The Albigensian Crusade: A Comparative Military Study, 1209-1218
By Michael Taulier
Master’s Thesis, American Public University System (2010)
Abstract: This thesis addresses the military aspects of the Albigensian Crusade in the region of Languedoc between 1209 and 1218. The purpose of the research is to move beyond the conventional focus on Catharism and its attendant heresy in order to examine the martial endeavors of the northern crusaders led by Simon IV de Montfort against Raymond VI of Toulouse and the southern forces. A comparative model is applied to the discussion and analysis of a number of sieges, field battles and descriptions of atrocities committed during the crusade. Light is shed on the difficulties faced by Montfort in waging a war in hostile territory and reveals a set of contrasts and similarities between military engagements along with a shift of intent from the original aim of the expedition designed to root out heresy, to private ambitions consisting of territorial aggrandizement and the acquisition of power.
Dedication: I dedicate this work to my parents whose encouragement and support motivated me to return to school to pursue my education. This work is also dedicated to my lovely fiancée, Natalya, whose patience and understanding were always present even during the many days I chose to remain at home to study.
War was an endemic constituent of the Middle Ages. A veritable plethora of battles and sieges dotted the European landscape for centuries and the practice of war was continually refined as were the instruments used to wield it. The era of the High Middle Ages (c. AD 1000-1300) witnessed some of the most decisive and influential battles in all of history. From Hastings to Hattin and from Courtrai to Las Navas de Tolosa, the political, economic, religious and cultural aspects of Europe were forever altered.
Indelibly intertwined with warfare and medieval society were religious beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church, the immovable bastion of Latin Christendom, pervaded, like war, every aspect of society from politics, to economics, to cultural phenomena. From kings to the lowliest serfs, the people of the High Middle Ages were imbued with the mores of Christianity, guided daily by its precepts and subject to the rulings and whims of the Church. Indeed, no other institution may be considered to have had as much impact upon Western society in the Middle Ages than the Catholic Church; and nowhere was this more apparent than during the age of the crusades.
The High Middle Ages encapsulated, and were defined by, two centuries of religious warfare in the form of the crusades. From 1095 to 1291, the crusades were primarily directed towards the Middle East in an attempt to wrest the Holy Land from the clutches of Islam. Religious fervor fueled a crusading spirit that gripped Latin Christendom and would cause the protraction of a series of wars fought in the name of God or Allah. These wars continued beyond the period of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and up to modern times. Today, the revival of Jihad, or Holy War, by Muslims worldwide hearkens to a period when Christian and Muslim fought valiantly for their beliefs.
Although the focus of much scholarship on the crusades in recent decades has been on those directed to the Levant, the continent of Europe was deeply imbued with crusading zeal. The Reconquista pitted the Spanish kings against the invading Muslims while the Teutonic knights brought the crusades to the doorstep of the pagans of northeastern Europe. The Albigensian Crusade is one of the lesser-known crusades once sequestered to what is now present-day southern France. Akin to larger crusades to the East, the Albigensian Crusade was aimed at eradicating a population that did not conform to the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church employed its influence and the vast resources at its disposal to suppress and ultimately destroy Catharism, a heresy dating back to the first century AD. The heresy centered primarily on dualism, a concept acknowledging the existence of two separate gods as opposed to the monotheistic belief espoused by the Church. Adherents to this religion were known as Cathars, and during the crusade as Albigensians, named after the city of Albi, considered a hotbed of heresy. The monk Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, author of one of the most valuable histories of the Albigensian Crusade, professes that “the general term ‘Albigensians’ is used…to refer to the heretics of Toulouse and other cities and towns, and their defenders, since this is the name which came to be used by outsiders to refer to all the heretics of the South.”
From 1209-1229, the Catholic Church was engaged in a war against heretics and the nobles who harbored them. This war began as a sincere attempt to cauterize the wound of heresy that had plagued the south for centuries but quickly devolved into a political war of conquest and land seizure. For two decades, the Albigensian Crusade wreaked havoc on the political, cultural, and economic spheres of Languedoc, the region of present-day southern France where Catharism flourished. The noble efforts of the Catholic Church to subdue the Cathars by military means proved fruitless and the task eventually fell to the Inquisition beginning in the third decade of the thirteenth century. Curiously, the Inquisition, acting as a less violent extension of the Church’s power in Languedoc, was far more successful in rooting out and effectively destroying heresy than the crusading armies ever were.
The threat of Catharism had been brewing in Languedoc since the middle of the twelfth century. Unlike the more militaristic character of northern France, Languedoc was culturally more advanced, its inhabitants endowed with “advanced education, cosmopolitan tastes, and cultural elitism” and less inclined to military endeavors. Commerce flourished, the songs of troubadours filled its courts, and the native literature was ripe with stories of love and courtship. Culturally, Languedoc had stronger ties to the realms of Navarre, Aragon and Italy than to the kingdom of northern France. Politically fractious, the counts and nobles of Languedoc formed a loose conglomerate of disparate brethren united by fragile alliances. Economically, the people of Languedoc prospered by trading heavily with Spain, Italy and northern France. Religiously, they formed a motley group of Catharist supporters, some of whom were members of the faith, while others were simply advocates of the religion living peacefully alongside its adherents.
To Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216), Catharism had become more than a nuisance; it threatened the very existence, ubiquity and legitimacy of the Catholic Church and its abettors would receive no mercy. Islam was a religion far removed from Christianity, politically, culturally and ethnically. Notwithstanding their presence in Spain since the early eighth century, Muslims occupied the territories of Outremer and beyond, lands where the influence of Christian thought was minimal, if entirely absent. Their skin was darker, they spoke a different language, practiced different customs and had little contact with those of the Latin West. These glaring distinctions made Muslims easy targets of the crusades. Their occupation of the Holy Land, the very heartland of Christianity and birthplace of Jesus-Christ, became anathema to Christians and acted as the impetus for the launching of these holy wars.
Catharism inherently presented a much more recondite and hazardous menace to the Catholic Church. Burrowed deep within the political and cultural framework of Languedoc, and protected by the nobles and seigneurs of the region, Catharism was less distinguishable and thus more difficult to extinguish than Islam. Its resemblance to Christianity and its longevity made Catharism an especially notorious enemy in the eyes of the Church-in effect, the roots of Catharism date back to the first century AD. The religion was of a Manichean nature and in many ways its followers believed themselves to be morally superior to Christians. The latter half of the twelfth century was rife with doctrinal conflict and any attempts to bring Cathars into the Christian fold and to excise the religion from Languedoc in a peaceful manner were in vain. The preaching crusades to Languedoc met with little enthusiasm and debates between Catholic and Cathar leaders over the doctrinal intricacies of their respective faiths only served to strengthen the heretics’ resolve. The futility of religious and political diplomacy coupled with the crusading zeal of the day is what set the wheels of military imperative in motion.
Innocent III used the opportunity afforded to him by his newly appointed pontificate to wield his powers of persuasion and raise a crusading army to eradicate heresy from Languedoc. The menace to the Church had been brewing for decades and the steady increase in the number of Cathar converts only served to undermine Innocent’s authority over the temporal and spiritual spheres of Christendom. The pope, drawing upon a biblical passage in Song of Solomon, referred to heretics as “the little foxes which are ruining the vineyard of the Lord.” Despite this, Catharism never posed an organized or united threat to the Church. But as supreme pontiff Innocent no doubt felt the urgency of the predicament and acted accordingly. The first decade of his pontificate was spent planning for and conducting from afar a new crusade to the Levant. The Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) ended calamitously with the sacking of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in 1204. It would take another five years of impassioned preaching against Cathars in Languedoc for Innocent to finally resign himself to the use of military force.
Military force was also necessary to subdue those who merely harbored heretics, but were not Cathars themselves. The Count of Toulouse, Raymond VI, had been the most powerful noble of Languedoc whose territories extended over a large portion of the region. His dealings with papal legates often ended in bitter dispute. Raymond considered himself a devout Catholic but saw little incentive in attempting to root out heresy from his lands. For generations, his forbears lived peacefully amongst Cathars despite the admonitions of the Church. When asked by Bishop of Fulk why the Cathars had not been expelled from Languedoc, Pons Adhémar of Roudeille, a southern knight, replied: “We cannot; we were brought up with them, there are many of our relatives amongst them, and we can see that their way of life is a virtuous one.” The increasingly hostile atmosphere between the nobles of Languedoc and the pope concerning heresy needed but a spark to ignite the flame. That spark came with the death of the papal legate Peter of Castelnau in January 1208 following a meeting with Raymond VI. Although strongly suspected as an accomplice in the murder, Raymond was never convicted. Nonetheless, this proved to be the final straw for Innocent who up to this point refrained from resorting to military means. A papal bull was issued calling the Christian faithful to partake in the new crusade in Languedoc and offering them the lands of the heretics. An indulgence was promised in return for a mere forty day of required military service. This was enough to draw thousands from all over Western Europe to take up the cross. The crusaders willingly took up arms and met in northern France before marching south.
The Albigensian Crusade began as a genuine attempt by the Catholic Church to subdue Cathars. Along the way, the military efforts of those involved shifted from rooting out heretics to acquiring territory and procuring political clout. The leader of the crusade was a devout French noble by the name of Simon IV de Montfort who, according to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, was “eager to set about a task, tireless in completing it, and totally dedicated to the service of God.” Montfort had participated in the first leg of the Fourth Crusade but quickly abandoned it once it was diverted to Christian rather than Muslim lands. Montfort’s strong leadership and tenacity proved he was vital to the expedition in Languedoc as an instrument of the Church. From success to success, Montfort’s military endeavors strengthened the temporal arm of the Church in the region. Heretics were sought out, burned or converted to Catholicism, and crusading forces occupied the lands of nobles who protected them. However, as time wore on Montfort’s personal ambitions began to shine through under the guise of his religious fervor. Indeed, his military successes spurred him to aggrandize his territory in Languedoc at the expense of southern nobles and with the backing of the Church. From 1209-1218, warfare was the only constant in the region of Languedoc and the religious turmoil that sparked the war had transformed into the personal agenda of one man.
The influence of the French Crown would make itself known near the end of the crusade with the involvement of Prince Louis VIII. Inadvertently, Montfort had laid the political and military groundwork for the crown to make subjugation of Languedoc a reality. Even though the Albigensian Crusade failed to destroy the heresy, the political and cultural landscape of southern France had been drastically altered, the Crown being the primary beneficiary. The crusade directly extended French royal power into Languedoc and the Mediterranean. This signaled the end of the region of Languedoc and the beginnings of a united and powerful kingdom of France in the mid-thirteenth century.
The methods of warfare employed by the crusaders and the southern nobles were typical of the day. Siege warfare prevailed in the High Middle Ages prior to the widespread use of gunpowder weapons. The Albigensian Crusade aptly fit this description as it consisted mostly of sieges against fortified towns and cities throughout Languedoc. These sieges were predominantly conducted against the southern forces by the crusaders, although southerners did attempt several of their own in retaliation. The scarcity of field battles is also typical of this era. The inordinate amount of attention paid to field battles of the Middle Ages in recent scholarship often tends to downplay the efficacy and pervasive practice of siege warfare that made up the majority of military campaigns. The field battles of Hastings, Hattin, Manzikert and Bouvines were decisive and altered the course of history. Nonetheless, to relegate the study of poliorcetics (the art of siege warfare) in the High Middle Ages to a secondary role in terms of military importance is to neglect the impact sieges had on the outcome of wars of this era. The battle of Muret in 1213 is one of the most prominent field battles of the High Middle Ages and the only major field engagement that occurred during the Albigensian Crusade. It was decisive but no less significant than the myriad sieges whose outcome guided the trajectory of the crusade.
Given the extensive scholarship on the Albigensian Crusade with a singular focus on the Cathar heresy, this work will approach the crusade from a military perspective within a comparative model. The heretical characteristics and doctrinal differences espoused by the Cathars have been generously documented in recent work but little has been done to bring to light the many sieges, field battles and brutal atrocities fundamental to such an expedition. These took place over two decades and left their painful imprint on the crusade. The dearth of secondary sources on the martial aspects of the crusade is intriguing in view of the high level detail concerning the military efforts of both sides provided in the primary sources.
The secondary sources dedicated to the Albigensian Crusade often approach the topic from a broader perspective, seeking to encompass the entirety of the expedition and its concomitant issues. In an effort to be comprehensive, these authors have usually set their scholarly vision beyond a narrow military analysis of the crusade in order to understand the religious, political and cultural tensions that defined it. Joseph Strayer, in his book The Albigensian Crusades (1971), discusses a few of the campaigns of the crusade but devotes several chapters to the Cathar heresy, the region of Languedoc and the Inquisition. Jonathan Sumption provides a more thorough account of the expedition in his work The Albigensian Crusade (1978), but again his agenda is simply to tell the story of the crusade from beginning to end rather than to focus on the sieges and battles that occurred. In Massacre at Montségur (2001), Zoé Oldenbourg addresses some of the campaigns but consigns the military details to a very small portion of her book. A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom (2008), written by Mark Gregory Pegg, appeared at first glance to be a work dedicated solely to the war efforts of the crusade but the author’s underlying agenda to prove that “the crusade ushered genocide into the West, changing forever what it meant to be Christian” was tinged with a strong religious and moral bias. Walter L. Wakefield’s book Heresy, Crusade and Inquisition in Southern France, 1100-1250 (1974) deals with some of the military aspects of the crusade but its chronological frame of reference is much too broad and the majority of the work is taken up by a discussion of the heresy and the Inquisition.
Secondary works whose focal point is solely on the Cathar heresy treat the war almost as a sideshow to the religious conflict between Catholics and Cathars. Some of these include Sean Martin’s The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (2004) and Michael Costen’s The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade (1997). From their titles, it is evident that the primary aim of these texts is to discuss the heresy and this is made clear as each book dedicates merely one chapter to the crusade itself. Malcolm Barber’s The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (2000), Malcolm Lambert’s The Cathars (1998), Stephen O’Shea’s The Perfect Heresy: The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars (2001) and Aubrey Burl’s God’s Heretics: The Albigensian Crusade (2001) all depict the centrality of heresy in the Albigensian Crusade but to the detriment of the military engagements.
There exist, however, a few articles concerned with the militaristic endeavors of the Albigensian Crusade. In The Albigensian Crusades: Wars Like Any Other?(2001), Malcolm Barber opined that the Albigensian Crusade “went far beyond the normal conventions of early thirteenth-century warfare in the scale of the slaughter.” French scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Marcel Dieulafoy and Joseph de Malafosse devoted their articles to the battle of Muret and the siege of Toulouse, respectively. Laurence W. Marvin’s article War in the South: A First Look at Siege Warfare in the Albigensian Crusade, 1209-1218 (2001) honed in on the most pervasive martial practice of the crusade. This article influenced his seminal book The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209-1218 (2008). This notable work has been thus far the only study devoted to an examination of the Albigensian Crusade from a military standpoint. Indeed, this text effectively circumvents the usual Cathar heresy so typical in secondary sources to focus on the military ventures of the first portion of the crusade. Marvin refers to his book as “the history of a nine-year span, when war and all its attendant misery engulfed a region…” and goes on to say that “the Cathar heresy…plays a very small role in this account…”
The similarities between Marvin’s book and this thesis are two-fold. The first is an exclusion of the religious and cultural aspects surrounding the Albigensian Crusade in order to survey the militaristic operations that played such a significant role in its development. The second is a restriction of the timeframe to the first nine years of the expedition by encapsulating the campaigns of Simon de Montfort. This timeline was chosen specifically to make better use of the three principal primary sources, two of which end following the count’s untimely demise.
This thesis takes Marvin’s idea a step further. Through an analysis of the Albigensian Crusade’s military engagements, the aim is to provide a comparative model of the military engagements and their repercussions that took place in the course of the first nine years. Indeed, only by comparing and contrasting the various methods and operations of war in this time period and under these circumstances can one fully understand the motivations and ideologies that drove its participants to such lengths.
This work should serve to further fill in a gap on the study of the Albigensian Crusade, already commenced by Laurence W. Marvin, and the multifarious military engagements that defined it. The objective is, through careful analysis of the narrative of the crusade between 1209-1218, to cast a brighter light on the modus operandi of medieval warfare within a comparative framework. Furthermore, this work should open up new avenues of research into the strategies and tactics of crusading warfare between Europeans and offer a contrast to the study of Muslims and Christians so often found in traditional books on the crusades.
The methods of research utilized for this thesis include a selection of primary sources. These were supplemented by a bevy of secondary sources ranging in scope from in-depth descriptions of sieges and weapons traditionally used in medieval warfare to accounts of the political machinations of the involved parties. An amalgam of books and scholarly journal articles provided the depth and breadth of scholarly expertise needed for such an endeavor.
The primary sources offered enough pertinent details on the military ventures of the Albigensian Crusade to undertake a thorough study. However, the relative obscurity of the crusade has become somewhat of a disadvantage in terms of the volume of primary source material available. Thanks to their magnitude and popularity, the crusades to the Levant have been blessed with a veritable cornucopia of eyewitness accounts not only from Christian chroniclers but from Muslim ones as well. The history of the Albigensian Crusade, despite its duration, has been recorded by just four contemporaries in three separate texts, two of which chronicle merely the first nine-years of the crusade: Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, William of Puylaurens, William of Tudela and his anonymous co-author. This has posed a problem for the modern day scholar. Indeed, Joseph Strayer states “one of the great problems in writing about the Albigensian Crusade is that evidence becomes abundant only in the second half of the thirteenth century, when pressures by the French royal government and by the Inquisition were transforming southern society.” Papal letters provide a frame of reference, but as they are concerned more with political and ecclesial affairs, their details on the logistics of warfare during the crusade are largely absent.
Other primary source accounts related to the Albigensian Crusade provide some insight. However, the authors of these works did not personally witness the events of the crusade first hand, and thus do not provide a thorough narrative of the expedition as do the three main sources. William the Breton, a French chronicler and contemporary of the crusade, wrote Gesta Philippi Augusti (the Deeds of Philip Augustus) and provides a few disparate details on the war. The son of King Peter II of Aragon, Jaume I provides a few details on the battle of Muret in Llibre del felts but his absence at the battle makes his narrative less consequential than the three primary eyewitness accounts. Jonathan Sumption mentions the three eyewitness accounts as his main narrative sources in his history of the Albigensian Crusade, referring to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay as the ‘official historian’ of the crusade. Laurence Marvin affirms the relevance and significance of the three primary sources in his book: “Of all the sources used in this study, three stand out as absolutely essential to it.” These three narratives have indeed proven indispensable to the study of the Albigensian Crusade and thankfully provide enough facts and figures to grasp the intricate details of the war.
The Historia Albigense, also known as The History of the Albigensian Crusade, written by Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay furnishes a great deal of detail concerning the first ten years of the war. Written between 1212 and 1218, the narrative begins with Innocent III’s preaching campaign to Languedoc from 1203 to 1208, a campaign directed against the Cathars and Waldensians, another heretical group with closer ties to Catholicism. It ends with an account of the events that took place during the winter of 1218-1219 following the death of Simon de Montfort.
Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay was a Cistercian monk from the Abbey of les Vaux-de-Cernay in the northern region of Ile-de-France. His uncle Guy was abbot of the abbey and later appointed bishop of the city of Carcassonne in 1212. In his early twenties, Peter traveled with his uncle to the south and accompanied him on several of Montfort’s campaigns. The Historia Albigense is an excellent source of reference despite Peter’s strong partisanship. He often praises Simon de Montfort, referring to him as the Athlete of Christ while castigating the heretics and all those who oppose the crusade. W.A. Sibly and M.D. Sibly, the scholars responsible for translating into English the Historia Albigense wrote of Peter, saying “[he] was a rather naïve young man, quite intelligent, but unsophisticated, a zealous believer in orthodox dogma…and glad to accept what his superiors told him without question…He belonged to the ecclesiastical aristocracy of the north, and his values and prejudices were those of that society. His writing simply reflects this.” Nevertheless, from the perspective of the crusaders, Peter’s account is unparalleled in its scope and breadth of military detail.
The second primary source of equal value to that of Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay is the account of William of Puylaurens. Known simply as The Chronicle of William of Puylaurens, this narrative of the Albigensian Crusade covers the period from the late twelfth century to the middle of the 1270s. A citizen of Toulouse, William was directly involved in the crusade on the southern side. He was most likely a chaplain of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. The treasure that is The Chronicle resides in the fact that, unlike the two other primary sources, its narrative extends well beyond the end of the crusade. Indeed, the oeuvre ends somewhere around the 1270s giving the reader unprecedented insight into the Treaty of Paris which ended the crusade in 1229, the Inquisition of the 1230s and the struggles faced by remaining Cathars in the latter thirteenth century.
Like Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, William of Puylaurens was a staunch Catholic who “supported the efforts of the crusades and later of the French crown to extirpate heresy from the Midi…” Unlike Peter, however, William was more moderate in his account, less critical and more objective. The Chroniclefurnishes a more balanced viewpoint of the war and its outcome. It is, like the other primary sources, a glimpse into the everyday lives of those embroiled in the crusade and its purpose “is to record the struggle to defend the Catholic Church and eliminate heresy in the South…”
The final first-hand account of the Albigensian Crusade can be found in the Chanson de la Croisade Albigeoise or The Song of the Cathar Wars. Written in Old Provençal, the Chanson recounts the events of Languedoc from 1204-1219. Recorded by two different authors, the Chanson was composed as a poem and written in verse rather than prose with the intent of being performed for an audience. Entertainment value notwithstanding, the authors were still concerned with providing an accurate account of the events as they happened. The author of the first section was William of Tudela, a cleric from Navarre who served in the house of Baldwin of Toulouse, brother of Raymond VI, but remained a devout Catholic and supporter of the crusade. His narrative is comparable to that of William of Puylaurens in its impartiality. His account ends in 1213 and is picked up by the second author, an anonymous southerner whose diatribe of the crusaders is similar to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay’s polemic against the heretics. The anonymous author relates the rest of the account from a very polarized, pro-southern perspective. Ironically, this second author had a strong aversion to heresy and his only problem with Raymond VI was his unwillingness to suppress it.
Thus the two authors of the Chanson provide alternate outlooks on the Albigensian Crusade by offering additional insight into, and often corroborating, the accounts of William of Puylaurens and Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay. The anonymous author furnishes tremendous detail concerning the last siege of Toulouse by the crusaders in 1218-1219, suggesting that he may have been a citizen of the city. The word-for-word speeches included in his narrative must be studied with a critical eye, as they were most likely embellished to render the story more entertaining.
This thesis will therefore explore the military undertakings of both the northern crusaders and the southerners between 1209 and 1218, focusing on the campaigns conducted by Simon de Montfort. With particular emphasis on the manifold sieges and the few field battles that took place, the aim will be to employ a compare and contrast template to examine the military endeavors of the first nine years of the Albigensian Crusade. This will hopefully shine new light and fill a lacuna on a set of brutal campaigns waged in the name of the Catholic Church in a war that quickly deteriorated into a struggle for political and military dominance of Languedoc.
II. BACKGROUND TO CRUSADE
The context surrounding the Albigensian Crusade is crucial to its understanding. The time period in which it took place determined the course it would take and its outcome, while its inherent ideologies suffused the very sensibilities of those involved. Indeed, the Albigensian Crusade was a product of the Middle Ages from whence it came. The fusion of politics, war, and religion wove the very fabric of the crusade, a fabric wedded to the notions of God and glory that defined much of the Middle Ages. To grasp the complexities of the Albigensian Crusade, one must delve deeper into the underlying perceptions and institutions that drove the expedition. From the political idiosyncrasies fundamental to feudalism, to the temporal and spiritual powers of the Church, to the exercise of warfare and its implications in the crusading ideal, the Albigensian Crusade was an amalgam of esoteric religious and secular mores and the quintessence of the proclivities of the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages
Following the slow and painful demise of the Roman Empire beginning in the fifth century, what is now considered Western Europe emerged from the wreckage as a fragment of its once glorious past. Barbarian invasions from the north pressing against the tenuous borders of the empire, the rapid devaluation of currency, a string of weak emperors whose lives were too often cut short by their own subordinates, a gradual transfer of power to the Eastern Roman Empire, and the overextension of the its resources over a number of decades all served to bring the Western Roman Empire to its knees. Invasions of the Roman capital by the Visigoths led by Alaric I in AD 410 and again in 476 by the German chieftain Odovacer signaled the end of a civilization that had lasted over one thousand years and controlled modern-day Europe, North Africa, and a substantial portion of the Near East.
