Albigensians, whose military challenges continued
in fact until 1244 (fall of Montségur Castle, execution by
burning of 205 Cathars), and even 1255 (capture of Quéribus).
The direct consequences of this were the taking over of a large
part of the southern region by the northern-based Capetian monarchy,
as well as the virtual extinction of the Languedoc way of life.
For more than a century after 1229, the Catholic Inquisitors and
their executioners continued to seek the complete eradication of
"the heresy" until its total disappearance.
The veil of silence
drawn over these epic events for centuries has been torn only recently.
After all the tragedy of this human and religious drama, hopefully
we can now move beyond the historic arguments of one side or another,
towards a deeper understanding of events and a greater spirituality.
Stuart Keogh. With Casteland’s thanks