The Western Roman Empire lived on for another one thousand years in the form of the Byzantine Empire established by Emperor Constantine I. His capital of Constantinople founded in AD 324 carried on the legacy of Rome’s grandeur and opulence, albeit in a more eastern tradition heavily influenced by the Greeks. The Byzantine Empire maintained its hegemony of the eastern world until its fall in 1453 at the hands of Turkish Sultan Mehmet II.
Beginning in the sixth century, the West entered a new age known today as the Middle Ages. Lasting roughly one thousand years, the Middle Ages experienced a high level of prosperity with bursts of innovation and creativity-due in part to the cultural revivals under Charlemagne and Otto I in the ninth and tenth centuries, respectively-that would engender the Renaissance beginning in the middle of the fourteenth century. Divided into three distinct periods labeled Early (c. 500-1000), High (c. 1000-1300), and Late (c. 1300-1500), the Middle Ages constituted the necessary link between Antiquity and the Renaissance. Advances in science, medicine, astronomy, and law gave rise to the proliferation of universities in the twelfth century thanks to the intellectual outburst spawned by the crusades and the renewal of interest in Aristotle’s ideas.Kept alive for over a thousand years thanks to the indefatigable efforts of monks in scriptoriums in monasteries all over Europe, the works of the ancient Greek and Roman orators, philosophers, historians, playwrights, mathematicians and scientists were carefully preserved and would later provide inspiration to the Humanists during the Renaissance. Gothic cathedrals and universities proudly displayed the wealth, prestige and independence of many towns and cities that arose during the High and Late Middle Ages. Today, these structures remain a testament to the prosperity, and cultural and intellectual innovation that distinguished the Middle Ages.
This period was also plagued by tremendous social, political, and economic turmoil making it one of the most fascinating paradoxes in all of history. From the Muslim and Viking invasions of the eighth to the tenth centuries, to the crusades of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, to the Black Death and the Hundred Years War of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, people who lived in the West during the Middle Ages were subject to the vicissitudes of everyday life including famine, pestilence and a state of perpetual warfare.
Politically, the Middle Ages can be most aptly characterized by a system known as feudalism. The decline of Rome in the West and the uncertainty that accompanied it pushed many Roman nobles and affluent landowners to renounce their allegiance to the emperor, abandon the cities, and establish themselves in the many provinces as individual lords-thus severing any ties they had with the empire. Their wealth allowed them to construct fortified domiciles throughout the countryside to keep out brigands and tax collectors as well as affording them the opportunity to hire mercenaries or even private armies for their own safety. This system gradually developed into the political and social concept known as manorialism in eighth-century Francia. This miniature system of government consisted of a hierarchy composed of the lord and lady of the manor whose subjects, local peasants and mercenaries, were paid and protected in exchange for various services they provided. The symbiotic relationship inherent in manorialism meant that manors were completely self-sufficient and therefore owed allegiance to no king. In effect, their autonomy made them sovereign in their own right.
The petty lords and seigneurs of these manors began forming ties with one another depending on their status. In exchange for increased political influence and protection, they in turn became the subjects of more powerful barons, counts, dukes and monarchs. This complex political hierarchy included everyone from the lowliest of lords to the most powerful kings. Thus manorialism evolved into a system of government known as feudalism in the ninth and tenth centuries whereby vassals offered homage to an overlord and entered into a relationship based upon mutual obligation. The overlord or king would bestow upon his vassal a fief, a plot of land, in exchange for the promise of military service when called upon. In this social organization based on patronage, kings became subordinate to more powerful kings by paying homage to them. By the start of the Albigensian Crusade, the feudal system had been established and in practice for several centuries. Simon de Montfort, for instance, paid homage to King Philip II Augustus of France as well as to King Peter II of Aragon.
The Catholic Church
The feudal system of rule that typified the Middle Ages was closely linked to another product of the fall of the Roman Empire: the Roman Catholic Church. Deriving its hierarchy and canon law directly from the Roman system of government, the Church became a living extension of the Empire after its fall. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church grew in prestige, wealth and influence, its leaders often clashing with secular rulers. In light of the hardships endured by people living in this era, the Church assumed the role of protector and comforter, a bastion of hope and truth. The doctrines and decrees espoused by the Church formed the foundation of peoples’ faith. The moral compass it provided guided their every thought and action throughout the course of their lives. The cathedrals that still dot the European landscape are a testament to the Church’s authority. The pope, as Bishop of Rome, successor to the Apostle Peter and supreme head of the Church, wielded tremendous power over both temporal and spiritual affairs. The Church and the papacy molded practically every aspect of society from education, to government, to war, and beyond.
The clash between secular rulers and popes had been a constant since the early days of the Church. With the rise of the Church’s power, the conflict escalated over the issue of the election and appointment of bishops, a concept known as lay investiture. Traditionally, the monarchies of medieval Europe were to elect bishops, not the Church. In 1075, Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073-1085) challenged the establishment, claiming that the Church was the only institution capable of electing its bishops. The Investiture Controversy, as it came to be known, pitted the Roman Catholic Church against Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (r. 1084-1105). Gregory VII decreed the immediate termination of lay investiture, with all powers of appointment and election handed over to the Church unconditionally. It was stated that “no clergyman shall receive investiture of a bishopric, monastery, or church from the hand of the emperor, or the king, or any lay person, man or woman.” This signaled a definite blow to the powers of medieval kings and emperors who often regarded popes as their subordinates. Papal authority had finally been concretized over secular rulers as a trenchant reminder of the power of the Church in the Middle Ages. The Gregorian Reforms continued to challenge the sovereign powers of medieval rulers for decades to come.
Just shy of the turn of the thirteenth century, a charismatic young cardinal by the name of Lothario Conti was elected pope and took the name Innocent III. The first pope to coin the term and assume the title of Vicar of Christ, Innocent was armed with a shrewd intellect, a keen sense of the political atmosphere of his day, and therefore did not take lightly his role as head of the Church. Guided by principles of the faith, he continued in the reform-minded vein of Gregory VII and engrossed himself completely in the political and religious affairs of the early thirteenth century. A strong proponent of the crusades, Innocent called, organized, and sent forth both the Fourth and Fifth Crusades. The Albigensian Crusade, a sincere attempt on his part to eradicate the heresy in Languedoc, at times became a sideshow to the larger crusades to the Levant. His calling of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 became the largest ecclesial synod of the Middle Ages and many of the issues discussed amongst its participants involved the situation in Languedoc and the fight against heresy.
Tensions between secular rulers and the Holy See were not assuaged during the pontificate of Innocent III. He waged a constant battle of wills against these rulers in order to maintain his authority over them and their respective territories. Specifically, King Philip II Augustus of France (r. 1180-1223), Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV (r. 1198-1218), and King John of England (r. 1199-1216) presented particular challenges to Innocent. Their defiant attitudes and attendant actions became an ancillary burden to the pope in the midst of crusade preparations.
The thirteenth century is often considered the apex of the Church’s power. From this period on and through the eras of the Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution, the validity of many of the Church’s claims was questioned, the result being a severe erosion of its authority. The rise of Humanism, the propagation and acceptance of scientific inquiry, and the religious reforms incited by Martin Luther all took their toll on the Church’s spiritual and earthly hegemony. Yet during the thirteenth century, Innocent III was an energetic and persuasive figure who exercised his mastery of politics and law to influence kings and emperors and become one of the most influential popes of the Middle Ages.
If the Church presided over the spiritual affairs of everyone from kings to serfs in the Middle Ages, then the looming threat of war constantly permeated the temporal atmosphere of these people in much the same way. Kings and emperors incited conflicts by invading territory, breaking oaths of fealty, or by placing too much economic and military pressure on one another. The wars that erupted as a result could take years to resolve, often with no clear winner on either side. Victims of these wars were mostly combatants but the unarmed masses of peasants including men, women and children frequently fell prey to the devastating effects of war.
Wars of religion began as early as the sixth century in Europe when Clovis (r. 482-511), a powerful Frankish chieftain, converted from paganism to Christianity on Christmas Day 496. His decision to accept the Christian faith was due to his desire to expand his territorial holdings in Gaul, and to gain the backing of the nascent Roman Catholic Church and its supporters. His newly acquired position as king of the Franks compelled the disparate Frankish tribes to unite under his banner. Clovis then proceeded to extirpate, in the name of God, those who opposed his will.
The rise and spread of Islam in the seventh century signaled a new era of medieval religious warfare. The threat came not from within Europe but from the distant Middle East and North Africa. The Muslim invasion of Europe began in 711 when Tariq ibn Ziyad, a Muslim general, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar-that today bear his name-from Morocco into Spain with a Muslim army of seven thousand consisting mostly of Berbers, Yemenis, and Syrians. His conquest of al-Andalus (Andalusia) and his subsequent invasion of Frankish lands brought him into sharp conflict with the Frankish military leader Charles Martel, popularly referred to as Charles the Hammer. The Muslim advance was halted at the battle of Tours in 732 but an Islamic state remained for three centuries in al-Andalus and flourished until the Reconquista in the eleventh century.
The scourge of perennial warfare in the Middle Ages continued with invasions beginning in the ninth century. Vikings from the north and west ravaged the countryside of medieval Europe, penetrating deep into territory accessible only by river thanks to small and highly maneuverable ships. Despoiling unfortified monasteries and villages, the Vikings used the element of surprise, swiftly attacking easy targets that offered little resistance. From the east, Magyar horsemen conducted raids into the Italian peninsula and throughout the Holy Roman Empire while Muslims raiders from the south harassed the coasts of France and Italy. This triple-threat of invasions lasted until the turn of the millennium and wreaked havoc on all aspects of medieval society. The duration and intensity of these raids over two centuries acted as a catalyst to military progress.
At the end of this period of incessant warfare, Western Europe was weary economically but not despoiled of its will to fight. The turn of the eleventh century witnessed significant alterations in defensive structures to thwart further invasions. Wooden fortifications had been built to withstand raids and proved their worth when Vikings, lacking any form of siege equipment, were forced to turn back empty-handed. For the next four centuries, these simple yet effective wooden structures slowly increased in architectural complexity, evolving into the many stone castles and fortified towns and cities that still dot the European landscape today.
Years of crusading in the East benefited Europeans with the increased knowledge and experience to effectively wage war. Indomitable fortifications populated Europe and the Levant. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries witnessed such a boom in castle building that by the beginning of the fourteenth century practically all the castles erected during the Middle Ages had already been built. King Philip II Augustus of France possessed over one hundred castles alone. Architecture soared to new heights with the addition of thicker and higher walls, subterranean tunnels, and impenetrable keeps. Contained within these walls were wells, storage facilities for food, equipment and weapons, a blacksmith, a kitchen, a chapel, sleeping accommodations and other such amenities to make the castle a fully functioning miniature city.
In Languedoc, the building of castles and fortified towns proliferated beginning at the end of the tenth century through the eleventh and twelfth centuries. These became known as castra (s. castrum), a Latin term from which the word castle is derived. A castrum defined any castle or walled town built upon a rocky precipice or on a flat plain. Those perched on hilltops and outcrops were defensively secure but, if besieged, their inaccessibility to water eventually forced the surrender of their inhabitants. The Albigensian Crusade revolved around the siege of a great number of these castra of Languedoc. To counteract these formidable structures, medieval engineers built increasingly more powerful and complex siege engines. Catapults, ballistas, mangonels, petraries and trébuchets were some of the more popular and efficient engines used to batter stone walls.
Sieges, raids and armies
Sieges clearly dominated the realm of warfare in the High Middle Ages. This period was defined by a particular form of warfare in which field battles were scarce and time-consuming sieges became the de facto standard of waging war against one’s enemies. Standing armies of mounted knights were costly and therefore rare, making field battles sometimes a less enticing option than a protracted siege. When they did occur, field battles often meant high casualties and a decisive victory for one side over the other.
As a popular and less dangerous alternative to lengthy sieges, raids were frequently conducted against unfortified enemy villages. This process of attrition gradually wore down the enemy’s resources and manpower. Raids were usually conducted from both sides and victims were mostly unarmed persons (inermis). The martial trifecta of raids, sieges and field battles during the High Middle Ages made war a particularly devastating endeavor for both combatants and non-combatants. The Albigensian Crusade, consumed as it was by fighting, became an exemplar of the idea of total war as “the distinction between garrison soldiers and non-combatants was not one that much troubled [the crusaders] as they poured into the towns that fell to them, be they lowly common soldiers or the elite of chivalry.”
The era of knighthood and chivalry was conceived as a countermeasure to the invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries. Medieval society became highly militarized at the onset of the High Middle Ages, necessitating a clear pecking order. At the top were the knightly class of kings and nobles who took vows of chivalry, mounted powerful steeds, and equipped themselves with armor and advanced weapons of the day including swords, lances, maces and battle axes. The feudal system meant that many knights were vassals of higher-ranking knights, and took oaths of fealty to prove their loyalty. Foot soldiers formed the second class in the medieval military strata. Less well equipped than a knight and lacking a horse, foot soldiers carried miscellaneous weapons and formed the infantry contingent in a medieval army: a branch of the armed forces that became a staple of armies in the thirteenth century. Armed with bows, spears and swords, they proved a formidable force against the more mobile and heavily armored knights.
During the Albigensian Crusade, citizen militias of the towns of Languedoc were instrumental in the defense of their cities against the northern crusaders. Though not as experienced or as well-equipped as knights, these militias put up fierce resistance and often met with success. Mercenaries, on the other hand, were opportunists who held no allegiance but nevertheless assumed an important role in the armies of the Albigensian Crusade. Usually bands of roving soldiers who fought for the highest pay, these routiers were so named because they were constantly moving and looking for employment. Their alternate moniker-écorcheurs (skinners)-was a term that issued from their more sinister reputation as soldiers without mercy who committed atrocities against civilians. These men usually assumed a specialized task either as foot soldiers, archers, siege engine operators, or even mounted warriors and were mostly recruited from the Netherlands and northern Spain. It was this specialization that made them an enviable option for a commander who could afford to hire them. Their appeal was in their reputation and in their worth “whose equivalent it was impossible to find locally amongst vassals, subjects or fellow-citizens.”
There existed a set of martial laws and codes applied to combat during the High and Late Middle Ages. These laws of war were enacted in accordance with the concept of Just War propounded by St. Augustine in the fourth century who claimed that “war is waged that peace may be had.” Centuries later, this notion evolved into the medieval idea insisting “that war be waged under proper authority, that of the Church against infidels, that of a prince or judge, or in self-defence [sic].”
This idea also dictated the treatment of captured nobles. When captured, a knight was usually spared the sword and held for ransom as he was worth more alive than dead. This concept, though, did not apply to lesser foot soldiers and mercenaries who were mercilessly slaughtered. “The laws of war were,” according to Sean McGlynn, “in theory, designed to afford protection to non-combatants…in practice, the laws were reserved for the ruling classes.” The Albigensian Crusade experienced its fair share of slaughter and in many circumstances the laws of war concerning nobles and commoners were eschewed. Sieges were also subject to certain unspoken laws of war. The defenders were given the opportunity to surrender before the siege began. They would be allowed to leave unharmed but if they chose to take their chances and endure the siege, if their fortress fell they would be given no quarter and the besiegers given the chance to indulge in rapine. The profusion of sieges during the Albigensian Crusade put these laws to the test.
The era of the crusades fell directly within the timeframe of the High Middles Ages. This period was characterized not only by war but also by progress. The ethnic intermingling between Muslims and Christians led to some renewed discoveries of ancient works by the Christians, works thought to have been lost centuries ago. The translated ideas of ancient Greek philosophers made their way to Europe via crusader routes. In addition, Muslim advances in literature, science, philosophy and mathematics acted as a catalyst for the Renaissance that would begin a couple centuries later. Consequently, a rejuvenation of the intellectual, economic, and cultural spheres of medieval Europe resulted from two centuries of war in the Levant. Naturally, the crusades defined much of the High Middle Ages and their impact on all levels of society was pervasive.
Called as a response to the plight of the Christian brethren in Byzantium in the face of the belligerent Seljuk Turks, the crusades commenced in 1095 with the Council of Clermont in France. Pope Urban II preached a fiery sermon urging the nobles of Europe to take up arms, sell their possessions and leave for the Holy Land: “Let no possessions keep you back, no solicitude for your property…Set out on the road for the holy sepulchre [sic], take the land from that wicked people and make it your own.” In this manner, the pope promoted the militant reclamation of once-Christian lands. Jerusalem, Urban II said, had been defiled by the infidel and must be reclaimed for Christendom. Ergo, the crusades were defensive wars waged by Christians against Muslims. With cries of Deus le volt!! (God wills it!!), hundreds of thousands of eager and sincere peregrini Christi (pilgrims of Christ) marked themselves with the cross and became crucesignati (’those signed by the cross’). Fulcher of Chartres, a contemporary of the First Crusade, referred to a practice adopted by crusaders saying “they bear arms suitable for battle; on the right shoulder, or between both shoulders, they wear the cross of Christ…” Counts, dukes and barons from all over Christendom met in France to journey east. They were accompanied by large retinues of supporters as well as by hordes of peasants including women, children and the elderly. The journey to the Holy Land became a pilgrimage with the promise of an indulgence by the Church.
The crusades also fulfilled a certain need for the military class. Joseph Strayer claims it was “the desire to show one’s skill and courage in armed combat, the desire to gain fame among one’s peers, [and] the desire to serve God and the Church” that urged knights and nobles to risk their lives in the Levant.
Four years after the call, Jerusalem fell to the crusaders and became once again a Christian city. The First Crusade was the only truly successful crusade to have met its goal amongst eight major crusades destined for the Levant. The battle of Hattin in 1187 marked the return of Muslim rule to the area after nearly a century of Christian dominance. Muslims continued to press against the fragile Christian territories until the final Christian stronghold of Acre was lost in 1291. Islamic hegemony was restored and the Christians never succeeded in retaking their lost territories, or Jerusalem.
The crusade appeal was not isolated to Outremer. Crusaders hunted down heretical groups in Germany, Italy, Bosnia and in Bohemia with the Hussites between 1420 and 1431. The Reconquista in Spain aimed to push the Moors beyond the boundaries of Europe and drive them back into North Africa. Wars of religion endured for many centuries thereafter but the era of the crusades remains a potent example of the harsh realities of religious intolerance.
In the thirteenth century, the area once known as Languedoc in modern-day France stretched from the Rhône Valley in the east to the Garonne River in the west. Its northern borders extended from Auvergne to today’s region of Rousillon in the south. The region of Languedoc was originally a Roman province of Gaul with its capital of Narbo. In 70 BC Julius Caesar conquered Narbonensian Gaul, the region south of present-day Toulouse and Lyon. By 27 BC, Languedoc had become a province of the empire with Narbonne as its capital. Germanic tribes conquered the area in the fifth century with the Visigoths establishing a kingdom around the city of Tolosa, present-day Toulouse.
A century later the Franks established themselves in the area under the rule of Clovis but the Muslim invasions of the eighth century destroyed the kingdom of the Visigoths in Spain and spread across the Pyrenees. Frankish leader Charles Martel halted the Muslim advance in 732 and Languedoc once again became the domain of the Franks and would remain so under his successors. Martel’s grandson, the illustrious and puissant Frankish king Charlemagne “instituted the comtal system – with appointed officials, counts and viscounts, possessing land and honours [sic] in return for undertaking governmental and defensive duties.” The unified kingdom Charlemagne had created gradually eroded following his death. The counts and viscounts he had appointed grew more independent and more powerful, creating a territorial aristocracy based upon heredity.
Languedoc thus became a conglomerate of various nobles who guarded their territories vigorously and whose complex allegiances comprised a network of oaths of fealty to other nobles. The heterogeneous nature of Languedoc provided little room for central authority and gave the aristocracy the requisite leverage to wield unadulterated power within their spheres of influence. The most powerful of these southern nobles were the counts of Toulouse, named for the city from which they ruled. Through shrewd political and marriage alliances, the counts of Toulouse expanded their domains considerably in Languedoc in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The house of Toulouse’s principal rival for hegemony over Languedoc was the house of Barcelona under the kings of Aragon. These two houses spent much of the twelfth century fighting over areas of Languedoc and vying for the support of smaller families in the region. These lesser houses sporadically transferred allegiance from one house to another for political, territorial and financial gain, all while trying to maintain their own autonomy. By the early thirteenth century, King Peter II of Aragon had acquired suzerainty over the counties and viscounties of Narbonne, Béziers, Carcassonne and Foix, effectively wresting many of the territories from Count Raymond VI of Toulouse.
Languedoc was not only distant politically from the more militarily and administratively unified structure of northern France, but it was also removed linguistically. Indeed, the word Languedoc is a marriage of two words: langue(language or tongue) and d’oc (of Oc)-oc being the word for yes in the south. This differentiated it from the Langue d’Oï of the French north-oï being a derivative of the modern French word oui. The language of Oc was less distinguishable to the French of the north as it drew many of its influences from Spanish and Italian, as well as Provençal. This linguistic disparity was magnified by the cultural differences between north and south. The Albigensian Crusade was not a civil war but a war fought between two distinct cultures whose language, political affiliations, and military experience were highly divergent.
The Cathar Heresy
The Cathar heresy that sparked the Albigensian Crusade in the early thirteenth century had roots in many centuries past. Its ideological origins can be traced back to Manicheanism, itself a heresy of the third century. Founded by Mani, a Mesopotamian prophet, the heresy espoused many of the doctrinal points of Gnosticism and Persian Zoroastrianism. In particular, the element of dualism inherent within these early religions had a strong influence on Manicheanism, and later, on Catharism. The dualist notion sought to explain the presence of good and evil on earth. Two distinct deities, one benign and one malevolent, conceived the spiritual and material worlds, respectively. The good god who ruled over the human soul and the spiritual realm, came to be associated with the god of the New Testament. The material world had been created by the malign god, as associated with Yaweh of the Old Testament. Because the physical world in which humans lived was a product of the evil god, everything material was, by virtue, evil. Therefore, the body was considered a physical shell from which the dualists sought to depart. In the same manner, procreation, or the propagation of the species by bringing more souls into the material world, was vilified. Marriage and sex, the linking of two physical bodies in perpetual sin, was also deemed immoral by dualists. Abstention from these things, as well as from the consumption of foods produced as a result of procreation-eggs, meat, cheese-was a tenet of the dualist faith.
Over the centuries Manichean beliefs were transmitted to Western Europe from the East. A dualist sect originating in Bulgaria, the Bogomils are credited with bringing their doctrine to the West. The Cathari, from the word pure in Greek, embraced the Manichean ideology that took firm root in Languedoc. In many ways, the Cathars professed their religion to be superior to that of the Catholic Church. They claimed to be ‘good Christians’ and even accepted many Catholic beliefs. They rejected all of the Old Testament but clung to many ideas from the New Testament. In accordance with their dualist tradition, the Cathars vehemently denied the humanity, death and resurrection of Christ, placing them at odds with the Catholic Church. They believed Christ had been merely a spiritual force on the earth and thus had not assumed physical form.Furthermore, their rejection of the sacraments and of the many proprietary dogmas of the Catholic tradition caused further discord between the two faiths. The Cathars claimed the bread and wine consumed during Communion were not the physical body and blood of Christ, but rather a representation-in effect denying its sacrosanctity. Furthermore, the Cathars utterly repudiated the Catholic Church as the moral determinant of medieval society and denied the pope’s authority as father of the Church. Cathars were also prohibited from taking oaths, an argument the Inquisition would later use against them to dispute their legitimacy.
As a reflection of its dualist doctrine, the hierarchy of the Cathar Church separated its adherents into two distinct groups. The first group, called the Perfecti or Perfects, formed the Cathar elite. Though few in number, their influence and authority over the many lesser Cathars was unquestionable.To become a Perfect, initiation necessitated participation in a rite called the Consolamentum. This ceremony consisted of the individual embracing Cathar doctrine and vowing to abide by its precepts, such as abstention from marriage and sex and dedication to regular fasting. The stringent ascetic lifestyle embraced by the Perfects presented a challenge to the clergy of the Catholic Church whose opulence and unabashed ostentation clashed with their belief system. The Church’s response to the asceticism of the Perfects came in the form of a Spanish bishop named Diego de Osma and his assistant Domingo de Gùzman, who, later renamed St. Dominic, would found the Dominican Order. Beginning in 1206, these men traveled throughout Languedoc exemplifying a life of apostolic poverty. They renounced all worldly wealth and sought to imitate, and even supersede, the austere lifestyle of the Perfects in order to gain Catholic converts among the Cathars and to persuade the Perfects of their errors.
The credentes, or believers, occupied the second tier of the Cathar Church. These individuals formed the vast majority of Cathars and were not required to follow the strict code of discipline practiced by the Perfects. They were encouraged, however, to partake in the consolamentum towards the end of their life or on their deathbed, formally admitting them to the ranks of the Perfects. They nonetheless followed Cathar doctrine and were expected to bear witness to the faith. Decades later, when questioned by inquisitors about his involvement in the Cathar Church, John Textor, a Cathar believer, stated: “I am not a heretic, for I have a wife and I sleep with her. I have sons, I eat meat, and I lie and swear, and I am a faithful Christian.”
The staunch faith observed by the Perfects presented an allure to those disillusioned by what many deemed the blatant hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. The unswerving orthodoxy of both faiths was a clear indicator of their respective beliefs in their own theological infallibility. This only served to strengthen the resolve of the Catholic Church in eradicating Catharism, and in turn intensified the Cathars’ resistance to Catholicism. In 1165, a formal debate was organized between Catholic bishops and Cathar representatives in an effort to settle theological contentions. The result proved fruitless as the heretics were condemned by the bishops but left unharmed. Two years later at Saint-Félix-Lauragais a meeting was convened by Cathar figures from throughout the region and as a result the official establishment of Cathar doctrine was formalized as well as that of the Cathar Church in Languedoc.
Several measures were taken by the Catholic Church to suppress or destroy the heresy during the twelfth century but the results were usually in vain. St. Bernard de Clairvaux undertook a preaching crusade to Languedoc in 1145 accompanied by Cistercian monks. He returned home having made little headway, but while the Third Lateran Council of 1179 threatened to use force against the heretics, nothing was done to enforce the decree. It was during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III that heresy would face its most formidable foe: “…he [Innocent] was determined to root out heresy throughout the church so that he could unite Christendom behind a crusade to reverse the losses suffered by the crusader states.” Innocent sent legates on preaching tours to Languedoc in the early years of his pontificate and in 1200 passed the decree Vergentis in senium. This decree dealt a considerable blow to the heretics as it explicitly called for the confiscation of their property.
The proliferation of Catharism in Languedoc presented not only a doctrinal challenge, but also a political obstacle to the Catholic Church. This suggested a two-fold threat. The appeal of Catharist ideology infiltrated all levels of society in Languedoc. Nobles embraced it thanks to its anti-Catholic principles that gave them free reign to live comfortable lives while appropriating Church property, thereby expanding their own dominions. The spiritual magnetism displayed by the Perfects also enticed the lower classes to join the Cathar ranks. Although uneducated, the lower classes had been let down by the spiritual disingenuousness of the Catholic Church and were eager to mitigate its influence in their region. As the heresy became more ingrained in southern culture, so did a general laxity towards it on the part of the Catholic clergy living in Languedoc. Ecclesial reforms had been initiated under Pope Gregory VII in the second half of the eleventh century. At the commencement of his pontificate, Innocent recognized this perennial problem and sought to address it. He assigned more competent and resolute bishops to the many bishoprics of Languedoc, ones who shared his vision of reform and would rise to the occasion to suffocate the insidious heresy.
The pro-Cathar agenda championed by the southern nobles incited Innocent to apply political pressure backed by the threat of military intervention. Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, the most powerful noble of Languedoc, became the pope’s primary target. Raymond’s first wife had been a Perfect but although he claimed to be Catholic, his actions spoke otherwise. His adamant refusal to suppress Catharism in his territory led Innocent to make an appeal to Philip Augustus, king of France. Lacking a standing army of his own, the pope’s only option was to use the authority he wielded as Vicar of Christ to entice secular leaders to execute his military enterprise. Despite the promise of a crusading indulgence, Philip Augustus was too engrossed in his fight against King John of England to concern himself with affairs in Languedoc. It would take a cold-blooded murder for Innocent to resort to armed conflict sans the backing of a secular king. The stage was set for the Albigensian Crusade.
III. THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE FROM A MILITARY PERSPECTIVE
Phase I: The Rise of Simon de Montfort
Count Raymond VI of Toulouse succeeded his father Raymond V in 1194. His grandfather, Raymond IV was one of the first nobles to enlist as a crusader during the First Crusade in 1095. As the most powerful noble of Languedoc, Raymond VI’s inheritance included the suzerainty of its lands as well as the homage paid to him by the many lesser nobles of the region. Although he retained an unusual sense of autonomy and privilege as Count of Toulouse, Raymond VI was himself the vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV, King Peter II of Aragon, and King Philip II Augustus of France. He received from them substantial territories in Languedoc in return for his homage. However, his vassalage and the ties of allegiance he maintained were, in theory, merely titular.
In accordance with Raymond’s recognition of his own sovereignty was his resistance to comply with the exhortations of Pope Innocent III. In 1207, the pope strongly admonished the count’s actions with reference to three issues: the presence of tolls throughout his territories, his employment of mercenaries in his private army, and his lack of zeal in rooting out heresy in Languedoc. Curiously, the issue concerning the harboring of heretics was of equal magnitude to those dealing with the presence of mercenaries and tolls. Innocent lent equal importance to all three, although the Albigensian Crusade would be summoned only as a response to the problem of heresy.
Raymond’s indifference to the papal rebuke and the concomitant lack of action on his part can perhaps be attributed to two things: first, Raymond knew that the pope, a fervent advocate of the crusades, was more concerned with issues in the Levant than with the petty lords of Languedoc. The disastrous Fourth Crusade had tarnished the reputation of Christendom, and by virtue of association, that of Innocent III. The pope needed to redeem himself by quickly gathering support for the Fifth Crusade. Second, owing to the fact that the pope was at the mercy of secular rulers for military support, Raymond could rest easy knowing the only annoyance he had to contend with was the voice of the papal legate, whose words were far less damaging than the swords of knights. Innocent’s only weapon against Raymond’s antipathy was the threat of excommunication and the placement of his lands under interdict.
In medieval Christendom, the imposition of punitive sanctions on secular rulers was an effective method of bringing back said rulers in line with the Church. Excommunication was a common penalty often used by popes and legates against secular authorities. It entailed a formal removal of the subject from the body of Christendom, formally prohibiting them from partaking in the sacraments of the Church. This penalty was frequently inflicted upon leaders and even entire armies during the crusades. A direct violation of the pope’s orders would unequivocally incur the wrath of the Church and subject one to the possibility of excommunication, barring them access to heaven for eternity.
According to medieval canon law, placing one’s lands under interdict meant to deny the sacraments to all residents of a particular territory. This ecclesial technique was used to enforce the obedience of a ruler by placing the eternal fate of his subjects directly in his hands. More often than not, an interdict would succeed in bringing a ruler back to the spiritual fold. For Raymond VI, the burden of excommunication and interdict did little to dissuade him from keeping the tolls, employing mercenaries, and harboring heretics in his lands. This would prove a calamitous mistake.
Innocent appealed once more to Raymond’s overlord, King Philip Augustus. Embroiled as he was with his war against King John of England over territories in Aquitaine and Normandy, Philip had no desire to send part of his army to partake in a war against his own vassal in Languedoc. The vicar’s hope for military support to combat the count fell on deaf ears. On 13 January 1208, the fiery papal legate Peter of Castelnau stood in the courts of Raymond VI and vehemently reprimanded him for his indifference to the pope’s dictates. The meeting ended with the count threatening the life of the legate. The next morning at dawn, while traveling along the Rhône, a horseman approached the legate from behind and drove a lance into his back, killing him. The assassin was later identified as a servant of Raymond although the count was never convicted. The cold-blooded murder of his legate with all fingers pointing at Raymond VI provided Innocent with the catalyst he needed to use military force against the insubordinate count. Judgment would come in the form of the Albigensian Crusade.
Throughout Christendom, leaders heeded Innocent’s call to arms. The majority of these crusaders issued from the nobility of northern France while others came from the Holy Roman Empire. By declaring Raymond VI’s lands and those of the heretics he harbored forfeit, Innocent stimulated a surge of crusaders who wished to establish their own territories throughout Languedoc. Similar to the crusades directed to the Levant, those who participated in the Albigensian Crusade received an indulgence, promising full remission of sins-a popular medieval notion that continued to provide the impetus for all crusades despite the relative failure of many. The military service required to receive the indulgence, however, only lasted forty days and would ultimately cause the unnecessary protraction of the crusade over many years. The Albigensian Crusade offered a special appeal to crusaders in three ways: first, the indulgence granted by the pope meant crusaders did not have to risk the dangerous journey to the Levant to receive absolution; second, the forty days of required military service signified that crusaders could campaign during the spring or summer and return home having performed their duties and gained their indulgence; third, Languedoc was a much more attractive prospect geographically and climatically than the deserts and blazing sun of Outremer and its relative proximity didn’t necessitate a journey lasting several months.
These three factors added considerable numbers to the first crusading army of the Albigensian Crusade although the primary sources do not provide accurate details. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay is not specific about the number of crusaders, merely stating that thousands joined the northern army. William of Tudela cites twenty thousand fully armed knights and over two hundred thousand others, undoubtedly a gross exaggeration. William of Puylaurens makes no mention of the crusading forces that responded to the initial call while modern estimates suggest a force of around twenty thousand. William the Breton doesn’t give specific statistics but claims an infinite number of people from the kingdom of France. Given the lack of conclusive numbers, it is almost impossible to accurately gauge the size of the first crusader army. It was the forty-day rule that made estimates difficult. Indeed, the ebb and flow of recruits to and from the south rendered the army a fluid rather than a static entity. The bulk of the army met in the city of Lyon in present-day eastern France on 24 June 1209. From there they marched south along the Rhône recruiting soldiers and welcoming the submission of small villages as they went. One of the crucial elements of the Albigensian Crusade was the constantly disproportionate size of the armies. The magnitude of the crusader force of 1209 would never again be matched and the forces of the south, much like their leaders, were prone to shifting their loyalty when it suited them.
When Count Raymond VI of Toulouse learned of the crusade that had been summoned against him, he quickly submitted to all the demands of the Church before the papal legate Arnald-Amaury, Abbot of Cîteaux. Adamantly professing his true Catholic faith, Raymond even agreed to become a crusader and to join the expedition. This turned into a curious twist of events as now, the Count of Toulouse, the original target of the crusade, had himself become a crusader who desired nothing less than to aid the Church in its mission. After reaching the crusader army in late June 1209, Raymond received absolution after having endured a humiliating ceremony involving scourging before a throng of prelates in the church of Saint-Gilles. Although this may have been an insincere gesture according to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, it was most likely done to preserve his territory. His reconciliation to the Church notwithstanding, Raymond was unable to halt the advance of a crusade determined to appropriate his lands. His only hope was to divert the army to the territory of rival nobles. He was able to convince its leaders to march upon the dominions of Béziers, Carcassonne and Albi, lands that belonged to his nephew the Viscount Raymond-Roger Trencavel.
Relatives though they were, Raymond VI and Raymond-Roger had been at odds for decades and this proved a propitious occasion for Raymond to deal his nephew a debilitating blow courtesy of the Church. The crusader army made its way east from the Rhône to the city of Béziers on 21 July 1209. Located along the Orb river atop a high hill and recognized as a stronghold of heresy, Béziers was a castrum of between ten and fourteen thousand inhabitants. The city’s geographic location, sturdy fortifications, and abundant provisions gave its citizens a sense of invincibility and the assurance of being able to withstand any siege despite the large army that spread before them. According to William of Tudela, their leader Raymond-Roger had fled the city that day to fortify the city of Carcassonne. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, an ardent supporter of the crusade says that it was fear that prompted him to abandon his city. It is difficult to know exactly why Raymond-Roger fled but it is more likely that he had confidence in the citizens of Béziers and worried of the fall of the more strategically placed Carcassonne.
The strong defenses and elevation of the city high above the river nurtured in its citizens a false sense of security. From the ramparts they jeered and fired arrows incessantly at the crusader camp to antagonize them. The first atrocity of the Albigensian Crusade occurred during a sortie from the city when one of the crusaders was hacked to pieces and his body thrown into the river.Enraged at the constant barrage of insults, a group of poor crusaders (ribauds), most likely pilgrims given their lack of weapons according to William of Tudela, made an extempore assault crossing the bridge and, much to the surprise of the citizens, began battering the gates, filling the ditches and tearing down the walls stone by stone. The speed and élan with which they accomplished this caught the citizen militia off guard forcing them to flee to the churches. The crusader knights, realizing what had just happened, quickly followed suit and entered the city behind the initial force.
The capture of the city was swift as was its subsequent despoliation and the senseless murder of its citizens. When asked by crusaders how to distinguish between good Catholics and heretics, the papal legate Arnald-Amaury is said to have spoken the infamous words: “Caedite eos. Novit enim dominus qui sunt eius” (’Kill them all. The Lord knows who are his own.’). According to the sources, there were mass killings in the city but the number is again subject to interpretation. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay claims that seven thousand died in one church alone while the letters of the papal legates amplified the number of dead to twenty thousand, an impossible number given the city’s population. Nonetheless, thousands died in a conflagration set by angry crusaders whose spoils had been confiscated by their superiors. Sadly, the knights who had entered the city after the crusaders did nothing to halt the massacre. It was only when the poor crusaders began looting that the knights, fearful they would lose their share of the plunder, quickly intervened to stop them. This reflected a policy of indifference towards the plight of the citizens and a rather unchivalrous gesture on the part of the knightly class. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay mentions, perhaps in a propagandist vein correlating with his partisanship, some of the atrocities committed by the citizens against their own priests and bishops whom they beat, disrobed and urinated upon “to show contempt for the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”
The swiftness of the fall of Béziers was highly atypical and would never be repeated for the remainder of the crusade. The gates to the city were battered open, not by a charge of mounted knights, but by a contingent of crusaders “in their shirts and trousers.” This suggests a lack of preparation and overconfidence on the part of the citizen militia. Furthermore, the brutality of the sack of Béziers was unusual for two reasons: first, the capture of the city did not involve a blockade or lengthy siege and thus the crusaders would not have had months of bottled up aggression needing to be unleashed upon the citizens as in later sieges; second, the medieval notion of sanctuary in which churches were deemed places of refuge was clearly violated when churches full of citizens were burned.
The capture of Béziers was an anomaly of the Albigensian Crusade. It was the first city to fall to the crusaders and thus “greatly fostered the military reputation of northerners and helped sustain much smaller crusading armies through many troubles…” It also revealed to the southerners the fighting superiority of the northern forces and the brutality with which they would effect their military operations. The draconian cruelty inflicted at the sack of Béziers remained a testament to the intolerant position of the Catholic Church towards the Cathar heresy throughout the crusade. There really is no comparable event to the sack of Béziers in all of the Albigensian Crusade. It stood out as a horrific incident of unbridled bloodlust that surprised both the southerners and the northerners and would never be repeated on as grand a scale.
With the fresh victory of Béziers behind them, the crusaders marched forty-seven kilometers southwest to Carcassonne, the seat of the Trencavel viscounts. Located along the Aude river, the northern army reached the castrum by 1 August 1209. With a population of over nine thousand, Carcassonne wasn’t as large or as defensible as Béziers but was considered in those days the heart of the Cathar resistance, and thus vital to the crusading movement. The city’s main fortifications consisted of a single set of walls and ditches. It was surrounded by a total of three suburbs: St. Vincent, the bourg St. Michel and the Castellar , the latter two being lightly fortified. Viscount Raymond-Roger Trencavel intended to withstand the crusader siege supported by a substantial contingent of four hundred southern knights. According to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, the crusader army, thanks to their numbers, were able to effectively surround the entire city as well as its suburbs. It is at the siege of Carcassonne that, for the first time, Count Simon IV de Montfort is mentioned in the Historia Albigensis. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay continues to lavish praise upon the count whom he often refers to throughout his narrative as the Athlete of Christ.
The crusader force attacked the St. Vincent suburb located west of the main city early on 3 August. The lack of fortifications surrounding this suburb did not necessitate the use of siege engines and thus was quickly taken by Montfort and his men. The suburb was burned and William of Tudela states that the crusaders cut off the city’s water supply from the river. A successful siege in the Middle Ages was contingent upon cutting off the water supply to a castrum and/or by starving out the defenders. During the rainy season, this was less of an issue as cisterns were constantly being filled, replenishing the militia’s water supply and thereby protracting the siege. Blocking access to the water supply in this case became essential, as the rainy season would not have begun for several months.
Having established a secure foothold between the main city and the Aude, the crusaders decided to attack the bourg. The presence of ditches and walls around the suburb halted their advance, as did a barrage of stones being thrown from the walls. This necessitated the building of siege engines according to the standard practice of siege warfare. The presence of siege engines in the Albigensian Crusade is first mentioned during the siege of Carcassonne by Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay who relates that the crusaders “quickly built siege-engines of the type known as petraries to knock down the wall of the suburb.” William of Tudela adds the use of “mangonels and catapults [that] battered the length and breadth of the ramparts day and night.”
The terms mangonel, catapult and petrary refer to medieval siege engines whose origins date back to the Roman period. Although differing in size and shape, these engines-or machines as they were sometimes called-were built to throw stones against and over the walls of a city. They were operated by means of torsion by twisting rope to the point where it acted as a spring to propel an object in a sling or cup placed at the end of an arm. Their placement in battle was crucial to their efficiency. Care was taken to place them at the proper height and angle to maximize their destructive properties. Dead bodies riddled with disease or severed limbs and heads of enemies hurled over a city’s walls proved an effective means of conducting early biological and psychological warfare. Beehives were sometimes lobbed over the walls to cause confusion and disorder.
The siege of the bourg took several days despite the presence of perfunctory walls and ditches surrounding it. To aid in the process, the crusaders built another typical siege engine called a cat (chatte). Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay refers to it as a four-wheeled wagon covered in oxhides and William of Tudela properly refers to them as “cats built both large and small.” Also dating back to Roman times, a cat was a mobile wooden tower sometimes constructed with several levels and protected by animal skins to shield it from flaming missiles and stones. These structures were wheeled up to a wall allowing sappers, miners and engineers to undermine them. In the event that a stone-throwing siege engine could not breach the walls, the cat was used as a second recourse. Like stone-throwing engines, cats were built in different sizes according to the task at hand and labeled appropriately sows (truies), pent-houses (vinae), weasels (belettes) and sentry-boxes (guerites).
On 8 August, the crusaders breached the walls of the bourg and the suburb was taken. Oddly, the crusader garrison guarding the bourg was insufficient and a sortie from Carcassonne successfully set fire to the suburb before retreating into the city, leaving the crusaders empty-handed.
While the siege of the bourg was underway, King Peter II of Aragon had arrived in Carcassonne with a contingent of men. As overlord of Carcassonne with a vested interest in the city as well as in his vassal Raymond-Roger Trencavel, his wish was to act as mediator between northern and southern forces. William of Tudela’s account is the only primary source that speaks of the diplomatic intervention of Peter II. The Aragonian monarch, accompanied by a small escort and upon witnessing the massive army of northern crusaders before him, did not wish to come to the aid of his vassal. Instead, he dined with Raymond VI in the crusader camp and then made his way into the city to speak to the young viscount. The absurd demands put forth by the typically unyielding papal legate Arnald-Amaury were unacceptable to Raymond-Roger who retorted by saying “he would defend himself inside Carcassonne to the utmost of his power.”Aware of the futility of the situation, Peter left his vassal and the citizens of Carcassonne to their own devices and returned to Aragon.
The already dire situation in Carcassonne had become even more dreadful as days passed. The influx of refugees from Béziers and the surrounding villages had placed a considerable strain on the city whose water supply and victuals were rapidly dwindling. Intense summer heat coupled with the poor living conditions of livestock and humans packed closely together rendered conditions intolerable. Dysentery and heat had already caused the death of many in the city while crusaders were enjoying access to water and the abundance of the surrounding villages. Both Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay and William of Tudela mention the plentiful availability and reasonable price of bread “sold at thirty loaves for a penny.”
Around 15 August, the crusaders offered Raymond-Roger a chance to discuss terms. He accepted and made his way into the crusader camp escorted by a hundred knights. Unexpectedly, the viscount placed himself at the complete mercy of the crusaders. The sources do not disclose the reasons “he deliberately and of his own free will made himself a hostage.” They do reveal, however, the deplorable conditions by which the citizens of Carcassonne were to leave the city. They were to do so “in their shifts and breeches, and allow the crusaders to take possession of it, whilst the viscount himself should remain as a hostage until the conditions agreed were fulfilled.” Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay alludes to the religious nature of the crusade saying “all the inhabitants came naked out of the city, bearing nothing but their sins.”Raymond-Roger Trencavel was imprisoned in Carcassonne and died later that year of dysentery.
The taking of Carcassonne by the crusaders offers a compelling contrast to that of Béziers just a few weeks prior. Carcassonne was taken by traditional siege methods, not by surprise. The conventions of medieval warfare dictated a certain modus operandi by which the attackers would attempt the capture of the city and by which the besieged would strive to defend it. At Carcassonne the crusader army was large enough to surround the entire city making ingress and egress impossible for its citizens. The water supply to the city, the determining factor in many sieges, was quickly cut off by the crusaders. The northerners made good use of siege engines against the weak fortifications of the suburbs with the added expertise of miners and sappers. The summer heat and the sudden overpopulation of the city expedited the French victory. As martial custom dictated, terms were offered to the defeated.
In contrast, the burning of Béziers was beneficial as it instilled fear in the hearts of any southern towns that contemplated forming a resistance. But it was also damaging to the crusaders because of the loss of a wealthy city from which to establish a base of operations. Carcassonne would not meet the same fate because “if the city were altogether destroyed, there would not be found a nobleman of the army who would undertake the government of the country.” Thus Carcassonne escaped the flames and became the crusaders’ headquarters for the remainder of the Albigensian Crusade while the evidence points to the preservation of the city being done for strategic and pecuniary reasons.
What sets the siege of Carcassonne apart from subsequent ones in the Albigensian Crusade is the treatment of its citizens. In the majority of sieges, if the besieged surrendered, their lives would be spared but they would be forced out of the city. The public humiliation endured by the citizens of Carcassonne was rather atypical. There is no clear answer as to why they were told to leave barely clothed. Was this was retribution for their truculence? Did it have a deeper connotation as Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay suggested? Were they stripped of their garments to expose their sins as heretics? Conjecture remains plausible as the sources do not mention the reasons.
Simon IV de Montfort
The pillage of Béziers still fresh in their mind and wishing to avoid a repeat of the calamitous event, the crusade leaders gathered with the legate Arnald-Amaury to discuss the necessity of electing a leader for the crusade to whom all the wealth of the city would be given. The flame of heresy had not been stifled despite the victories at Béziers and Carcassonne. A secular noble dedicated to the Church and to its mission would need to be chosen to spearhead the expedition for the months and years to come. Uprooting the deeply embedded heresy required a crusade leader willing to remain in Languedoc until the issue would be resolved to the Church’s satisfaction. Sufficient compensation was therefore needed to entice a secular leader to accept this precarious task. The legates “could not have predicted…that by giving the noble extensive properties and the incentive to acquire more from those deemed guilty of heresy or of protecting heretics, [they] in fact set the stage for an endemic war with political rather than religious objectives.” Several lords declined the offer but one name in particular stood out, the French noble Simon IV de Montfort, the titular Count of Leicester.
Montfort was urged to join the crusade in Languedoc at the behest of the abbot Guy of les Vaux-de-Cernay. He declined the papal legate’s offer on several occasions but finally succumbed to the pressure by his peers who promised him lifelong support as well as the full backing of the pope and of the Church.Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, William of Tudela and William of Puylaurens all affirm the strong physical and leadership qualities of Monfort. The sycophantic Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay describes him as tall and handsome with an excellent physique and commends his eloquence of speech, his congeniality and chastity, wisdom and humility. Moreover, the sources agree that Montfort was dedicated to God, was of noble birth and already possessed an illustrious military career.
Montfort’s devotion to the Church was made manifest by his behavior during the Fourth Crusade at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Pope Innocent III’s Fourth Crusade was sent forth from Europe to retake the Holy Land by way of Egypt. After eighty-eight years of Christian rule, the Sultan Saladin had conquered the crusaders and reclaimed Jerusalem for Islam. Innocent, whose heart was set on the retaking of Jerusalem, believed the whole of Christendom should be mobilized for the effort. He organized the expedition but maintained little control over it once the Christian armies set sail. Broken promises, a lack of funds, and a personal vendetta harbored by the Doge of Venice helped to divert the crusade as soon as it had begun. Years earlier, the Venetians had lost the port city of Zara on the Dalmatian coast. Although it remained a Christian city under the rule of Emeric of Hungary, a crusader king and papal vassal, the doge convinced the crusader army to attack it. A group of crusaders led by Simon de Montfort disapproved forcefully of this diversion but were overruled by a majority vote. Montfort believed the diversion to be a flagrant perversion of the crusade and attacking Christians was not the goal of the expedition. He returned home with his entourage before the city fell in November 1202.
Montfort’s piety was matched by his political ambitions. The honor bestowed upon him as leader of the crusade would fulfill three of his desires: first, as a low-ranking noble with little land, the territories he acquired throughout Languedoc would be added to his own to enlarge the patrimony for his family; second, his spiritual duties would be met under the aegis of the Church; third, his desire for worldly wealth would be fulfilled as a result of his southern conquests. As a crusader noble living in the thirteenth century, these aspirations drove Montfort in Languedoc as they did many others in the Levant. Monfort was forty-four years of age when he became leader of the northern forces in the Albigensian Crusade in 1209 and he occupied this position until his death nine years later. The challenges that stretched before him were riddled with frustration due to lack of promised support and perpetually meager funds. Although he met with much success throughout his career in Languedoc, he was plagued by constant rebellions by southern towns he had previously subdued, a lack of decisive direction and guidance from the pope, and the constant and exasperating departure of northern forces once their forty-days of required service had ended.
As crusade leader and newly appointed Viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne in place of Raymond-Roger Trencavel, Montfort’s objective was to subdue as many castra as he could and to place crusader garrisons in each one before moving on to the next. Their forty-days having come to an end and their indulgence having been fulfilled according to ecclesial decree, a substantial portion of the army left Montfort and headed home after the capitulation of Carcassonne. This placed the new leader in a serious predicament. The few that remained with him were not enough to garrison the cities they had already captured while laying siege to new ones. In ideal campaigning conditions, cities would surrender quickly to a large army. In this case, with the cold season approaching and a dearth of crusading personnel, these southern towns quickly rebelled against their new lord. The manifold personal letters Montfort sent to Innocent III assured the vicar of his commitment to remain in the south until heresy was eradicated. They also included requests for money to be sent to convince the few crusader knights to remain with him. There are no concrete figures for the army that stayed with Montfort but William of Tudela mentions a number of nobles who would become some of Montfort’s most trusted men and stay loyal to him until the end. These nobles must have been accompanied by their own contingents so it can be surmised that the chief crusader had an army of several hundred men including the mercenaries he personally paid. At any rate the size of the remaining army would have been a fraction of the original one that fought at Béziers and Carcassonne.
The remainder of 1209 was spent marching through the territories of Languedoc subduing fortified towns through intimidation. The crusaders’ reputation of military superiority and barbarity gained at Béziers and Carcassonne worked in Montfort’s favor as news quickly spread to the southern towns. Some of these surrendered prior to the arrival of the crusaders whereas others put up some semblance of resistance but quickly submitted to the crusade leader. The southerners swore allegiance to Montfort and crusader garrisons were placed in these towns to ensure loyalty and to prevent rebellion. The citizens of Albi, Castres, Fanjeaux, Mirepoix, Puy-la-Roque, Saverdun, and numerous others renounced their ties to Catharism and yielded to French occupation. Unfortunately for Montfort, what little army he had left was divided and further subdivided to garrison the newly capitulated towns. These small garrisons were overwhelmed once Montfort left so that by the end of the year, he had lost more than forty of these towns to defection.
The rate at which Montfort subdued these castles and fortified towns in Languedoc stands as a testament to his military competence. Notwithstanding their eventual betrayal, within a few months Montfort had assumed control over a considerable share of southern towns with the aid of a small army whose numbers receded in proportion to the number of towns captured. This was also evidence of the fractious nature of southern society. The readiness of many of these towns to surrender to Montfort is proof of their inability to unite against a common foe. The southern nobles could have forged alliances with one another and combined their much larger forces to wipe out the meager French army within weeks. It is difficult to comprehend why this did not happen given the circumstances.
The loyalty sworn to Montfort by the southern nobles was tenuous at best. Until his death, Montfort was forced to contend with the treachery and deceit of these lords whose allegiance appeared to be only to themselves. His occupation of Puisserguier, a small castrum located about fourteen kilometers west of Béziers he had captured in the fall, was short-lived. A southern noble by the name of Giraud de Pépieux overwhelmed the French garrison and committed a series of atrocities against them as retribution. Atrocities of this nature would become a hallmark of the Albigensian Crusade. Pépieux had part of the garrison placed in the ditch before the city and had stones and combustibles thrown on them from above. He then fled to the nearby fortified town of Minerve with the two crusader knights in charge of the garrison. He proceeded to have these men mutilated by gouging out their eyes and having their lips, noses and ears cut off. They were then sent out denuded into the cold to find Montfort. One of them made it Carcassonne but the other died.
Grisly atrocities were committed on both sides throughout the war. Montfort sought requital for these crimes in 1210 at Bram but the renunciation of loyalty by the southern counts never ceased to be a constant source of frustration for a man who abided by a strict code of honor. He commended those who upheld this allegiance and chastised without mercy those who did not. Retaliation came swiftly in the spring of 1210 when Montfort perpetrated atrocities of his own at the small castrum of Bram just west of Carcassonne in the Lauragais plain. The town had become a refuge and domicile for Cathar Perfects. The relatively flat landscape surrounding Bram offered no natural defense and its feeble fortifications were a boon to Montfort. After blockading the town and following a siege lasting just three days sans the use of siege engines, he was able to successfully assault the walls. Montfort’s reprisal against Giraud de Pépieux was even more brutal when he captured one hundred prisoners and had them blinded and had their noses cut off. He left one prisoner with a single eye to lead the others to the nearby castrum of Cabaret to serve as a warning.
The infamy of this event can be related to one similar perpetrated by Richard the Lionheart at Château Gaillard in Normandy some years earlier when he blinded fifteen prisoners and sent them to Philip Augustus led by a one-eyed man. Similar barbarism was committed in the early eleventh century by Byzantine Emperor Basil II against his nemesis Tsar Samuel of Bulgaria. Basil acquired the nickname The Bulgar Slayer after celebrating a victory against Samuel by blinding fourteen thousand captives and sending them back to their tsar by dispatching them in groups of one hundred men, each group guided by a one-eyed man. These medieval atrocities and the shock they induce in the modern mind often overshadow the less brutal aspects of warfare of this period because of their notoriety and the emphasis placed upon them. This is not to say that the savagery perpetrated in this era should not be subject to investigation, but that it forms only one element in the study of the complexities of medieval war.
Collocating events at Bram with those of Béziers and Carcassonne presents somewhat of a problem. The primary source descriptions for the siege of Bram are perfunctory when compared with the painstaking detail ascribed to Béziers and Carcassonne. The salient feature of the siege of Bram was the singular display of Montfort’s vindictive nature. The atrocities committed at Béziers were nothing short of spectacular, but they were perpetrated by an army of frenzied crusaders. Montfort, on the other hand, seemed cold and calculated in dealing out swift justice to the prisoners of Bram. These men were forced to pay for the treachery of Giraud de Pépieux in a manner that would be replicated in future sieges. Montfort’s punishment was methodical whereas the punishment of the citizens of Béziers was haphazard and unpredictable, a harrowing consequence of a mercurial crusader army whose religious fervor could not be tempered.
The arrival of Alice de Montort, Simon’s wife, in the spring of 1210 was welcome as she brought with her a large contingent of crusader knights ready and eager to embark on the requisite forty-day campaign. Part of the spring was spent raiding the countryside of Languedoc around the castrum of Minerve effectively isolating it. Minerve was a strategic town both politically and religiously. For political purposes, the successful capture of Minerve would further strengthen Montfort’s reputation as an adept military commander due to its purported impregnability and establish his authority in the area west of Béziers and north of Carcassonne. Religiously, Minerve was one of the principal safe houses for Cathar Perfects and thus its occupation was deemed crucial.
The formidable geography surrounding Minerve contributed greatly to its defense. Flanked by two river gorges and set atop a plateau protected by sheer cliffs, the redoubtable fortress had the added advantage of being situated between two rivers, Le Brian and La Cesse. The siege lasted seven weeks, from June to July 1210 and can be considered the first major siege of the Albigensian Crusade. It would be the first of many examples epitomizing the persistence and indefatigability of Simon de Montfort as well as demonstrating his tactical abilities as a commander in siege warfare. The town’s principal weak point was the height of the land on the opposing gorges. The land was higher than the town and therefore offered a vantage point and an ideal position from which siege engines could bombard the town.
According to William of Tudela, Montfort’s motley army consisted of Frenchmen as well as men from Maine, Champagne, Brittany, Anjou, Lorraine, Frisia and Germany. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay adds the presence of Gascons among Montfort’s men. The location and defenses of Minerve mostly ruled out a direct assault, thus necessitating the use of siege engines. In addition to mangonels and catapults, William of Tudela mentions the presence of a singularly devastating machine nicknamed Malvoisin (’Bad Neighbor’), calling it the “queen and lady of all his [Simon de Montfort’s] siege engines.” Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay refers to it as a “huge and most effective petrary.”He also mentions the twenty-one livres paid daily to its operators, indicating not only the ample costs associated with siege warfare, but also the expertise required by siege engineers to handle and maintain these machines.
The size of this exceptional siege engine alluded to by the primary sources suggests that this may have been a trébuchet. There is no hard evidence as to when the first trébuchet was put into commission but the twelfth century provides a good case for its introduction. The earliest examples, called traction trébuchets, were powered by a crew of men-sometimes up to one hundred-pulling on ropes attached to the short end of a beam. The longer end contained a sling in which a projectile was placed, usually a large stone. The distance and force with which these stones could be thrown depended on the collective strength and cooperation of the crew. A latter development replaced the crew of men with a counterweight, usually a large container containing stones, earth or lead. The longer end was winched down and held by a catch. When released, the counterweight dropped, causing the longer beam to rise. The sling would create an arc and release the stone at the top of the arc. These machines were capable of lobbing a stone weighing 100-150 kg a distance of over 150 meters. The counterweight trébuchet would prove its worth time and time again beginning in the thirteenth century and might very well have fit the descriptions of William of Tudela and Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay at the siege of Minerve in 1210.
The damage Malvoisin caused to the walls of Minerve forced a sortie by some of the defenders under cover of darkness. Sorties were often used in an attempt to destroy siege engines and to kill as many of the enemy as possible by surprise. They tried to destroy the engine by filling baskets with such combustibles as wood and fat and attaching them to the machine. The baskets were set on fire but one of the crusader siege engineers had stepped out of the camp to relieve himself, witnessed the commotion and shouted to alert his comrades of the situation. One of the defenders wounded him with a spear but the crusader camp had already been alerted and the machine was saved from the conflagration.
The walls of Minerve had been battered and become severely weakened by the end of July. The population lacked provisions and water since, like at Carcassonne, it was the middle of summer and the crusaders had cut off access to the rivers at the bottom of the gorge. The lord of the town, William of Minerve, finally sought peace with Montfort and the papal legates through negotiations. The town was duly surrendered to the crusaders and its inhabitants offered a chance to reconcile with the Catholic Church. Many villagers whose faith was weak gladly accepted the offer, as did William of Minerve. One hundred and forty Perfects-some of which had come from other cities to seek refuge in the castrum-obstinately abjured conversion. Any attempts to persuade them fell on deaf ears. Consequently, they were led outside the town to a pyre and burned alive. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay mentions the wickedness of the heretics being so great that they rushed into the fire of their own free will.
The siege of Minerve illustrates clear distinctions from Béziers and Carcassonne. First, the manner in which it was captured was typical of siege warfare in hostile conditions in the thirteenth century. The siege of Carcassonne never offered the topographical challenges of Minerve, and Montfort would have to endure many more of sieges similar to this one throughout his career in Languedoc. However, the indispensability of maintaining access to water was made manifest at Minerve as at Carcassonne. Once the crusaders had cut off the water supply to the castrum, it was only a matter of time before its citizens surrendered. Having recourse to the strongest armies and most devastating siege engines was sometimes not enough to coerce the enemy to submit. It was often the availability of water that determined the outcome of a siege.
Second, the employment of larger siege engines such as Malvoisin proved an effective but financially draining use of artillery for Montfort. Their efficacy, however, made them a vital appurtenance to his subsequent military operations. Minerve also contrasted sharply with the three previous engagements. Béziers and Bram did not require siege engines. They were deployed at Carcassonne on a smaller scale, but it was Minerve’s seeming unassailability that warranted the first use of the trébuchet. Not surprisingly, the trébuchet would be deployed on many more occasions thanks to the abundance of impregnable castra throughout Languedoc.
Third, the disposition of the Perfects in accepting the flames reveals their unshakeable faith. It also brings to light the dichotomy in their treatment. At Béziers, men, women and children were senselessly slaughtered regardless of religious affiliation. Many Catholics lived in towns and cities in Languedoc during the Albigensian Crusade, yet the crusaders made no attempt to differentiate between the two at Béziers. At Carcassonne, the defenders were not slaughtered but made to leave in utter humiliation. They were given no opportunity to renounce their heretical ways and convert to the Catholic faith. At Bram, there is no mention of Perfects as Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay simply refers to the inhabitants of the castrum as ‘defenders.’ At Minerve, all the defenders, whether simple villagers, Cathar believers, or Perfects, were given a choice to accept Catholicism at which point they would be freed.
What is even more intriguing is the differential treatment administered in proportion to the length of the siege. More specifically, the siege of Minerve lasted seven weeks and the conditions in the crusader camp were unlike those at Carcassonne and Béziers. The frustration the crusaders must have experienced at the length and conditions of the siege were not borne out in the harsh treatment of the residents of Minerve. The siege of Carcassonne lasted two weeks and provisions were plentiful in the crusader camp, however the defenders were treated more cruelly than at Minerve. The capture of Béziers didn’t require a siege and the city was taken by assault in less than twenty-four hours. It is therefore perplexing to learn that the residents of the town were given no quarter. Montfort demonstrated his leniency towards the inhabitants of Minerve despite the duration of the siege. At Bram, the defenders were mutilated after a three-day siege but this was done as a means of revenge for the prior actions of Giraud de Pépieux. Minerve, like Béziers, is a paradox in the history of the Albigensian Crusade. It was the most grueling and time-consuming siege of the crusade up to this point but the defenders did not bear the brunt of Montfort’s frustrations. Latter sieges would prove otherwise.
Following his success at Minerve, Montfort met with his council and the decision was made to besiege the castrum of Termes, about thirty kilometers southeast of Carcassonne. Termes, like Minerve, was settled in a mountainous area heavily guarded by natural defenses making it practically inaccessible. Its stone fortifications were as imposing as those of Minerve and posed a veritable logistical challenge to Montfort. The temporary army that had served with him at Minerve made their way home once their forty-day requirement had been met to obtain the appropriate indulgence. Fortunately for Montfort, William of Cayeux had just arrived from France accompanied by a contingent of crusaders and with news that a sizeable force of Bretons was on its way. The French army accompanied by the siege train made its way through the treacherous mountain passes and arrived at Termes in August.
The siege of Termes lasted from August to the last week of November 1210. The circumstances surrounding its siege are in many ways similar to Minerve and do not bear repeating. There were, however, several dissimilarities worth pointing out. Several raiding parties from the castrum of Cabaret to the north harried the crusaders by ambushing them on the roads around Termes. Hearkening back to Giraud de Pépieux’s treatment of crusaders at Puisserguier in 1209 and perhaps in retaliation for Montfort’s treatment of the prisoners at Bram in 1210, the crusaders had their eyes put out and their noses cut off before being sent back to the army. These vindictive atrocities executed in the same manner each time continued to be perpetrated by both sides during the Albigensian Crusade.
Another point worthy of mention is the arrival and departure of northern forces throughout the length of the siege that may have contributed to its protraction. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay states that several counts and bishops arrived from France accompanied by substantial forces to provide aid to Montfort.William of Tudela describes the international nature of these groups consisting of Bavarians, Germans, Saxons, Frisians and men from Anjou, Maine, Brittany and Normandy, Lombardy, Gascony and Provençe. Many of these units left in October, seriously jeopardizing the siege. Montfort was forced to plan his operations according to the arrival and departure of these groups and had to bring the newly arrived units up to date on the situation. The forty days of required military service to the crusade as decreed by the pope inadvertently hampered its progress, causing frustration for the crusade leader who was left at the mercy of the pontiff’s decisions.
An interesting aspect of medieval warfare was the participation of religious figures in combat. The sources often mention bishops and archbishops of France leading soldiers south to assist Montfort in his travails. In many instances throughout the Middle Ages, church figures were known to have donned armor and ridden into battle. At Termes, a prominent member of the Catholic Church was heavily involved in the construction and deployment of siege engines. William, the Archdeacon of Paris, had been a zealous preacher of the crusade in the north before joining Montfort’s forces at Termes. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, typically ingratiating in his descriptions, refers to the steadfast piety of this man and of his unwavering dedication to the crusade. William organized collections to raise funds for the maintenance of siege engines and was, according to Peter, an expert in carpentry and blacksmithing. He supervised the construction and operation of these engines himself, indicating that he was as passionate a preacher as he was a crusader.
Montfort’s tenacity was once again rewarded when Termes capitulated. After four brutal months of siege in adverse weather, and subject to the coming and going of crusaders, Monfort’s efforts were finally rewarded. He used the momentum he had built to win back the rebellious towns he had lost throughout the region. The year 1210 was a fruitful one for Montfort. He had subjugated many towns including having successfully besieged two of the most heavily fortified and inaccessible castra of Languedoc.
Only Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay and William of Tudela describe the siege of Termes. Peter does not relate the number of people who were captured and killed by the crusaders once the castrum had capitulated. William, however, discloses that the men fled in the middle of the night after leaving the ladies in the castrum’s keep. The men of Termes likely knew they would have most certainly been killed if captured. They were also aware that, according to the laws of war, the women were to be spared and, judging from Montfort’s previous behavior, they left them at the crusade leader’s mercy.
The siege of Termes can most aptly be compared to that of Minerve. Its remote location necessitated an arduous siege lasting several months as well as the requisite use of large siege engines. The crusaders successfully cut off the city’s water supply as they had done at Minerve and Carcassonne but towards the end of the engagement, a violent storm broke out and the accompanying precipitation filled the defenders’ cisterns and barrels thereby extending the siege. As infuriating as this may have been for Montfort and his army, the siege continued and the ladies of the castrum were spared upon its eventual surrender. Termes can be characterized as another military tour de force for Montfort. Like Minerve, Termes was not a particularly strategic location from which to establish a base of operations but it was a clear indicator of Montfort’s abilities as a siege commander. Furthermore, his treatment of the noblewomen of Termes illustrated his benevolent temperament.
The year 1211 turned out to be an important one both politically and militarily for Montfort. In January, a meeting was convened in Montpellier with in attendance Raymond VI of Toulouse, Peter II of Aragon, Simon de Monfort, Raymond-Roger de Foix and several prelates including the legate Arnald-Amaury. The meeting was to establish whether the Count of Toulouse had fulfilled his obligations towards the Church. Unreasonable terms were offered to the count. These not only included the expulsion of heretics from his land and the dismissal of mercenaries and tolls, but the terms forced him and his followers to abstain from meat and wear coarse clothing. To add insult to injury the count was told not to defend himself if the crusaders rode against him and he was to embark on a crusade to the Levant for an undisclosed period of time.
For obvious reasons, Raymond VI rejected these absurd terms and was once again branded an excommunicate with an interdict placed on Toulouse.Having paid homage to Peter of Aragon for the viscounty of Carcassonne just weeks before and having forged a marriage alliance between their children, Montfort now had the legitimate backing of the Spanish monarch as well as the support of the Church to invade Raymond VI’s territories.
In the spring of 1211, armed with fresh recruits from the north, Montfort decided to lay siege to the castrum of Lavaur. Placed in a strategic location, Lavaur was located seventy kilometers northwest of Carcassonne and only thirty-two kilometers east of Toulouse, placing it deeply in Raymond VI’s territory. The town was chosen for three reasons: first, it had become like many other strongholds in Languedoc, a sanctuary for Cathars; second, its proximity to Toulouse, the seat of Raymond’s power, would undermine the count’s authority in the area; and third, Aimeric de Montréal, a southern lord who had betrayed Montfort, had fled to Lavaur to defend it with his sister Giralda de Laurac, the lady of Lavaur.
Situated above the Agout river, Lavaur was more accessible than Minerve or Termes thanks to the open countryside surrounding it. Nevertheless, what made it a challenge were its deep ditches and strong ramparts. Over eighty knights and between three and four hundred villagers aided in its defense.The siege of Lavaur lasted from early April to the beginning of May 1211. The French army was too small to properly surround and blockade the town but the army was split nonetheless to make the siege more effective. A bridge was built over the Agout when reinforcements arrived from France led by two bishops and a count. At this stage, the new access point afforded the crusaders the opportunity to surround the town completely. The northern army employed the usual tactics of blockade and the use of siege engines to wear down the morale of the defenders.
Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay dedicates a portion of his narrative to describing the ingenuity of crusaders against their foe. The French had constructed a cat that they dragged to the ditch before the walls of Lavaur. They amassed branches they had tied together to fill the ditch. The defenders undermined the crusaders’ efforts by digging a passage underground up to the cat. In the middle of the night they removed the branches rendering the crusaders’ toil futile. This was repeated on several occasions causing the crusaders to despair of ever taking the town. Finally someone in the crusader camp devised a plan that consisted of piling grass, wood and fat with other flammable materials in the entrance of the passageway and lighting it on fire. The top of the pile consisted of unripe corn, more wood and grass to keep the smoke from rising. The smoke was guided in the direction of the subterranean gallery making it impossible for the defenders to use it. The crusaders were able to fill the ditch and pushed the cat against the wall so that the sappers could begin their work.
At the beginning of May, an assault successfully breached the walls and the town fell. None of the sources mention any attempt by the crusaders to convert the Cathars. A possible explanation may be that the defenders did not sue for peace but resisted until the very end. As a result of their obstinacy, they were to receive no quarter according to the conventions of warfare. Aimeric de Montréal, the treacherous noble, was executed in the same manner as the eighty knights that fought alongside him. The gallows that hanged them had been made hastily for the occasion and ended up falling as they were not properly secured. In his rancor, Montfort had the rest put to the sword. All the sources disclose the fact that Aimeric’s sister, Giralda de Laurac, was thrown into a well and had large stones heaped upon her. The sources differ slightly on the number of heretics burned on pyres outside the town but the number was most likely between three and four hundred.
The atrocities perpetrated at the siege of Lavaur were particularly shocking given the considerable number of deaths. In no other siege during the Albigensian Crusade would so many people be burned alive. It should be noted, however, that not everyone was executed. The noblewomen, in a manner similar to Termes, were released, as were the commoners who did not profess to be heretics. The treatment meted out to Aimeric and his knights is not surprising given the frustration the crusaders had to endure during the siege and the perfidious actions of Aimeric himself. The fact that Aimeric was not beheaded like a noble but hanged like a common man reveals the beginnings of Montfort’s disregard for the Jus Militare (conventions of warfare) at Lavaur. The execution of his sister Giralda was also surprising given her status as a noblewoman. It can be inferred that Montfort held her to the same moral standards as her brother, and as co-leader in the defense of the city, treated her accordingly.
As appalling as the mass executions of Lavaur might appear, their justification by the crusaders can be found in the battle of Montgey. While the siege of Lavaur was underway, the Count of Foix and his men ambushed a contingent of crusaders made up of Germans and Frisians on their way to Lavaur. The crusaders were killed almost to the last man. One survivor made it to Lavaur to inform Montfort of the tragedy. He quickly rode to the site and completely destroyed Montgey in anger. The crusade leader wasn’t able to catch the Count of Foix and the other perpetrators so the large number of people he ordered put to death at Lavaur may have been his method of exacting revenge.
In the compare and contrast model used as a basis for this thesis, Lavaur differed from previous sieges in one important aspect. Montfort’s treatment of Aimeric and his sister Giralda exhibits the crusade leader’s defiance of the norms of warfare when dealing with enemy nobles. Aimeric’s betrayal was rectified by a death reserved for commoners. His sister met a far more cruel demise by virtue of association. She had indeed acted as co-commander in the defense of the city and thus bore the consequences of her sibling’s prior actions. The other ladies of Lavaur were spared her fate although it is not known whether or not they denied heretical involvement. Montfort’s clemency displayed at Minerve was eschewed at Lavaur. In his impatience, he had the knights swiftly put to the sword when the gallows failed.
Lavaur is comparable to the siege of Bram in that it was successfully captured by the crusaders before its citizens surrendered. According to the laws of warfare, no quarter was to be given and the results of Lavaur bore this out. Unlike the lengthy engagements at Minerve and Termes, the siege lasted merely a month, but the cruelty inflicted on its knights and commanders was evidence that Montfort was beginning to tire of the obstreperous southerners. Furthermore, the massacre of crusaders at Montgey certainly did not encourage Montfort’s magnanimity.
IV. THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE FROM A MILITARY PERSPECTIVE
Phase II: The Decline of Simon de Montfort
The Albigensian Crusade had been underway for two years and Simon de Montfort’s efforts had been met with tremendous success. His capture of Minerve, Termes, Lavaur and other castra solidified his already reputable name as a capable siege commander. Despite the recalcitrance of the southern people and the economic, political and military personnel instability that plagued his endeavors in Languedoc, Montfort’s exploits in just two years were laudable. The year 1211, however, would signal the beginning of a downward spiral for Montfort marked by his first failed attempt to besiege Toulouse, the seat of power in Languedoc.
Toulouse (first siege)
The successful siege of Lavaur and its proximity to Toulouse caused Montfort to set his gaze upon the largest and most powerful city of Languedoc. The city of Toulouse was an oddity of the Albigensian Crusade. Although it was the seat of the Counts of Toulouse and thereby owed its allegiance to Raymond VI, the citizens were split between their loyalty to the count and to the crusade. The political autonomy and wealth the city had acquired translated to its citizens. As a nominal medieval city-state and independent entity, Toulouse practically had the authority to choose its own overlord. Montfort committed a critical faux pas when he automatically associated the citizens of Toulouse with Raymond VI. They had been divided in their loyalty but Montfort’s decision to besiege the city turned them into his enemy. This monumental political blunder would subvert Montfort’s efforts in Languedoc until the end of his life. From this moment forth, the citizens had no reason to support the crusade militarily, morally, or logistically.
The siege of Toulouse in 1211 was the first of three sieges the city endured during the Albigensian Crusade. It was also Montfort’s first major military failure, a failure that incited the southern lords to finally collaborate against him in a concerted effort. The siege lasted a mere two weeks and the reinforcements that had arrived from the north were not enough to surround the massive city. Siege engines weren’t built and the Toulousains repelled every assault attempted by the crusaders. The myriad skirmishes that took place in and around the crusader camp made it seem as though the crusaders were the defenders rather than the attackers. The lack of provisions and manpower and the constant sorties by the Toulousains forced Montfort to reluctantly lift the siege on 29 June. He decided to do as much damage as he could to the Count of Foix by raiding his lands and capturing some of his castra around the region.
The boldness of the citizens of Toulouse in conducting sortie after sortie can be attributed to their superior numbers but also to the belief in the invincibility of their city. The fortifications of Toulouse, built upon the ancient Roman ones, had always been very effective at repulsing invaders. Years later when Montfort took over the city, he ordered the dismantling of the walls not only to render it vulnerable, but to break the spirit and morale of the Toulousains. Montfort never forgot the defeat he suffered at the first siege of Toulouse in the summer of 1211. His reputation tainted, his defeat strengthened the resolve of the southern lords and towns to rebel against him.
The first siege of Toulouse cannot be properly compared to any of the previous sieges of the Albigensian Crusade. The siege lasted two weeks but Montfort curiously chose not to use siege engines. Fresh from a string of victories, Montfort believed he could easily capture the largest city in Languedoc. His unwillingness to ally with the citizens of Toulouse proved fatal six years later when he returned to complete his aim of subjugating the city, only to lose his life in the process. From this moment, Simon de Montfort’s seemingly unshakeable martial reputation began to wane. He experienced further success in Languedoc but the shadow of failure from his siege of Toulouse loomed over his head and incited the first rebellion of the southern nobles against him at Castelnaudary.
The reinforcements that had come to assist Montfort at the siege of Toulouse returned home in the middle of summer after their forty days. Raymond VI learned of the reduction in size of Montfort’s army and opted for a counter-attack in September. The roles were now reversed and the French decided to defend themselves against the Count of Toulouse at the castrum of Castelnaudary. Raymond’s forces vastly outnumbered those of Montfort and he had a train of siege engines following him, but the strategy he employed at Castelnaudary demonstrates the adoption of a vastly different military mentality. Rather than seeking to blockade the town to cut his adversary off from any outside support, Raymond built a series of ditches, fences and barrier palisades to defend the camp against the crusaders. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay mentions these as easy escape routes for the southern forces if the crusaders chose to make sorties.
It is evident that Montfort’s reputation as a tactical commander was bolstered by his many successes over the previous three years. It is also clear that as a military leader, Raymond was not of the same caliber as Montfort. The inexperience of the southern lords in conducting sieges was made manifest at Castelnaudary. Did cowardice guide their actions? It was apparent that direct confrontation was not the solution according to Raymond. Like at Toulouse just weeks earlier, the besieged frequently attacked the besiegers while Raymond chose to stay on the defensive. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay describes the Count of Toulouse erecting an enormous siege engine that fired huge stones. This account is corroborated by William of Tudela who, for the first time in his narrative, mentions the use of the trébuchet. The taunts and jeers from the crusaders reflected their shared attitude of military superiority over the southerners.
The second field battle of the Albigensian Crusade took place at Saint-Martin-la-Lande about five kilometers east of Castelnaudary. Montfort had sent a messenger to Carcassonne to request a convoy and a supply train to be sent to Castelnaudary. The Count of Foix, present at the siege, had gotten wind of the plan and took a large contingent of soldiers to stop it from reaching the crusaders. A brief but pitched battle took place between the French convoy and the southern forces. The French emerged victorious dealing a severe psychological blow to the southern forces. Raymond lifted the siege soon after and returned home having accomplished nothing. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay and William of Puylaurens both assert that the southern forces burnt their siege engines prior to their departure. William of Tudela makes it clear that the trébuchet was left to the wind and rain and goes on to say: “I don’t think they would have brought it away with them for a hundred thousand marks of silver.” He may have been alluding to the sheer size of the machine and how cumbersome it would have been to transport it back home. But this explanation seems unlikely. The southerners would not have wanted their adversaries to possess such a formidable machine and most likely would have burned it as Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay and William of Puylaurens both affirm.
Castelnaudary provided proof once again that the crusading forces were far superior militarily to those of the south. Raymond and his large army could easily have overwhelmed Montfort’s insignificant garrison but instead chose to build defenses of their own and wait it out. This must have been a sweet victory for Montfort as he was assured of the martial incompetence of his nemesis. Montfort spent the winter of 1211-1212 recapturing the towns that had renounced their allegiance to him once they had heard of his defeat at Toulouse. Cahuzac, Gaillac, La Garde, Montaigu, Montferrand, Puy-Celsi, Rabastens and others fell into crusaders hands but their defection was nothing new to Montfort who had grown accustomed to the bellicose nature of southern towns.
Castelnaudary was the first stand taken by the southern lords against Montfort. Although the attempt was futile, it revealed to both sides that the southern forces were capable of initiating conflict on their own. The sharpest contrast between Castelnaudary and previous engagements was in the tactical sphere. When Montfort attacked southern castra, he did so with verve and was able to maximize the potential of what few forces he had at his disposal. Raymond VI employed an alternate tactic involving the erection of defenses to protect his own forces prior to laying siege to the castrum. Raymond would suggest an implementation of this strategy at the battle of Muret two years later but it would fall on deaf ears. It can be inferred that the count employed this stratagem for two reasons. First, time was on his side as he was gifted with a permanent army as opposed to Montfort’s forty-day recruits. He could therefore play the waiting game with Monfort and his patience would surely pay off in the end. Second, Raymond knew of Montfort’s still sterling reputation and opted to take no chances against him. His attritional model of warfare, he believed, would certainly be more effective than taking even the slightest risk. In this manner, Montfort and Raymond could not have been more dissimilar in their methods. Thankfully for Montfort, his victory at Saint-Martin-la-Lande proved too much for Raymond to take and the siege was lifted.
The original aim of the Albigensian Crusade had still not been met after three years of guerilla warfare and a plethora of sieges. Despite French occupation of numerous Cathar fortresses in Languedoc, the seeds of Catharism were still blooming throughout the region. As much as Montfort had accomplished by political and military might by the end of 1211, his mission was far from over. His army was qualitatively superior to those of the south but was still too small and lacked the uniformity and consistency he needed to win. He possessed the talent and the vision but his resources were insufficient. Moreover, he was forced to contend with the determined intransigence of the natives of Languedoc who still had at their disposal “the numbers, resources, and resolve to defend their land and their lives.”
The campaign year of 1212 proved a fruitful one for Montfort. By this point in the crusade, it had become clear that the eradication of heresy was a secondary objective to Montfort’s military agenda of annexing territories in Languedoc. The spring season was accompanied by the usual arrival of crusaders from the north. Montfort used these fresh forces to besiege several towns of little strategic importance but whose acquisition was needed to cement his authority in the areas around Toulouse.
In May 1212, Montfort’s fourteen-year-old son Amaury accompanied his father on his campaign in Languedoc. Montfort’s eldest son would one day carry his father’s standard into battle against Raymond VI’s son Raymond VII. By the summer of 1212, the numbers of Montfort’s army had swollen giving him the manpower he yearned for and needed to lay siege to some of the more strategically relevant castra of the region. Although many of these new recruits had little combat experience and lacked the requisite equipment, their presence was nevertheless welcome by Montfort and they were quickly put to good use.
The entrance of the French army into the Agenais region northwest of Toulouse was significant. Although it was still considered a part of greater Languedoc, the Agenais was little influenced by Catharism and, more importantly, belonged to the King of England. Its most important city, Agen, did not dare resist Montfort and opened their gates to him at the beginning of June. A wealthy region, the Agenais was the logical next step in Montfort’s plan to acquire wealth and territory by surrounding Toulouse in order to weaken Raymond’s power in Languedoc. The submission of Penne d’Agenais, Biron, Castelsarrasin, Cauzac, Hautpoul, Moissac and Penne d’Albigeois to the French army buttressed Montfort’s confidence as a skilled siege commander and galvanized the will of the southern lords to foil his further success.
The siege of Moissac in the summer of 1212 provides insight into some of the more gruesome atrocities of the Albigensian Crusade. Montfort and his heterogeneous army made up of Bretons, Normans, Flemings, Lorrainers, Burgundians, Poitevins and Gascons besieged the town in the middle of August but were met with fierce resistance. From primary source descriptions, the defenders of Moissac grew increasingly bold in their opposition to the crusaders and their treatment of those captured bore this out. When the defenders had killed a crusader, Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay says, they surrounded the corpse and hacked it with their swords to demoralize their opponents. The nephew of the Archbishop of Reims suffered a particularly brutal and humiliating death. In a skirmish before the walls of the town, the young soldier was captured by four defenders and dragged into the town. He was then slain, dismembered and his remains thrown over the wall into the crusader camp.
This tactic of psychological warfare to demoralize the enemy was nothing new to combatants during the High Middle Ages. What is unique about this case is the flagrant disregard for medieval conventions of warfare. William of Tudela specifically refers to these four defenders as ‘lads,’ a clear indication of their inferior rank. The victim was of noble birth and his death was that of a common soldier. Medieval military protocol dictated that nobles be ransomed for substantial sums rather than being killed on the spot. Their value was commensurate with their rank making them particularly lucrative to their captors. King Richard the Lion-heart’s ransom was set at 150,000 marks by Emperor Henry VI, while the capture of King John II of France at the battle of Poitiers in 1356 necessitated three million gold écus for his release. At Moissac these criteria were spurned, indicating a shift in moral values and the ethics of war during the Albigensian Crusade.
A comparison can be drawn directly to the siege of Lavaur and Monfort’s treatment of Aimeric de Montréal. A blatant disregard for the value of captured nobles was made manifest at Moissac and Aimeric met the same fate when he was murdered in cold blood in a manner befitting a commoner. The escalating belligerence on both sides and the shunning of martial etiquette became more and more common as the crusade progressed. The atrocities themselves became increasingly premeditated and inhumane in an attempt to break the enemy’s spirit.
By the end of 1212, Montfort had made considerable progress in his control of the regions of the Agenais and the Albigeois. The only major cities that did not succumb to his rule were Montauban and Toulouse. In this manner, Montfort effectively isolated Raymond’s main cities, depriving him of wealth, land and the jurisdiction of his domains. When not conducting sieges, Montfort’s men raided the countryside around Toulouse. Through attrition, Montfort was able to further erode the count’s power in his own lands as he was often helpless to stop them. The southern lords, however, used the same methods of attrition against the crusade leader. The ineptitude of the southern forces during sieges and field battles did not carry over to their raiding and skirmishing skills. In these instances, they proved effective on many occasions against the crusader forces.
An interesting parallel can be drawn between the Albigensian Crusade and the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). In the latter, the French armies suffered devastating defeats at the hands of the English on their own soil. The battles of Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415) clearly demonstrated the superiority of English longbowmen against contingents of heavily armored French knights. The significance of these battles for the English, as decisive as they may have been, was gradually eaten away by the French forces in small skirmishes and raids over a number of decades. Ultimately, the possessions won by the English returned to French hands and the Duchy of Aquitaine became part of the Kingdom of France.
Montfort’s decision to invade the territory of Comminges, southwest of Toulouse, incurred the wrath of its suzerain Peter II of Aragon. Although Peter had received homage from Montfort who had recognized him as Viscount of Carcassonne in 1211, he had become actively involved in the affairs of Languedoc to protect his vassals the Counts Bernard de Comminges and Raymond-Roger de Foix. Peter’s victory against the Muslims at Las Navas de Tolosa in July 1212 granted him favor as liberator of Christendom in the eyes of Innocent III. The Council of Lavaur in January 1213 was convened to revisit the matter of Raymond VI’s compliance with the Church. Heated debates took place between Peter II and Montfort. Letters of appeal were sent to Innocent who ultimately, because of preparations for a new crusade to the Holy Land (Fifth Crusade, 1213-21), decided to place a moratorium on the Albigensian Crusade and the indulgence associated with it. This came as a blow to Montfort who had struggled for years to aggrandize his territories in the region with the aid of inconsistent armies. The absence of an indulgence for northerners shattered the allure of the crusade and the provisional suspension of the expedition threatened Montfort’s gains in the region.
Innocent’s decision to suspend the crusade should come as no surprise. Since the genesis of his pontificate, he had devoted tremendous resources, time and energy into promoting and organizing an expedition to the Holy Land. The abject failure of the Fourth Crusade and its impact on the crusading ideal weighed heavily on Innocent’s mind for years after. He saw in the Fifth Crusade a redemption for Christendom and committed his resources fully to its undertaking. The suspension of the Albigensian Crusade was a way for Innocent to garner recruits for the Fifth Crusade as he believed expeditions directed to the Levant took precedence over any others.
Not wishing to lose his holdings in Languedoc, Montfort continued to campaign with what little army he had left. Several groups of crusaders from the north arrived under the leadership of the Bishops of Auxerre and Orléans in the spring but these contingents may have been unaware of the crusade’s suspension.Montfort decided to use them anyway and continued raiding the region of Comminges. On 24 June 1213, Amaury de Montfort was knighted. The knighting of a son “marked more than his admission to a military caste; it associated him with the conduct of his father’s affairs, affairs which would one day be his own.” The young Montfort followed in his father’s footsteps and continued to contribute to his military endeavors in Languedoc for the next few years.
Atrocities continued when southern forces recaptured Pujol, a small castrumthat had capitulated to Montfort, and had its crusader garrison brought to Toulouse and imprisoned. Their treatment was harsh and swift. Many of them were murdered in their prison cells while William of Puylaurens states that one of them was dragged out of the Church of Saint-Sernin du Taur, where he had taken refuge. He refers to this act as a “violation of the Church’s sanctity and liberty,” a reference to the idea of the medieval church as sanctuary as previously mentioned. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay provides an alternate and more gruesome account of the death of the crusaders stating that they were dragged behind horses and hanged from gibbets. In either case, the crusader-prisoners captured at Pujol bore the brunt of the Toulousains’ fury.
The siege of Pujol and the southern victory that defined it was the first instance of a successful siege by the southerners in the Albigensian Crusade. The prior effort at Castelnaudary had been in vain but the victory at Pujol once more bolstered their resolve against Montfort who could no longer count on the northern recruits he needed to keep his adversaries at bay. To make matters worse, Peter II of Aragon had gathered an army to march against Montfort.The two armies would face at the battle of Muret.
The small castrum of Muret had been in crusaders’ hands since 1212. Originally belonging to the Count of Comminges, Muret was ideally and strategically located along the Garonne river, the same river that traversed Toulouse, making it an ideal point from which to conduct raids against the city only twenty kilometers away and its surrounding countryside. Peter II of Aragon met with the nobles and the people of Toulouse. They chose to make their stand against the crusaders at Muret because of its proximity to Toulouse, its weak fortifications, and because Montfort’s loss of Pujol had already weakened his reputation and encouraged southerners in the area to rally to the Spanish standard.
The Spanish monarch and his Aragonese and Catalonian army were joined by a substantial army of southern lords and their respective forces. The southern army included the contingents of the Counts of Foix, Toulouse and Comminges. The southern-Aragonese coalition force was quite possibly the largest southern army ever mustered during the Albigensian Crusade. The presence of faidits-dispossessed southern knights and nobles-no doubt added strength to an already substantial force. Their desire to avenge themselves against Montfort impelled them to join the southern ranks. The Toulousains also brought with them siege equipment rather than building on site. Montfort’s army was already undersized because of the crusade’s suspension but also because many crusaders left at the beginning of autumn once their forty-day service had been completed.
The battle began 10 September 1213 when the Toulousain militia brought up their siege engines and began bombarding the walls of the castrum. The crusader garrison, being far too small to make a stand, sought refuge in the keep and anxiously awaited the arrival of Montfort and his army. Peter II ordered the militia to stop the bombardment at once in anticipation of Montfort’s imminent arrival. The king’s motive for ordering the cease-fire was legitimate. According to the Anonymous, he had received word that Montfort was on his way. His plan was to have Montfort enter the town to succor the beleaguered garrison at which point the southern coalition, taking advantage of their numerical superiority, would cordon off the town and wipe out the entire French force in one blow. His orders were obeyed.
Montfort arrived at Muret late in the evening of 11 September. A small force of thirty knights under the leadership of the Viscount of Corbeil arrived shortly thereafter to lend their services. Attempts were made by the crusaders to negotiate with Peter II and the southern lords but to no avail. The king was well aware of the disparity in size of both armies and, perhaps overconfident from his resounding victory at Las Navas de Tolosa just a year earlier, expressed no desire to discuss terms. His objective was to launch an immediate attack once he knew Montfort and his men were in the castrum. The overly circumspect Raymond VI proposed to the king a similar strategy he had employed at Castelnaudary a couple years earlier. He suggested they build barricades around the southern camp while taunting the crusaders with crossbows. Michael de Luesia, an Aragonese knight, promptly retorted by denouncing the count as a coward. He, along with many other Aragonese nobles, would lose his life on the battlefield.
Raymond’s proposed strategy was sound, if unduly prudent. His experience with Montfort had taught him not to underestimate the chief crusader’s smaller forces. The years of losing castrum after castrum to Montfort ostensibly had an effect on him psychologically. Raymond witnessed his lands being stripped from his possession before his very eyes and this must have been disheartening and infuriating at the same time, especially considering that, as Count of Toulouse, he had been the most powerful lord of Languedoc by virtue of his name and the extent of his territories prior to the crusade. Arguably, Raymond knew more about Montfort’s tactics than did Peter II or Michael de Luesia and was perhaps dubious of the king’s strategy. It is understandable, thus, that he chose to err on the side of caution hoping to wear down Montfort’s forces rather than to confront them directly.
By the same token, it is not surprising that Peter II wished not to delay his frontal assault. His reputation as one of the foremost military leaders of the day was at stake. Laying siege to the castrum would have protracted his victory and Peter II was not as experienced, as was Montfort, in the art of siege warfare. The field battle of Las Navas de Tolosa proved to him that a critical field engagement would be brief and could turn the tide of war in his favor. His Aragonian and Catalonian army, battle-hardened from fighting the Muslims, could decimate a meager force of northern crusaders barricaded in a castrum. The king was determined not to let Raymond’s vigilance deter him from achieving victory.
The crusaders repelled the initial assault by the coalition forces. Montfort, abandoning any hope of achieving a parley, consulted with the other crusade leaders and all decided to defend the town as best they could. At this stage, the king made a terrible mistake. In his overconfidence, he watched Montfort and his army exit the town and draw up battle positions in the field before Muret. He could have surrounded the castrum, bombarded the walls, and starved the crusaders into submission but this was not the king’s preferred method of achieving swift victory.
Montfort’s decision reflects an even bigger risk on his part. Vastly outnumbered, he deliberately chose to engage in a field battle that could determine the outcome of years of sustained effort within a few hours. Was Montfort just as self-assured as Peter II? He faced incredible odds but none of the sources provide an explanation for his behavior. His chances of success would have been much higher had he stayed within the walls of the town. From experience, he knew that provisioning an army the size of Peter’s for weeks, even months, was arduous at best. Hence, one can only assume that Montfort believed he was fighting for a higher purpose than the king and that God would grant him victory over his adversary. When asked by one of his men to count the number of his knights, the chief crusader replied: “There is no need. We are enough, with God’s help, to vanquish our enemies.”
According to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, the number of mounted men including knights and sergeants amounted to around eight hundred with very few footsoldiers. William of Puylaurens validates this number stating that Montfort had about a thousand armed men. William the Breton verifies this in his account claiming that Montfort had around three hundred infantry and seven hundred cavalry. Even Jaume, the son of Peter II, corroborates the claims of Montfort’s army, affirming around one thousand cavalry.Accurate numbers for the coalition forces are lacking in the primary sources. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay’s one-sided account claims a ludicrous one hundred thousand men. At any rate, the numbers of coalition forces clearly overwhelmed those of the crusaders.
Montfort forbade his infantry to engage in the battle. According to Laurence W. Marvin, he did this for four reasons: first, their numbers were small, thus rendering their contribution trivial; second, their presence would only slow down the mounted cavalry charge; third, their defense of the castrum made more sense than their participation in the battle; and fourth, they were to protect the cavalry in case of retreat.
Once Montfort’s cavalry was on the battlefield, he arranged them into three lines according to the Trinity and placed his younger half-brother, William of Barres, as commander of the first line while he assumed command of the third line. The king adopted similar battle positions assigning command of the first line made up of Catalans to the Count of Foix while he took command of the second line after having disguised himself by trading armor with one of his men.
According to the sources, Montfort’s first line took the initiative by charging into the coalition’s first line and, by sheer momentum, slamming into the second as well. The second crusader line followed close behind and sustained the onslaught. Having lost sight of his first two lines in the heat of battle, Montfort took the third and engaged the enemy from the left, outflanking them. The fighting continued until the coalition lines began to disintegrate, causing their cavalry to flee. In his account, Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay describes Peter II’s death in the initial stages of the battle. His presence in the second line of the coalition army and his assumed disguise hastened his death. William of Puylaurens states the crusaders aimed for the king’s standard and rushed on him and slew him while the Anonymous states that Peter II shouted “I am the King!” but his cry was not heard and he was killed, lending credence to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay’s claim that the king was indeed disguised. The coalition forces were duly routed and massacred.
Meanwhile, the Toulousain militia, unaware of the outcome of the battle, had begun laying siege to the castrum awaiting news of the king’s assured victory over the crusaders. The sight of Montfort’s banners quickly put them to flight and they hastened towards the boats moored along the Garonne river. In the ensuing chaos, the crusaders slaughtered a great many of them who weren’t able to reach the boats in time. Many drowned while others were put to the sword.
Surely, the crusaders exacted revenge upon the belligerent Toulousains who opposed them at the first siege of Toulouse. The mounted crusaders had a clear advantage over the unmounted militia in terms of speed, height and power, thereby increasing the number slaughtered. William of Puylaurens states the total number of dead in the coalition forces amounted to fifteen thousand while Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay claims twenty thousand but then goes on to say that the number was so great that it could not be told with certainty.The number of casualties is difficult to determine given the discrepancies between the sources. However, both William of Puylaurens and Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay corroborate the overwhelming victory of the crusaders with the former asserting there was not one death in the crusader army while the latter claiming only one crusader knight and a few sergeants were slain in battle.
The battle of Muret and the death of King Peter II of Aragon marked a tremendous victory for Montfort and the French. Morally, God had bestowed favor upon the chief crusader who faced overwhelming odds and delivered his enemy into his hands. The righteous legitimacy Montfort gained as a result of this battle boosted his confidence and justified his mission as the Athlete of Christ. Politically, Montfort’s most formidable opponent had been killed and his army routed. The southern lords were left demoralized and the event caused them to question the potency or advantage of forming a coalition force. Montfort’s victory gave him free rein to extend his hegemony over the remainder of the Count of Toulouse’s territories. Militarily, Muret nullified Montfort’s previous failures at Toulouse and Pujol and secured his reputation as the foremost military commander in Languedoc.
Montfort’s success can be attributed to three things: first, his cavalry was composed of his veterans, knights who had been present at every siege since the beginning of the Albigensian and their combined martial experience served to shatter the lines of the coalition cavalry; second, the brashly overconfident Peter II precipitated his own demise by allowing Montfort to form ranks prior to the battle rather than attacking him when his forces were disorganized; third, the division of the coalition forces into two units-the cavalry on the battlefield and the militia of Toulouse besieging the town-undermined the cohesive power of strength in numbers. Despite the presence of the southern lords and their general lack of military ability, the number of combatants in the king’s army could have been used to envelop the crusader cavalry on the field. One can only speculate as to the possibility of a different outcome had Raymond VI’s advice been heeded. Montfort’s tactics combined with the king’s poor strategy and logistics worked to the crusade leader’s advantage. Marcel Dieulafoy, however, opines that one should not credit Montfort as an accomplished strategist and tactician as Muret might have demonstrated. Instead, his victory can be attributed to his audacity and decisiveness, qualities that were no less apparent in his contemporaries and successors.
The battle of Muret was one of the most decisive victories of the High Middle Ages and can be compared to Hastings (1066) and Courtrai (1302). These battles changed the course of history and displayed the tactical and strategic superiority of one commander over another. The disparity between the number of dead in both camps at Muret made this battle a complete and total victory for the French, far more than those of Hastings or Courtrai.
Muret can be considered the most pivotal moment in the Albigensian Crusade from 1209 to 1218. At no other time were the southern lords so apprehensive and Montfort so certain of his future success than after the battle of Muret. He had proven his military supremacy to all of Languedoc and would use this opportunity to further weaken the will and power of all those who opposed him.
The battle of Muret cannot legitimately be compared to the battles of Montgey and Saint-Martin-la-Lande as these simply consisted of short skirmishes. Muret is an entity unto itself in the annals of the Albigensian Crusade, an upset of immense proportions that ended with the death of one of the most eminent figures of the High Middle Ages. Atrocities were not committed at Muret as they were in previous sieges. The crusaders easily dispatched a host of southern forces but in no way did these actions traverse the boundaries of medieval warfare. No heretics were burned or pardoned and neither were women and children harmed. Muret was a politico-military engagement fought for purely secular reasons and its role in the history of the Albigensian Crusade classifies it as an event worthy of study and separate from other military engagements.
The year 1214 began with the appointment of Peter of Benevento, a cardinal of the Catholic Church, who was to replace Arnald-Amaury as senior legate in Languedoc. He was sent by Innocent III to negotiate a peace between the southern lords and the crusaders. The new legate brought with him letters from the pope to initiate the reconciliation of the Counts of Toulouse, Foix and Comminges to the Church. Montfort was incensed at the idea of reconciliation as it would compromise his territorial holdings and he would lose the sanction of the Church. His fears were realized on 18 and 25 April when the counts were welcomed to the fold of Christendom once more. They swore allegiance to the Church and promised not to support heretics and to surrender a castle or part of their territory to the papacy.
From this simple reconciliatory process, it appears as though Montfort’s toil of the last five years had been in vain. Innocent’s presence in Rome did not make him, or his newly appointed legate, privy to the complexities of the Albigensian Crusade in the last few years. No longer a religious campaign, the crusade had devolved into a political and military struggle over the territories of Languedoc. The southern lords had already lost substantial holdings to Montfort and wished to regain them now that they were no longer in opposition to the Church. Montfort, for his part, had earned too many successes and suffered too many setbacks in the previous five years to just give it all up and return to France empty-handed. Despite losing the spiritual and legal upper hand bestowed upon him by the Church, Montfort still had the military backing of an army in Languedoc to continue his conquests. Due to a scarcity of accurate information, Innocent made an uninformed decision and had unwittingly lost control of his own crusade by relinquishing it to the chief crusader.
The pope’s suspension of the crusade and its indulgence did not deter many crusaders from traveling to Languedoc ready to march against the heretics and to support Montfort. It is curious to notice the appeal of the original intent of the crusade on new recruits from the north. Their purpose in traveling to Languedoc was to aid in eradicating heresy. Little did they know of the convoluted nature of affairs that had transpired in the region since the crusade’s inception. Uprooting Catharism was still a constituent of the crusading ideal but had become secondary to Montfort’s ambitions of territorial acquisition. Nevertheless, heresy was still a plague that infected Languedoc and needed to be obliterated. Furthermore, the news of the counts’ reconciliation to the Church was enough to ignite the rebellion of many southern towns against Montfort. The small castrum of Morlhon in the Quercy region was assaulted and capitulated to the crusaders within a day. Inside were seven Waldensians, members of a heretical sect founded in the twelfth century by a merchant of Lyons called Peter Waldo. Although the Waldensian doctrine differed little from that of the Catholic Church as opposed to the Cathar doctrine, it was still condemned by the Church as a heresy. The crusaders wasted little time in burning these unrepentant heretics.
There exists a startling comparison in the treatment of Cathars and Waldensians. The sources do not reveal whether the Waldensians were given the opportunity to abjure their heresy and convert to the Catholic faith as were the Cathars. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay only mentions that the Waldensians “were at once led to the legate and confessed their unbelief freely and fully.” Nor do they mention the presence of any Cathar Perfects in the castrum. According to the crusaders, Waldensians were as vile as Cathars and were to meet the same fate as their dissenting brethren. Burning at the stake was reserved for heretics as the fire was believed to purify the soul of all evil. The Waldensian belief system correlated strongly with that of the Catholic Church, but in the eyes of the crusaders they were no different than Cathars.
Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay mentions Montfort’s espousal of a new military strategy at this point in the crusade. Montfort’s new policy was to dismantle the fortifications of the castra he captured. This was done for two reasons: first, with every newly acquired castrum, Montfort was required to garrison it with his own men which gradually reduced the strength of his army and, given the persistent inconsistency of his army, this was a risky proposition; second, tearing down fortifications prevented towns from rebelling and thus guaranteed Montfort he wouldn’t need to do the job twice. The dismantling of fortifications was done to all castra throughout the region except for a few of the stronger ones which Montfort left intact for the benefit of himself and his men.
The French army reached the castrum of Casseneuil in late June 1214. Casseneuil was a strongly fortified town in the Agenais located about twenty-five kilometers north of Agen. It was surrounded on three sides by the Lot river and two tributaries. It was protected by a ditch on its southeastern side and was overlooked by limestone outcrops on its northwestern side making it a challenge to besiege. It had already been besieged and had surrendered to the crusaders in 1209. The town had remained in French hands ever since but, like many castra throughout Languedoc, had switched sides in 1214 and became a refuge for Cathars and others fleeing the crusade. The lord of the castrum, Hugh de Revignan, renounced his oath of fealty to Montfort in 1214 and made preparations for the arrival of the French.
Montfort arrived before the gates of Casseneuil on 28 June and commenced the siege. He chose the rocky outcrop as his initial strategic position. Monfort did this because the rock was at a higher elevation than the town affording him the ability to look into the castrum and bombard it from above. He also chose this position because his army was not large enough to encircle the town and blockade it. Within a few days, his men had constructed siege engines and proceeded to batter the walls. A fresh group of crusaders arrived to lend Montfort their support and he split the army into two contingents, himself assuming a lower position on a plain before the castrum. Petraries were built and the siege continued.
The siege pressed on for days effectively weakening the walls of the castrum. The French wished to conduct an assault on the town but the defenders had denied them access by destroying the only existing bridge prior to their arrival. Montfort consulted his master carpenter who suggested they build a sort of mobile bridge fastened to casks allowing the army to ford the river. It was unanimously agreed that this was the best solution and work began. Once completed, the crusaders armed themselves and rolled the bridge near the water. Unfortunately, the weight of the bridge and the difference in water level between the ditch and the riverbank combined to sink the bridge precipitously to the bottom of the river. Undeterred, Montfort ordered work on a new bridge of a different kind that, according to Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, would be accompanied by a few small boats of men. According to the source, it seems as though the small boats were there to protect the bridge from being destroyed by the petraries the defenders had built and began using against the crusaders. The incompetence of Montfort’s engineers shone through once more when the crusaders realized the bridge they had built wasn’t long enough to span the gap between the banks.
Irritated but not defeated, Montfort encouraged his disconsolate engineers and carpenters to come up with a new plan at which point the master carpenter devised a unique version of the traditional siege tower. Its foundation was constructed of large timbers with a flat roof of hurdles making it, in essence, a large wooden house. On the roof of this first platform they built a tower of hurdles consisting of five more stories of platforms to accommodate crossbowmen. Above this was constructed another wall of hurdles that supported more men whose duty it was to defend the structure. They were provided with large buckets of water to extinguish any fires started by the defenders while the entire front side of the structure was covered in oxhides to neutralize the damage caused by any incendiary devices.
The purpose of this wooden house was for unarmed men located on the lower level, protected by the oxhides and the crossbowmen above, to build a causeway over the moat by filling the ditch with dirt and debris and advancing the tower in the process. The strategy worked and the tower began advancing as the ditch was filled. The tower was attacked by the enemy’s petraries but did not suffer much damage thanks to the oxhides and crossbowmen. The defenders in Casseneuil attempted to impede the crusaders’ success by launching a boat filled with dry wood, fat and salted meat but the crusaders were able to destroy it before it reached the tower.
The tower finally made it across the moat and within striking distance of the walls on 17 August. Montfort, fearful that the defenders might successfully set fire to the structure given its proximity, ordered an immediate assault on the castrum. The front wall of hurdles on the bottom platform of the tower was broken down and the crusaders crossed the rest of the moat on foot. Now trapped between the walls and the ditch, the crusaders were susceptible to attacks by the defenders who hurled rocks at them from above. Montfort’s eagerness to assault the town once the crusaders had crossed the moat was hampered by his lack of preparation. The crusaders had no ladders with which to scale the walls so they were forced to call off the assault but not before destroying the makeshift barbicans erected just outside the walls. The next day was spent building ladders and preparing for a second assault.
Harboring little hope of withstanding the planned assault the following day, the defenders in Casseneuil fled in the middle of the night. Some returned under cover of darkness and set fire to the castrum but the crusaders, who had by this time entered the city, intercepted them and put them and the rest of the unarmed residents to the sword. The fortifications of the town, in compliance with Montfort’s new policy, were dismantled to prevent further rebellions.
The siege of Casseneuil was significant for several reasons. First of all, it represented a strong military victory for Montfort. Casseneuil was not a particularly strategic town from which to conduct raids or to serve as a base of operations. It was not located in the heart of Cathar country but Montfort made an example of its lord, Hugh de Revignan. Although Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay makes no mention of the noble’s demise, the fact that Montfort massacred all the residents inside the castrum and razed it to the ground shows that he did not tolerate disloyalty. A comparison can be made to Bram a few years earlier when Montfort, in retaliation for the ghastly atrocities perpetrated by Giraud de Pépieux, made an example of the prisoners he had captured by having them mutilated.
Second, the resolve displayed by Montfort after numerous setbacks continued to serve as a testament to his unbridled ambition. He showed resilience and leadership qualities even when his men became dejected. Parallels can be drawn between Montfort’s persistence at the siege of Casseneuil and the dogged determination of Alexander the Great at the siege of Tyre in the 332 BC. Although the siege of Tyre was on a much larger scale than that of Casseneuil, Alexander’s building of a mole over half a mile of open sea in a seven-month period became a test of Alexander’s patience and fortitude while at the same displaying his superior generalship as a tactician and strategist, his indefatigability, and the formidable skills of his engineers. In the same vein, Montfort’s building of a causeway over the moat under heavy fire revealed a new level of his tenacity as well as the ingenuity of his engineers. It was a remarkable feat for both men whose leadership was an inspiration to their men.
The creativity of Montfort’s engineers at Casseneuil is comparable to the ingenuity they employed at Lavaur. Filling the underground tunnel with smoke to prevent the defenders from hindering their efforts was a brilliant move on the part of Montfort’s engineers and displayed their superior critical thinking skills over the southern forces. In no other siege did the southern engineers demonstrate the same kind of competence. At times, they were successful in foiling crusaders’ attempts to scale the walls but, in counter-siege tactics, they were often found wanting.
Montfort used the momentum gained from his victory at Casseneuil to campaign in the Périgord region before many of the forty-day crusaders returned home. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay recounts the atrocities committed in the area under the command of Bernard de Cazenac, lord of the castrum of Montfort (no relation to the crusade leader). He describes the crusaders’ discovery of one hundred fifty men and women in a Benedictine monastery in the town of Sarlat who had their eyes torn out, their hands or feet amputated and had suffered other such mutilations. He goes on to say that Bernard de Cazenac’s wife, sister of the Viscount of Turenne had the thumbs and nipples of poor women torn off. The atrocities related by Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay could have been exaggerated given his vigorous vilification of its perpetrators but should not be entirely dismissed.
The rest of the year 1214 was dedicated to pushing the boundaries of the Albigensian Crusade beyond its legal borders. Montfort repeatedly stepped out of Cathar territory in his quest for territorial aggrandizement. Seizing castra in the duchy of Aquitaine brought him into direct conflict with its suzerain King John of England. However, John’s defeat at the battle of Bouvines in July 1214 prevented him from assisting his vassals in Aquitaine, thereby facilitating Montfort’s encroachment on his territories.
The year 1215 opened with the Council of Montpellier on 8 January. Headed by the legate Peter of Benevento, the council was convened to determine the allocation of the Count of Toulouse’s territories that had not been formally assigned to anyone. The synod of bishops and archbishops deliberated for a time and settled on Monfort. Whether the decision was rigged or not is difficult to know. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay provides the only account of the Council of Montpellier and claims the prelates’ decision was unanimous. This is not surprising given his partiality. Despite the alleged unanimity of their decision, the final verdict was to be pronounced by Innocent III.
In April, Innocent confirmed the council’s decision to give Raymond’s lands to Montfort but the latter was not to hold on to them in perpetuity. The lands were entrusted to him until a final and binding decision was to be made by the ecumenical council later that year. The ambiguity of Innocent’s response may have been a sign that he was hesitant to give too much power to Montfort or Raymond VI. His lack of constant communication with the two nobles and his general unawareness of the circumstances surrounding the crusade placed Innocent in a precarious position. Giving provisional tenure of Raymond’s lands to Montfort would complicate political matters with the suzerains of the regions of Languedoc who would have to accept the homage of the latter as a vassal. The already tenuous relationship between these suzerains and Innocent may have precluded the pope’s firm decision on the matter.
Adding tension to an already dubious situation in Languedoc was the arrival of Prince Louis VIII, son of the French King Philip II Augustus. Fulfilling a vow he had made two years prior to crusade in Languedoc, Louis and his army marched to Lyon in the spring of 1215. He met with Montfort and Peter of Benevento and toured the cities of Languedoc in support of Montfort. The apprehension the legate harbored when he heard of the prince’s planned crusade was futile for once he had completed his forty days, Louis gathered his army and returned to France. Louis would one day return to Languedoc to extend the hegemony of the French Crown, building upon the extensive groundwork already laid by Montfort.
The Fourth Lateran Council
In November 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council was convened in Rome. Present were four hundred bishops, eight hundred abbots and a plethora of kings, princes and nobles from all over Europe. The Fourth Lateran was the most widely attended of all the ecumenical councils of the Middle Ages and would also prove to be one of the most significant in terms of its broad influence over events and the institutions of the period. Innocent III took advantage of the opportunity to gather momentum and support for his new crusade (the Fifth Crusade) addressed in Canon 71. Heresy was addressed and condemned by Innocent in Canon 3 when he stated “those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronize them, are excommunicated.” More importantly for the Albigensian Crusade, a principal consideration of the council surrounded the issue of the lands in Languedoc.
Several key representatives for Montfort and Raymond were present at the council to plead their case before the pope. After hearing both sides and following careful deliberation, Innocent legitimized Montfort’s claims to the lands he had acquired in Languedoc, and reinstated the crusade indulgence to root out the Cathar heresy. This act singlehandedly gave Montfort the ecclesial backing he so longed for and needed to continue pursuing his personal agenda under the guise of the crusade. The young Raymond VII, successor to the Count of Toulouse felt the pope had unjustly divested him of his patrimony and begged him to reconsider his decision. When he asked if he could count on the support of the Church if he chose to make war on Montfort, the pope was vague in his response. Once again, Innocent’s laodicean demeanor and ambiguity in dealing with the territorial issues of Languedoc and making concessions for both sides prolonged the war unnecessarily.
Under the aegis of the Church, Montfort was now bestowed with more authority than ever before. Innocent had sanctioned the territories and castra he had conquered and he spent the rest of 1215 and the beginning of 1216 consolidating his power throughout the region. To further legitimize the claim to his territories, Montfort sought the secular recognition of the King of France, Philip Augustus, in spring 1216. By paying homage to the king and by receiving as fiefs the lands he had conquered in Languedoc, Montfort now had the backing of both the Church and the French Crown. The relationship with Philip Augustus was mutually beneficial since, through his vassal, the king now possessed greater authority over Languedoc than he did as titular overlord of the myriad southern lords.
The confiscation of his territories notwithstanding, the pope still recognized the Marquisate de Provence as part of Raymond VII’s patrimony. Located in present-day eastern France and far removed from Cathar territory, the Count of Toulouse and his son traversed the Marquisate de Provence gaining support for a counter-attack against the crusaders. The towns of Marseille, Avignon and Orange welcomed the Raymonds and promised to lend financial and military assistance to the endeavor. Raymond VI left for Spain to gain more support leaving his son to foment a rebellion.
The castrum of Beaucaire became the focal point of the rebellion. As his birthplace, the residents of Beaucaire were loyal to Raymond VII but the Archbishop of Arles had granted the castrum and its surrounding territory to Montfort as a fief in 1215. As a result, lawful possession of Beaucaire had not been determined “and for that reason both sides saw it as a good test case for war to decide the issue.” Located along the Rhône, the town had a strategic advantage for Raymond VII as he could bring in additional manpower and supplies from loyal cities along the river such as Arles, Avignon and Marseille. The town of Beaucaire comprised a keep located on an outcrop overlooking the Rhône. This keep was protected from the west by a fortified tower called the Redoubt and to the south was the main town or bourgsurrounded by its own walls but separated from the keep by ditches.
A crusader garrison occupied the castle of Beaucaire but the residents of the bourg welcomed Raymond VII and his into the town on 30 May, catching the garrison unaware. When the garrison became aware of the presence of the young Raymond, the seneschal Lambert of Limoux and a group of crusaders armed themselves and rode from the keep to the town with cries of ‘Montfort! Montfort!’ Fierce combat ensued in the streets of the bourg between the crusaders and the southerners shouting ‘Toulouse! Toulouse!’ The Anonymous provides a list of some of the weapons used by the forces of Raymond VII and the residents of Beaucaire who had taken up arms against the crusaders. He mentions the use of darts, lances, stones, bolts, arrows, axes, hatchets, spears, swords, clubs and staves. The cooperation between Raymond’s men and the residents of the bourg proved effective, and bolstered by their superior numbers, they forced the crusaders back into the keep. Raymond was then able to blockade the keep by erecting barricades made of sharpened stakes to keep the crusaders from making more sorties while the boatmen cut off their access to the river below. The young count stationed his forces in the church of Santa Pasca (St. Pâque) located in the northern part of the bourg near the keep.
The southern forces then attacked the Redoubt, the lone fortified tower near the keep. Under attack from crusaders above, the southerners lit a fire whose acrid smoke caused the garrison to ask for terms. The Redoubt was thus captured and the garrison in the keep was completely surrounded by southern forces with no access to outside supplies or water. Raymond Gaucelm of Tarascon, a southern lord, suggested they build a wall punctuated with catapults to keep Montfort and his men at bay once they arrived to rescue the crusader garrison in the keep. The wall was constructed with the aid of the residents of Beaucaire and a battering ram was made to force their way into the keep.
Upon hearing the news of the occupation of Beaucaire by Raymond VII, Montfort-who was still in France at the time-gathered as many knights as he could and departed for Provence in great haste. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay states that Montfort had to gather recruits with the promise of high pay.The dire situation at Beaucaire prevented Montfort from raising a substantial army, one that was varied and versatile in its expertise. The paid mercenaries that accompanied Montfort to Beaucaire were exclusively mounted knights, with no infantry or siege engineers to round out his forces. Already in Languedoc when they heard the news, Montfort’s brother Guy and his son Amaury rode quickly to Beaucaire and reached the town before Montfort. The southerners were already actively besieging the keep but Guy de Montfort, realizing his army was much smaller than that of Raymond VII, decided not to attack.
The next day, Raymond sent messengers to the surrounding towns to recruit mercenaries to fight the crusaders. He employed a similar tactic to Montfort by promising them good pay. The craftsmen of the bourg were busy building mangonels as well building ramparts and erecting palisades and barriers.While the southern forces were busy laying siege to the crusader garrison in the keep, the northern forces under Guy and Amaury began besieging the bourg, turning the besiegers into the besieged. The crusaders built a petrary but couldn’t build additional siege engines since they lacked the necessary footsoldiers to move them into place.
The arrival of Simon de Montfort somewhat assuaged the fears of the garrison. An attempt was made by the crusaders to assault the bourg but ended in failure. The boldness and impetuosity of the crusader attack is interesting since Montfort had just arrived at Beaucaire and had made the decision to attack right away rather than conducting a proper, albeit lengthy, siege. The southern repulse of the attack also further damaged Montfort’s military reputation. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay also recounts the atrocities committed by the southerners. Some of the captured crusaders, priests or laymen, were hanged and dismembered. One crusader knight was hanged and his severed hands and feet were hurled by mangonel into the keep to demoralize the crusader garrison.
The lack of victuals and water rendered the situation desperate for the crusader garrison who were forced to eat their horses (destriers) to survive. The dearth of manpower at Montfort’s disposal precluded him from surrounding Beaucaire and from blockading the southern army inside. Reinforcements from surrounding towns loyal to Raymond VII were able to make their way into the bourg without facing the crusaders. The young count controlled the length of the Rhône, crippling Montfort’s ability to bring in supplies and men while the homogenous nature of the northern army made it impossible for the crusade leader to conduct a proper siege.
Meanwhile, Raymond’s men were progressing favorably in their endeavor. The “long, straight, sharp and shod with iron” battering ram they built was put to good use in gradually demolishing the keep’s walls. The besieged, however, made a lasso and pulled the battering ram out of the hands of the men using it. Not to be outdone, Raymond’s men proceeded to gather picks and began hewing the rock at the base of the keep, out of the garrison’s line of sight. The garrison then combined a mixture of sulfur and fire in a cloth sack and lowered it to where the southern forces were working. The smell and the flames of the mixture forced them to quickly abandon their project. This is yet another example of the inventiveness of the crusaders whose exploits can be compared to Lavaur and Casseneuil, although in this instance the crusaders were the defenders rather than the attackers.
Signals for help from the garrison impelled Montfort to attempt another assault on the bourg but from a different angle. The hand-to-hand combat was fierce between northern and southern forces but the superior numbers of southern contingents easily pushed the crusaders back into their camp. Montfort ordered yet another attack on the bourg that quickly ended like the first two with more dead crusaders and an increasingly demoralized northern army. The Anonymous is very graphic in his depiction of the aftermath of skirmishes describing “slashed off and scattered…legs, arms and feet…guts and lungs, jawbones and heads, scalps and spilled brain-matter.” At this point, the beleaguered garrison had already eaten their mules and horses and even agreed to resort to cannibalism if necessary rather than to surrender to Raymond VII. This shows the extent to which they were willing to go to preserve their honor in hopes of being rescued by Montfort. When news came that the southerners had a mostela (weasel, a mobile siege tower smaller than a cat) up against the walls of the keep, the chief engineer of the garrison poured pitch into a pot, lit it on fire and threw it against the tower causing it to instantly burst into flames.
Another attack on the bourg took place, this time with a clever ruse. Mounted crusaders were to feint an assault in order to draw out the southern forces while a contingent of infantry would secure the gate behind them thus leaving it accessible for the rest of the French army to enter the bourg. The superior numbers of southerners once again foiled Montfort’s plan when they blocked the gate the crusaders were hoping to secure. A bitter mêlée ensued further reducing crusader numbers.
This was Montfort’s fourth and final attempt to break into the bourg and rescue the garrison. Realizing the futility of holding out any longer, the men in Montfort’s council, including his brother Guy, urged him to lift the siege. A member of the garrison who had made it out of the keep further convinced him of the dire conditions they were experiencing. Without food and water for three weeks, death was close at hand. Montfort was forced to concede defeat and terms were discussed between the two camps. All the men of the garrison were freed and Montfort lifted the siege on 24 August 1216 after nearly three grueling months.
Beaucaire was noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, Beaucaire was the most successful siege of the Albigensian Crusade conducted by the southerners besides the relatively insignificant Pujol. Second, its location was far removed from Languedoc and thus out of the realm of the Cathars, making it nothing more than a personal power struggle between Raymond VII and Montfort. Third, it further blemished Montfort’s military reputation. The indomitable veteran of manifold sieges and battles had been defeated by a young-still a teenager-and mostly inexperienced military upstart. Many in Languedoc were thrilled with the young count whom they hoped “would reclaim his patrimony and drive out the hated northerners.” It also revealed the importance of diversity within an army. The lack of a strong infantry and the absence of highly experienced siege engineers such as William the Archdeacon of Paris made it nearly impossible for Montfort to exploit the unique skills of his men. The crusade leader’s impulsive attacks brought to light his, as of late, strong distaste for conducting long sieges and his decision to attack during the day shows his lack of preparation and the likelihood that he wished for a quick end to the siege. On the other hand, personal pride may have caused Montfort to draw out the siege as long as possible hoping the young count would surrender first. By remaining until the very end, he no longer had the support of his own council and lost face to Raymond.
The compare and contrast template used in this thesis can be applied to Beaucaire in regards to previous engagements. Unlike Béziers, few atrocities were committed outside the limits of conventional medieval warfare. Similar to Carcassonne, upon surrender the crusader garrison was allowed to leave unharmed but was forced to give up their horses, armor and all their equipment. Although it is not clearly stated that they left in their breeches as they did at Carcassonne, the loss of armor and horse must have been a terrible disgrace to these French knights and Raymond VII may have done this to evoke the humiliating treatment of the citizens of Carcassonne years earlier.
In a similar vein, Beaucaire recalled the southern tactics effected by Raymond VI at Castelnaudary, albeit on a smaller scale. Raymond VII built defenses to prevent the loss of manpower and was willing to use patience coupled with a steady stream of recruits as a means of wearing down the crusaders. The water supply was cut off to the garrison in a manner similar to Carcassonne and Minerve. The siege only lasted three months but the result reversed several years of hard campaigning for Montfort. In a contrast to earlier sieges, Montfort was now impetuous in dealing with his enemies. The length of sieges like Minerve and Termes seemed like an eternity but the results bore fruit. At Beaucaire, despite earlier losses at Toulouse and Pujol, Montfort appeared too sure of himself against the youthful inexperience of Raymond VII. He chose to assault the town as soon as he arrived on the scene rather than engage in the tried-and-true method of traditional siege warfare. This is puzzling as just two years earlier Montfort used his patience and cunning to successfully bring Casseneuil to its knees. Lighter siege engines, such as mangonels and petraries, were used at Beaucaire rather than the more powerful trébuchets. This is understandable as Beaucaire did not possess the same defensive properties as other castra of the region.
During the siege of Beaucaire, Pope Innocent III had died at age fifty-five. His successor Honorius III (r. 1216-1227) took up the mantle and became an ardent supporter of the crusade. Unlike his predecessor, the new pope adopted a more direct approach to the issues surrounding the crusade and continued to support Montfort’s original mission to eradicate heresy.
The shameful defeat Montfort experienced at Beaucaire pushed him to irrational behavior, causing him to make mistakes that would augur his ultimate demise. While engaged in the siege at Beaucaire, Montfort had received several messages warning him of the imminent rebellion of the Toulousains and their purported allegiance to Raymond VI. Once the debacle at Beaucaire had ended, he headed east with his army to Toulouse to contain the situation. A company of knights and chief citizens of the city rode out to meet him and to reassure him that he had been misinformed. In what can only be considered a fitful burst of cynicism and vexation, Montfort had them imprisoned in the Château Narbonnais, a strongly fortified citadel situated just beyond the walls of Toulouse. He conveniently but impetuously placed the blame for his misfortunes at Beaucaire on the citizens of Toulouse when he said: “…we shall destroy Toulouse and leave nothing good or beautiful inside it. They [the Toulousains] have robbed me of Provence and they shall pay for its recovery.” The crusader leader’s intentions were twofold. He wished to punish the citizens for their apparent disloyalty but also wished to strip them of their wealth in order to garner funds in hopes of retaking Beaucaire and even capturing Avignon. The affluence of Toulouse was a catalyst for the crusade leader’s proposed military endeavors.
Toulouse (second siege)
Montfort loosed his men upon the citizens of Toulouse who forced them to relinquish their wealth. Turning his back once more on the Toulousains invariably eradicated what little devotion they still had towards him. The extortion of their riches may have weakened their military resolve against him but winning their hearts would prove a much more favorable tactic than emptying their coffers. By his actions, Montfort eroded his own authority over the citizens rather than trying to buttress it. They put up a fierce resistance by barricading the streets but Montfort retaliated by setting fire to the city in several locations. He demanded hostages as compensation for their reprisals and, mirroring the measures taken by Louis VIII to debilitate the defensive capacities of the city, ordered the destruction of the walls and fortified towers. The Bishop of Toulouse, ironically an ardent anti-Cathar by the name of Folquet de Marseille, went so far as to suggest to Montfort that he exact thirty thousand marks from the Toulousains to appease his wrath.Montfort remained in Toulouse from September to the beginning of November after having done much damage to both his own reputation and to the citizens of Toulouse.
The beginning of the year 1217 was spent, like many others, recapturing castraand consolidating his territories. News of Montfort’s defeat at Beaucaire and of his treatment of the Toulousains hardened the opposition towards him. He was supported by the new papal legate Bertrand, a cardinal priest of St. John and St. Paul. Under the auspices of the Church and Pope Honorius III, a new wave of crusaders took up the cross in the spring and summer of 1217. For some reason, Montfort did not use these fresh recruits to return to Beaucaire. He instead chose to capture other towns around Provence. King Philip II Augustus entered the fray by sending a contingent of one hundred French knights to assist Montfort for a period of six months. What this suggests is that the king may have been compelled by the new pope to be more actively involved in the crusade. It can also be inferred that he sent these knights to the south for purely political reasons. This is demonstrated by the length of time they were to remain with Montfort, a period far longer than the forty days required to be granted an indulgence. Not only this, but now that Montfort was his devoted vassal, Philip Augustus had every reason to support the extension of the Crown into Languedoc and even into Provence.
Harboring bitter resentment towards Montfort, the Toulousains opened their gates to Raymond VII whom they recognized as the lawful Count of Toulouse. On 13 September 1217, Raymond entered the city to a shower of applause and rejoicing by its citizens. The crusaders left to tend to the city while Montfort was away on campaign were summarily slaughtered. The crusader garrison that had taken up residence in the Château Narbonnais, including Montfort’s wife Alice, sent a messenger to inform the crusade leader of the uprising.Having been apprised of the events and of the plight that awaited him in Toulouse, he mustered his forces and rode for the city in all haste.
The final siege of Toulouse was also the longest and most brutal of all the sieges of the Albigensian Crusade. The Cathar heresy that instigated the launching of the crusade many years prior was still thriving in Toulouse and in many other parts of Languedoc. Toulouse represented the last critical stronghold of the resistance and its allegiance could either make or break the authority of Montfort in the region. The arrival of Raymond VII as liberator of Toulouse indicated to the Cathars and their supporters that all their hopes of victory over Montfort were not lost. Throngs of Cathar supporters and faidits from the region rode to Toulouse to take part in the rebellion. The time of year also proved propitious for the rebels as the campaigning season was coming to a close, stripping Montfort’s army of the reinforcements he needed to effectively besiege a city the size of Toulouse. According to Laurence W. Marvin, the second siege of Toulouse exhibited every type of medieval military activity from the use of siege engines and blockades to infantry and cavalry attacks, to hand-to-hand combat and even amphibious assaults.
While the true identity and origins of the Anonymous are unknown, his partisan nature and thorough description of the final siege of Toulouse-nearly one third of the Chanson is dedicated to the details of the siege-suggests that he was a Toulousain himself and witnessed the event firsthand. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay and William of Puylaurens provide their own accounts of the siege but their narratives are less exhaustive than that of the Anonymous, signaling perhaps the reluctance of the former to discuss the crusaders’ defeat and the latter’s absence from the siege entirely.
In preparation for the imminent siege, the Toulousains began rebuilding their walls and fortifications, taking extra care to strengthen those facing the Château Narbonnais. Barricades, ditches, and galleries were built and all the citizens armed themselves with a multitude of weapons including halberds, arbalests, handbows, axes, clubs and cudgels. For those who didn’t have access to dedicated weapons, stones were gathered as substitutes. The size of the French army relative to that of the city presented Montfort with an obstacle he could not overcome. He was unable to properly surround and blockade the city and thus was helpless in removing its ability to re-supply. As evidenced in previous examples, blockading a town was one of the fundamental components to a siege’s success. The inability to do so could extend the siege indefinitely. Montfort had no other option but to concentrate his forces on one area of the city and hope to force his way in. The crusader garrison in the Château Narbonnais was of little benefit to Montfort due to the tower’s location just beyond the city walls.
Despite Bishop Folquet de Marseille’s urging to extend the privilege of sanctuary to those citizens fortunate enough to reach a church, the legate Bertrand exhorted the crusaders not to take any prisoners, but to hang the men and put the counts to death. The customary practice of taking of hostages in medieval combat was, in this case, eschewed. One may recollect the siege of Béziers at the beginning of the war and the treatment of its citizens who were offered no quarter.
Montfort arrived before the gates of Toulouse in the first week of October 1217. He chose to concentrate his forces against the Montolieu Gate on the east side of the city, near the Château Narbonnais. As soon as he arrived, he ordered an assault on the city in broad daylight. His intention may have been to use the element of surprise but his previous assaults in daylight, as attested at Beaucaire, should have prevented him from taking this risk given the size of his army. Not surprisingly, the defenders repelled the attack. The Anonymous mentions the defenders using mangonels and, in his usual vivid literary style, describes the carnage of this first assault: “How many armed knights you’d have seen there…what ribs laid bare, legs smashed and arms cut off, chests torn apart, helmets cracked open, flesh hacked, heads cut in two, what blood spilled, what severed fists…” The stain of defeat in this initial assault further diminished Montfort’s military repute in the eyes of both his men and the Toulousains.
Foucaud de Berzy, a crusader knight, suggested the building of a town near Toulouse to supply and lodge the crusaders. Given the strong possibility of an inordinately long siege, this was certainly an interesting proposition. It can be surmised that this option was also considered as a method of prolonging the siege. The building of ‘New Toulouse,’ as it was to be called, would allow the French army to live comfortably and wear out the defenders by raiding the surrounding countryside. The idea was contemplated and established as viable by Montfort and construction began on the town.
As a long-term strategy, the building of this new town was achievable. In the short-term, however, Montfort’s strategy was to divide his army and conduct two separate sieges-one positioned before the Montolieu Gate and the other to the west across the Garonne river in the Saint-Cyprien suburb to gain control of the two bridges leading into the city. As the bridges were already occupied by the defenders, the only way for the crusaders to cross the river was to travel south to Muret where a bridge had been built crossing the Garonne. The crusaders effectively occupied the Saint-Cyprien suburb but both camps were under constant missile onslaught. Realizing the detriment of dividing an already small army, Montfort decided to abandon the suburb and rejoin the other half of his forces. The decision was made to traverse the river by boat rather than wasting time crossing the bridge at Muret. In the process, Montfort nearly lost his life in the river but soon rejoined his forces on the east bank.
With his forces reunited, Montfort laid proper siege to the city. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay mentions the erection of petraries and mangonels by the defenders purposely aimed at the Château Narbonnais. The Anonymous confirms this, adding that the carpenters in Toulouse were building “fast-firing double trébuchets” that wreaked havoc upon the crusader fortification and also mentions the no-prisoners approach of the defenders, mirroring the tactics used by the crusaders.
The onslaught continued for the next few months over the winter of 1217-1218 creating a stalemate that could not be breached. Supplies were still pouring into the city as Monfort did not have enough men to surround it. Another assault on the city was attempted at dawn to end the stalemate but the crusaders were repelled with heavy losses on their side. Bishop Folquet de Marseille and Alice de Montfort traveled north to recruit crusaders from the regions of Champagne, Flanders, Normandy, Brittany, Poitou and Anjou. The arrival of French reinforcements in the spring lifted the spirits of the crusaders. Around Easter 1218, the defenders made their first assault on the crusader camp. This suggests that the defenders were perhaps weary of the stalemate or that they were growing bolder and more confident of their success. Following a savage mêlée between knights and infantry on both sides, the crusaders were able to push them back into the city, but it was clear to them that they were not the only ones willing to conduct an assault. Their strategy had to be defensive as well as offensive. Meanwhile, the Toulousains continued fortifying the city with ditches, walls, ramparts, lists and defensive crenellations.
The arrival of new recruits during the early summer months encouraged Montfort to execute the plan he had been forced to abandon a few months before. He once again divided his army-now much larger-and sent one half to occupy the suburb of Saint-Cyprien across the river. The defenders, aware of Montfort’s intentions, crossed the bridges and waited for the arrival of their enemy. Over the winter, the Toulousains had built ditches before the suburb in anticipation of a repeated assault. Reversing the failure of their previous assault, the defenders forced Montfort and the crusaders to retreat. Taking advantage of the tumult they had just caused, the defenders proceeded to batter the gates, ramparts, bastions and galleries of the Château Narbonnais. The Anonymous relates that “more than ten thousand tallied on the ropes,” implying the use of traction trébuchets rather than their counterweight brethren.
The crusaders wallowed in despair at their misfortunes but torrential rains caused the Garonne river to overflow and destroy the two bridges linking the city to the Saint-Cyprien suburb. The ditches and fortifications built by the defenders were also swept away in the deluge giving the crusaders possession of the suburb. Montfort had his men build ditches, walls and barricades to keep the Toulousains out. He also built catapults to demolish the towers on the opposing side of the river. Possession of the left bank of the Garonne gave Montfort the opportunity to bring in reinforcements from Agen.
The bridges over the Garonne had been swept away by the flood after the storm, leaving only two bridge towers standing in the middle of the river. The crusaders began battering the tower closest to the suburb that was still in the hands of the defenders. Despite sincere efforts by the Toulousains to defend it, the tower was destroyed but they still retained possession of the tower nearest the city.
Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay conjured up many of the typical atrocities committed by the southerners against the crusaders. These included cutting out the tongues of victims, gouging out their eyes, dragging them behind horses, hanging and burning, cutting them into pieces and catapulting them into the crusader camp via trébuchet, etc. Some, having millstones tied around their necks, were drowned in the river while others were simply stoned. One particularly ghastly example was made of a man named Bernard Escrivan. The southerners buried him up to his shoulders and fired arrows and stones at his head. He was then lit on fire and what was left of his charred body was fed to the dogs. As might be expected, the southerners weren’t the only ones committing atrocities. The Anonymous does not mention much in the way of crusader barbarity but it is natural to assume that both sides were guilty of grisly savagery.
Much to Montfort’s dismay, southern reinforcements arrived in Toulouse led by Sir Bernard de Cazenac. He was accompanied by a contingent of five hundred knights. What Montfort had gained by occupying Saint-Cyprien wasn’t enough to force the surrender of the city proper. The defenders still outnumbered the attackers and additional southern military support was being added all the while. To counteract this, Montfort took a company of knights and began raiding the countryside around Toulouse on 2 June 1218. Skirmishes ensued when the Toulousains tried to stop them but they were pushed back with heavy losses.
Weary of the siege and anxious to pay the mercenaries he had hired who had threatened to leave, Montfort consulted his advisors and told them he was building an enormous cat with the “platforms, sides, beams and rafters, the gateway, vaulting, chain and framework…all reinforced with iron and steel.” The cat was to be manned by four hundred knights and one hundred fifty archers, and pushed to the ditch in front of the city. Even more impressive than the siege tower at Casseneuil, this cat must have been immense given the number of men it could hold. Undoubtedly, Montfort recognized this as the only possible way to end the siege quickly after a stalemate lasting several months.
The crusaders were overjoyed when the Count of Soissons, Ralph de Nesle, arrived to help them with a sizeable contingent, instilling fear in the hearts of the Toulousains. However, their own fears were assuaged by the arrival of Raymond VII. Unable to restrain the influx of southern reinforcements by land, Montfort tried to cut off the city’s supply from the river. The closest bridge tower was still occupied by the Toulousains giving them control over most the river, and thus control of the tower was necessary for the crusaders to secure their side of the bank and form a beachhead on the opposite side from which they could attack the city directly. A small naval battle between the French and southerners took place with the former finally gaining control of the tower. However, its proximity to the Toulousain side of the bank made it an easy target for southern mangonels. The crusaders abandoned the tower and burned it, leaving the Toulousains in command of the Garonne once more.
Taking advantage of their command over the river, one hundred sixty-three defenders sortied, crossed the river and attacked the crusader camp. Many died on both sides but the crusaders were successful in repelling the attack. It also proved the audacity and fearlessness of the defenders, and perhaps their willingness to end a siege that had already lasted eight months.
Reaching the end of their wits, the members of Montfort’s council tried to convince him to lift the siege since they had grasped the futility of their actions over the last eight months. The French army was still too small despite the arrival of the Count of Soissons and his men. They had no access to supplies from the river and Toulouse was still able to receive supplies and men both by land and water. At the urging of the legate Bertrand and perhaps due to his personal pride, Montfort did not even consider lifting the siege an option.
Construction of the cat now complete, Montfort had it loaded with men and helped push it to the ditch facing the Montolieu Gate. A trébuchet missile was launched over the walls of the city and struck the upper section of the cat, damaging the hides that prevented it from catching fire. The crusaders turned the cat around and began moving it out of range to repair it but another blow from the siege engine shattered the rear section killing many men inside. The men pushing it quickly scattered to safety while Montfort was left to push the cat alone. Although the Anonymous does not divulge details, Montfort’s orders to his men to help him push the cat to safety must have been obeyed and the engine was saved.
The Toulousains began building stronger fortifications at the Montolieu Gate to impede the crusaders’ success. Under heavy fire from French mangonels and arrows that claimed many lives, the defenders finished their fortifications.A second attempt was made by the crusaders to bring the repaired cat up to the walls of the city. Stones from the defenders pelted the cat, causing pieces to fly off and kill more of the men inside. The assault was aborted once again and the crusaders returned to their camp pushing the damaged cat. The members of the council of Toulouse met to discuss a strategy to defeat the cat. Roger Bernard, the Count of Comminges, suggested a sortie to set fire to the cat. The suggestion was taken into consideration and followed as the best course of action. The defenders, including knights and mercenaries, prepared for the assault overnight, gathering weapons and strengthening garrisons around the attack point.
Bernard de Cazenac advised the defenders on how to kill the crusaders. Since the French wore double armor, he instructed them to strike repeatedly at the backs of their knees where their legs were only covered with hose. The signal was given to begin the assault early in the morning of 25 June 1218 when most of the crusaders were sleeping while others were attending mass. The Toulousain force was divided into two contingents, one to attack those guarding the cat and the other to distract the rest of the crusaders at another location. Montfort was attending mass when he received word that his men were under attack. The tradition of practicing religious rites-communion, confession, mass-was customary for combatants prior to engaging in battle but his insistence on staying until mass was finished may reveal his indifference to the plight of his men. As Laurence W. Marvin states: “The accumulated stress of years of combat, frustration, triumph soured by betrayal, and anxiety about money had begun to catch up with the chief crusader. He appeared to be fast losing his ability as commander.” From his reaction, it can be surmised that Montfort may have known he was going to die that day. Attending mass until the end in spite of the raging battle taking place outside was perhaps his way of showing God appreciation for the life he had lived. Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay recounts the crusade leader having prayed: “Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”William of Puylaurens affirms Montfort’s disconsolate disposition when he claims Monfort was “worn out by his labours, despondent and weakened and exhausted by the drain on his resources.” Once mass had ended, Montfort rushed out with his retinue to confront the enemy.
The fighting was fierce. Initially repelled, the Toulousains mustered their forces and stood firm fighting with great resolve, protected by the onslaught of siege engine missiles that rained down on the French. Montfort and his retinue ran to protect the crusader siege engines from being destroyed. In the fray, Guy de Montfort’s warhorse was struck in the head by a crossbow bolt. When the horse turned, another bolt hit Guy directly in the groin. He rode to his brother and still equipped with a dark sense of humor, exclaimed: “This wound will make me an [sic] Hospitaller!”
While he was talking to his brother, Simon de Montfort was struck directly in the head by a stone launched from a mangonel behind the city walls “shattering his eyes, brains, back teeth, forehead and jaw.” The Anonymous claims noblewomen, girls and married women operated the siege engine-proving the extent to which every Toulousain was actively involved in the siege. The wound was lethal and the crusade leader died almost immediately. The men nearby covered him with a blue cape so as to not reveal his identity to those fighting but the word quickly spread to the crusader camp and into the city. The Toulousains rejoiced and rang the church bells while the crusaders panicked and abandoned the siege leaving behind their beasts, tents, armor and money. Others fled for the safety of Château Narbonnais. The defenders sortied and looted the abandoned crusader camp while setting fire to the cat.
Montfort’s council met in Château Narbonnais to discuss their options. The legate Bertrand suggested transferring leadership to Montfort’s son, Amaury de Montfort. The council agreed and Amaury became the new crusade leader. The young Montfort, although competent, “had Simon’s courage and resourcefulness, but none of his personal charisma and, more significantly perhaps, none of his fanatical self-rightenousness.” The crusaders remained within the walls of the Château Narbonnais for another four days. Soon after, they made a final attempt to assault the city at the Montolieu Gate by sending carts full of flammables rushing towards the gate. A mounted charge was then undertaken to enter the city but the defenders repelled it. None of the sources mention a reason for this attempted assault. Given their failure to take the city in a siege lasting nearly ten months, it may have been a last ditch effort to break the will of the Toulousains. This failure represented the final straw for many of the council members including Guy de Montfort. The siege was lifted on 25 July 1218 and the weary crusaders returned to Carcassonne where they buried the remains of Simon de Montfort in the cathedral of St. Nazaire.
The ten-month siege of Toulouse lasted longer than any siege of the Albigensian Crusade. The complexities of the second siege of Toulouse can be aptly compared and contrasted to the sieges of the previous nine years. Toulouse, like Carcassonne, offered no real topographical challenges for Montfort to overcome. The city was not nestled high in the mountains and thus its accessibility was a boon to Montfort. However, its location did not render it vulnerable; quite the contrary, it was a heavily fortified and well-defended city despite the dismantling of its walls, and Montfort had never forgotten his first failed siege in 1211.
The atrocities committed during the engagement were akin to many that had occurred previously and were potent examples of the increasingly savage nature of medieval warfare. The gruesome death of Bernard Escrivan can attest to the brutal creativity used to end someone’s life in the most agonizing way possible. Notwithstanding the events at Béziers in 1209, it appears as though participants in the war found more imaginative methods of killing the enemy as time progressed. This may be attributed to the strenuous psychological demands of incessant hostilities over nine years.
The similarity between the papal legate’s instructions at Béziers and Toulouse are striking. At Béziers, Arnald-Amaury ordered the death of all the inhabitants of the city, disregarding the fact that many of them were good Catholics. At Toulouse, the legate Bertrand did much the same thing despite the admonitions of the city’s Catholic bishop. Bertrand’s orders can be considered more justifiable that those of Arnald-Amaury. After nine years of war and the antagonism displayed by the Toulousains, his decision should come as little surprise. What is puzzling is Arnald-Amaury’s directive, given that Béziers was the first siege of the crusade and that its inhabitants had done little to provoke the crusaders’ fury. The sources do not provide much in the way of an explanation but it is evident that the papal legates abhorred the southerners to such a point that they lumped Catholics in with heretics and ordered their destruction.
The logistics of a proper blockade required, as previously mentioned, the encircling of a castrum to cut it off from supplies and severing the defenders’ access to water. Like at Beaucaire, at the siege of Toulouse Montfort was unable to blockade the entire city due to the lack of men and was incapable of gaining control of the Garonne river. Like at Carcassonne, acquisition of the bourg or suburb was an important means of gaining access to the city but in the case of Toulouse, the difference was minimal. The crusaders eventually captured the suburb but were denied access to the city after the destruction of the final bridge over the river. Unable to prevent southern recruits from entering Toulouse and with no hopes of barricading the river, Montfort could not forestall the crusaders’ declining morale and was forced to find another solution.
The solution was found in the building of a large cat, similar to the one at Casseneuil, albeit on a much larger scale. The sources mention the building of several siege towers during the crusade but the ones at Casseneuil and at the second siege of Toulouse are described in greater detail, giving the impression that they were indeed marvels of medieval martial engineering. The cats at Casseneuil and Toulouse were built with similar materials, but the latter was outfitted with metal plates rather than just oxhides, making it less vulnerable. Petraries, mangonels and trébuchets were all used at Toulouse just as they had been in previous sieges but it was the commissioning of unique cats that set Casseneuil and Toulouse apart from other sieges.
Montfort repeated the fateful mistake of the first siege of Toulouse. Instead of allying himself with the citizens, Montfort chastised them and blamed them for his loss at Beaucaire. Curiously, the crusade leader did not learn from his previous error in dealing with the strong-willed and independent Toulousains. Had he gained their loyalty, there is a strong chance he would have acquired the seat of power in Languedoc, dethroning Raymond VI and his son forever.
A final similarity can be drawn between the sieges of Beaucaire and Toulouse when, faced with little hope, the members of Montfort’s council exhorted him to abandon the siege. In both instances, Montfort adamantly refused, perhaps owing to his remarkable tenacity but also to his sense of personal pride that, although languishing, was not yet crushed. Montfort finally relented at Beaucaire and lifted the siege. Would he have done the same thing at Toulouse had his life not been cut short? Given the exasperating conditions he and his men had already endured for nine months, this is a strong possibility. It is a testament, however, to Monfort’s newfound patience. The patience he exhibited in the first two years of the crusade had waned considerably as the war progressed but the first siege of Toulouse must have been such a humiliating experience that he may have vowed never to abandon the second siege if he were ever offered the opportunity. It cannot be known whether or when Montfort would have abandoned all hope of ever taking the city, but it was clear that his imperturbability and patience were phenomenal for a man who had already endured so much.
With the death of Simon de Montfort in 1218, the Albigensian Crusade changed direction, paving the way for the domination of the French Crown in Languedoc. On 30 July 1218, Pope Honorius III released a papal bull reinstating the crusade indulgence to those who wished to fight heresy in Languedoc.The pope urged Louis VIII to continue crusading in the region and the prince took up the cross once more on 20 November of that same year. For the next ten years, the crusade continued on its military and political course until Raymond VII, under royal pressure, ceded his rights to the Crown by signing the Treaty of Paris in 1229. According to the terms of the treaty, Raymond was permitted to keep his titles and lands for the remainder of his life but his daughter Jeanne and her husband Alphonse of Artois-King Louis IX’s brother-would inherit these territories upon his death. If they failed to produce an heir, the lands of the Count of Toulouse would escheat to the French Crown in perpetuity. The couple died childless in 1271 bringing the entire region of Languedoc under French control. The Treaty of Paris effectively ended the Albigensian Crusade. After two decades of ceaseless conflict and bloodshed, Languedoc had unwittingly become a part of France, extending the king’s hegemony to the Mediterranean Sea and the borders of Spain and Italy.
The Albigensian Crusade never fully achieved its purpose of eradicating the Cathar heresy from Languedoc. Instead, numerous unintended consequences permeated Innocent III’s crusade between 1209 and 1218. Simon de Montfort began as a French crusader whose sincere intentions were to expel the heretics from Languedoc or to simply eliminate them entirely. When he was chosen as leader of the crusade following the capitulation of Carcassonne in 1209, he used his newfound power to carry the torch of Christendom deeper into Languedoc. The initial success he experienced in the early stages of the crusade acted as an impetus to further his military and political authority. Following a string of victories thanks to the submission of numerous castra around the region, Montfort began to lose focus of the original aim of the crusade in Languedoc. Despite this, the crusade leader still had the support of the Church to pursue his personal goals because for heresy to be extinguished, the Church and nobles realized that control of southern territory needed to rest with orthodox rulers.
The physical distance between Rome and Languedoc and the concomitant ineffective means of communication relegated Innocent III to the status of a bystander during the final years of his life. His focus on the major crusades to the Levant prevented him from devoting his full attention and the resources at his disposal to the Albigensian Crusade. The heresy of Languedoc had devolved into a mere nuisance while the retaking of Jerusalem became his life’s ambition. Innocent’s typical ambivalence when confronted with political issues of the Albigensian Crusade gave its participants the leverage they needed to act according to their own freewill. The pope’s gradual lackadaisical approach to the crusade not only protracted the struggle, but caused it to veer off course. Ironically, the power the pope bestowed on Montfort as his champion in Languedoc was corrupted and was shifted into fulfilling the crusade leader’s personal ambitions.
Following the Treaty of Paris that formally ended the crusade, the Catholic Church was still faced with the problem of ridding the south of heresy. This task fell to Pope Gregory IX (r. 1227-1241) who instituted the Inquisition led by the Dominican Order. Beginning in 1233, inquisitors were sent under the auspices of the Catholic Church to root out heretics in the cities of Languedoc. The inquisitors were given vast powers to stamp out heresy by any means they deemed necessary. Pope Innocent IV (r. 1243-1254) issued a bull in 1252 giving the inquisitors the power to torture those from whom they sought to extract a confession. The years of military conflict were “conceived as a broadsword when a surgeon’s scalpel would have been more useful.” As a tool of the Church, the Inquisition proved efficacious in convincing Cathars believers to denounce one another in order to draw out the Perfects. This is a fascinating illustration of how such a simple and non-violent means of excising heresy from Languedoc was performed so methodically and proficiently by small bands of unarmed but persuasive inquisitors.
By 1244, the unassailable castrum of Montségur-called the ‘Synagogue of Satan’ by Catholic clergy-was left standing as the final stronghold of Catharism. Its occupants had come from all over Languedoc seeking refuge behind the walls of the mighty fortress. After a nine-month siege, the defenders surrendered and two hundred heretics were burned alive. Small remnants of Cathars roamed the southern countryside in search of refuge but they found little as the French had captured all the castra of Languedoc and its population of Cathars were sentenced by inquisitors to recant or to embrace the flames. By the first quarter of the fourteenth century, Catharism had been extinguished and Catholicism extended its influence throughout Languedoc.
The nature of the Albigensian Crusade between 1209 and 1218 reveal a set of military challenges for the crusader army that was often difficult to overcome. From the opening siege of Béziers in 1209 to the final assault on Toulouse in 1218, the French forces and their leader Simon de Montfort were plagued by logistical difficulties in pursuing war in a hostile environment. The cultural disparity between Languedoc and France added to the alienation the French experienced when trying to interact with and subdue the southerners, but Montfort was determined to “impose rigorous feudal order in a region that never knew it.” Montfort usually succeeded in capturing castra in the region but the disloyalty of the local populations haunted him, and for good reason. Fiercely independent and unwilling to pledge allegiance to an invading northerner, the southern locals were notorious for shifting their loyalties according to which party would serve them best. The constant ebb and flow that characterized the Albigensian Crusade revolved around the capture and recapture of castra that could have prolonged the crusade indefinitely.
Montfort was perpetually forced to contend with and adapt to sporadic reinforcements arriving from the north for their forty-day stint. Many of the sieges he conducted lasted longer than forty days but there was little he could do but ask for monetary aid from the pope or convince these temporary crusaders to remain with him by promising financial gain, usually dispensed from his own pocket. The forty-day indulgence applied to the Albigensian Crusade by Innocent III was perhaps one of his biggest mistakes. Presumably, the pope had little knowledge of the challenges inherent in medieval warfare and may well have been ignorant of the problems associated with coordinating military campaigns in Languedoc. To grant a papal indulgence for a mere forty-days of military service imposed severe restrictions on Montfort’s ability to conduct rapid martial operations throughout the region. It also prolonged the crusade because fresh reinforcements were always available and kept streaming south. Would Montfort have been more successful with a standing army of veterans? This most likely would have been the case. Dealing with an inconsistent army both qualitatively and quantitatively left Montfort at the mercy of the pope’s decrees. The forty-day service worked to the southerners’ advantage even after the death of Montfort in 1218. Indeed, after nine years of war the crusading armies continued to be populated by temporary crusaders who wished only to fulfill the minimum to receive their indulgence.
Despite the setbacks faced by Monfort and the crusaders, their military experience carried them through a string of victories between 1209 and 1218. They traversed the countryside accepting the surrender of numerous castra by virtue of their reputation alone. The militarily unseasoned southern lords and armies, and the constant indisposition of Raymond VI to face Montfort in battle, made it easy for the crusade leader to aggrandize his territory and assert his authority over large swaths of Languedoc. The charisma and magnetism of Montfort contrasted sharply with the diffident character of Raymond VI. Although the combined armies of Languedoc were much larger than any crusading army, their lack of tactical and strategic abilities as well as their policy of non-confrontation contributed to Montfort’s achievements. On the rare occasions that the southerners fomented counter-attacks, their indecision and inexperience was deleterious to their success.
It was only after several years of constant warfare that Montfort’s reputation began to tarnish as a result of several failed sieges. Pujol was a minor affair but losses at Toulouse and Beaucaire were a devastating blow to his name and would engender another counter-attack that would end up claiming his life. Montfort’s tenacity was commendable given the parlous circumstances he had to endure but it was this tenacity that played a part in undermining his own reputation. At Beaucaire, Montfort failed several assaults but had no desire to surrender even at the behest of his council members. The first siege of Toulouse in 1211 was an embarrassing occurrence for Montfort given his conquest of Lavaur earlier that year, but his repute was quickly restored with a string of victories in the years following. It was the second siege of Toulouse in 1217-1218 that really displayed both Montfort’s resilience and his stubborn nature. After months of stalemate and unable to adequately blockade the city or gain control of the Garonne river, Montfort was still unwilling to lift the siege despite the pleas of his council members. Had his death not precipitated the surrender of the crusaders a month later, it is hard to know how long the siege would have lasted had he lived.
The atrocities committed by both sides were a tragic byproduct of the Albigensian Crusade. The burning of heretics can be understood only in the sense that the crusade’s original intent was to eradicate heresy. It was the scores of unwarranted atrocities perpetrated by both the southerners and the crusaders that mustn’t be forgotten. As an unfortunate constituent of medieval combat, atrocities were an efficient psychological and moral means of conducting warfare. But they were also a purely vindictive endeavor: “For Montfort, killing…may have seemed the only way of gaining revenge upon an enemy that would not confront the crusaders directly. For the crusaders, heretics and their defenders evidently fell into the same category as ‘Sacaracens’…” Descriptions abound in the primary sources of the savagery inflicted on countless victims that included gouged eyes, the cutting of noses and lips and the severing of limbs, among others. The siege of Béziers in 1209 was a particularly notorious illustration of barbarity against men, women and children. This was all the more shocking as it happened in the initial stages of the crusade and would taint the rest of the movement with infamy. Disloyal nobles would often suffer deaths not usually attributed to a member of their status-the most prominent examples were at Lavaur in 1211 when Montfort had Aimeric de Montréal hung rather than beheaded and his sister de Giralda de Laurac thrown into a well and stoned from above. The atrocities committed during the Albigensian Crusade can attest to the sheer brutality of medieval warfare.
The Albigensian Crusade has become an archetype of siege warfare. Indeed, the profusion of sieges punctuated by a handful of field battles during the crusade defined the very notion of medieval warfare in the High Middle Ages. The numerous castra that populated the countryside of Languedoc gave Montfort ample opportunities to perfect his siege techniques and he put these to good use at Minerve, Termes, Lavaur, and Casseneuil. The fact that all of these are still standing today-although some are derelict-is a testament to the longevity and durability of medieval architecture. The besieged southern forces defended their castra vigorously but were often forced to surrender due to lack of water and supplies, successful assaults by the crusaders, and the constant bombardment of their walls by siege engines. All these factors comprised the formula for a successful siege. Montfort’s reputation often lent him a great advantage as many castra surrendered before a siege even began. The catapults, petraries, mangonels and trébuchets used by both sides during the war were an essential component of the armies and their proper operation and maintenance required the capable skills of builders and engineers. The cats used by the crusaders at Casseneuil in 1214 and at the last siege of Toulouse in 1217-1218 reveal the ingenuity of medieval engineers in constructing powerful war machines under the constant threat of destruction by the enemy.
Although field battles were few during the Albigensian Crusade, their occurrence was instrumental to its development. The battle of Saint-Martin-la-Lande in 1211 exposed the boldness of the southern forces against the superior northern army. Of course, the battle of Muret in 1213 was integral in solidifying Montfort’s martial reputation and for giving him unprecedented freedom to orchestrate further attacks deeper into Languedoc. The coalition forces of King Peter II of Aragon and the southern lords were decimated and the loss of the king put Aragon out of the game while forcing the southern lords to reconsider any possibility of another counter-attack. The decisive field battle at Muret happened to be the only major land engagement of the Albigensian Crusade but it was broad in scope and in the extent of its influence over the rest of the crusade.
This thesis has been an attempt to analyze the Albigensian Crusade from a military perspective between 1209 and 1218. Through a careful narrative of the first nine years of the crusade and a comparison of the numerous aspects associated with them, the purpose has been to move beyond a simple exposé of the military operations of the crusader army under Simon IV de Montfort against Count Raymond VII of Toulouse and the southern lords of Languedoc. In effect, it is the unique similarities and contrasts of the various conflicts populating the crusade that reveal the persistent perils both sides were forced to contend with over a nine-year period. The manifold sieges against the fortified castrathroughout the region offer compelling evidence of a brutal and painstaking war that often resulted in much bloodshed on both sides. The various strategies and tactics employed by Montfort reveal a commander of great intellect and charisma coupled with unerring resolve. They also bring to light a shrewd leader whose intentions shifted from a desire to serve the Catholic Church by effacing the Cathar heresy to acquiring political and military control of Languedoc through a process of brutal land seizure.
The Albigensian Crusade was, like all other crusades of the High Middle Ages, a series of campaigns waged in the name of God against the enemies of Christendom. The Cathar heresy that ignited the flame of crusading zeal within the hearts of devout Christians was simply a paradigm of religious intolerance that fit the mold of the medieval mindset. The Cathars were, despite their close doctrinal correlation with Catholicism, akin to the Muslims in their theological errancy according to the Catholic Church. Because of their beliefs, and to a lesser extent their culture, Cathars were hunted down and burned by the hundreds. The threat they posed to Catholics was aggravated by their location in the heart of Christendom. The Counts of Toulouse and the southern lords who turned a blind eye to the Cathar presence in their lands incited the fury of the Church and the papal hammer came crashing down on Languedoc in 1208 after decades of empty threats.
After the Albigensian Crusade, Languedoc would never be the same. Its vibrant and rich culture melding Italian, Provençal and Spanish influences was overtaken by the rigid, austere and militaristic culture of northern France. The French kings of the thirteenth century established their authority in the region thanks to the efforts laid by Simon de Montfort and his crusading armies. The fragments that remain of this once brilliant civilization and of the Cathar heresy that permeated it can still be seen in the battered walls of the castra around present-day southern France. From these walls emanates the history of a ruthless conflict over religious differences and the story of the thousands who died fighting for their lands, their lives, and their beliefs in the Albigensian Crusade.
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TIMELINE OF THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE
1208 Murder of papal legate Peter of Castelnau
– Pope Innocent III calls the Albigensian Crusade
1209 Siege of Béziers
– Siege of Carcassonne
– Simon IV de Montfort is elected leader of the crusade following siege of Carcassonne
1210 Siege of Bram
– Siege of Minerve
– Siege of Termes
1211 Siege of Lavaur
– First siege of Toulouse
– Siege of Castelnaudary
– Battle of Saint-Martin-la-Lande
1213 Siege of Pujol
– Battle of Muret
1214 Siege of Casseneuil
1215 Prince Louis VIII embarks on his first tour of Languedoc
– Fourth Lateran Council held in Rome
1216 Siege of Beaucaire
– Death of Pope Innocent III and election of his successor Honorius III
1217 Second siege of Toulouse begins
1218 Death of Simon IV de Montfort and end of siege of Toulouse
– Prince Louis VIII embarks on his second tour of Languedoc
1229 Treaty of Paris ends the Albigensian Crusade
1233 Inquisition is sent forth by Pope Gregory IX to uproot Catharism in Languedoc
1244 Siege and fall of Montségur, the final stronghold of Catharism in Languedoc
 J.M. Roberts, A Short History of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 211.
 Christopher Tyerman, Fighting for Christendom: Holy War and the Crusades(New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2004), 204-05.
 Maurice Keen, ed. Medieval Warfare: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 118.
 Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, The History of the Albigensian Crusade, trans. W. A. Sibly and M. D. Sibly (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 1998), 6, #4.
 Tyerman, 67.
 Jonathan Sumption, The Albigensian Crusade (New York: Faber and Faber, 1978), 235.
 Thomas F. Madden, A Concise History of the Crusades (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1999), 127.
 Joseph R. Strayer, The Albigensian Crusades (Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 1971), 9.
 Norman Tanner, et al., ed. and trans., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils(Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990), 1, 224, Canon 27.
 Roberts, 236-37.
 Madden, 128.
 Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar H. McNeal, eds, A Source Book for Medieval History: Selected Documents for Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Ages (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), 211.
 Strayer, 199.
 William of Puylaurens, The Chronicle of William of Puylaurens, trans. W. A. Sibly and M. D. Sibly (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2003), 25, VIII.
 Madden, 129.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 56, #104.
 Zoé Oldenbourg, Massacre at Montségur: A History of the Albigensian Crusade (New Haven: Phoenix Press, 2001), 134.
 Jonathan Riley-Smith, ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades(New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1995), 64.
 Laurence W. Marvin, “War in the South: A First Look at Siege Warfare in the Albigensian Crusade, 1209-1218,” War in History, 8:4 (2001): 373-74.
 Mark Gregory Pegg, A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), xiv.
 Malcolm Barber, “The Albigensian Crusades: Wars Like Any Other?” in Dei gesta per Francos: Etudes sur les croisades déditées a Jean Richard, eds. Michel Balard et al. (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001), 44-55.
 Laurence W. Marvin, The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209-1218 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), xiv.
 Strayer, 264.
 Sumption, 256.
 Marvin, 24.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, xix.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, xxviii.
 Puylaurens, xvi.
 Ibid., 7.
 William of Tudela, The Song of the Cathar Wars: A History of the Albigensian Crusade, trans. Janet Shirley (Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2000), 4.
 Tudela, 1.
 M. Cary and H. H. Scullard, A History of Rome: Down to the Reign of Constantine, 3rd ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1975), 552-56.
 Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010), 83 and 138.
 Roberts, 177.
 Morris Bishop, The Middle Ages (New York: American Heritage, Inc., 1968), 245.
 Roberts, 228.
 John Bowker, ed., The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 249.
 Cary and Scullard, 537-38.
 Peter Haidu, Text and Governance in the Middle Ages (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2004), 14.
 Vesey Norman, The Medieval Soldier (South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2006), 121.
 Thatcher and McNeal, 361-62.
 Cary and Scullard, 558.
 Roberts, 212-13.
 Thatcher and McNeal, 136.
 Jean-Pierre Bagot, Mémoire du Christianisme (Paris: Larousse, 1999), 138. All sections from Bagot paraphrased from French by author.
 Sumption, 66-67.
 Oldenbourg, 87.
 Angus Konstam, Historical Atlas of the Crusades (London: Mercury Books, 2004), 36.
 Phyllis G. Jestice, The Timeline of Medieval Warfare: The Ultimate Guide to Battle in the Middle Ages (San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2008), 22-23.
 Christopher Gravett, Medieval Siege Warfare (London: Reed International Books Ltd., 1990), 4.
 Kelly DeVries, Medieval Military Technology (New York: Broadview Press, 1992), 217.
 Marcus Cowper, Cathar Castles: Fortresses of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209-1300 (New York: Osprey Publishing, Ltd., 2006), 12-14.
 Dennis E. Showalter, “Caste, Skill and Training: The Evolution of Cohesion in European Armies from the Middle Ages to the Sixteenth Century,” Journal of Military History, Vol. 57, Issue 3 (July 1993): 107.
 Keen, 254.
 Sean McGlynn, By Sword and Fire: Cruelty and Atrocity in Medieval Warfare(London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008), 177.
 Brian Todd Carey, Warfare in the Medieval World (South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2006), 148.
 Nicholas Hooper and Matthew Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas: Warfare, The Middle Ages, 768-1487 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 157.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 299, Appendix D.
 Philippe Contamine, War in the Middle Ages, trans. Michael Jones (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1984), 100.
 Maurice Keen, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965), 8.
 Hooper and Bennett, 168.
 McGlynn, 79.
 Ibid., 169.
 McGlynn, 65.
 Thatcher and McNeal, 519, (excerpt of Pope Urban II’s speech at the Council of Clermont in 1095 as recorded by Robert the Monk).
 Madden, 1.
 Fulcher of Chartres, The First Crusade: The Chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres and Other Source Materials, 2nd ed., ed. Edward Peters (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), 153.
 Robert Payne, The Dream and the Tomb: A History of the Crusades (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000), 17.
 Strayer, 45-46.
 Edward Peters, ed., Christian Society and the Crusades: 1198-1229(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc., 1971), x.
 Riley-Smith, 5.
 Cowper, 4.
 Ibid., 5.
 Cowper, 5-6.
 Strayer, 10.
 Sumption, 53.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 12, #13.
 Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, eds., Heresies of the high Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 233.
 Bagot, 160.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 12-13, #13.
 Cowper, 8.
 Strayer, 223-24.
 Cowper, 8.
 Strayer, 34.
 Sean Martin, The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages(New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2004), 44.
 Michael Costen, The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1997), 110.
 Oldenbourg, 5.
 Norman, 173.
 Sumption, 68.
 Sumption, 15.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 45, #81.
 Tudela, 17, laisse 13.
 Sumption, 86.
 William the Breton, Gesta Philippi Augusti, Oeuvres de Rigord et de Guillaume le Breton, ed. François Delaborde (Paris: Librairie Renouard, 1882), 258.
 Strayer, 53.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 48, #83.
 Marvin, 37-38.
 Puylaurens, 127, Appendix A.
 Marvin, 39-40.
 Tudela, 20, laisse 19.
 Tudela, 20, laisse 19.
 Cowper, 40.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 51, #91.
 Puylaurens, 128, Appendix A.
 McGlynn, 176.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 49, #85.
 Tudela, 20, laisse 19.
 Marvin, 45.
 Marvin, 46-47.
 Cowper, 11. Bourgs were settlements that were added to the exterior of fortifications.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 52, #94.
 Ibid., 52, #95.
 Tudela, 23, laisse 25.
 Gravett, 22.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 53, #96.
 Tudela, 23, laisse 25.
 Jim Bradbury, The Medieval Siege (New York: The Boydell Press, 1992), 252-258.
 Hooper and Bennett, 162.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 53, #96.
 Tudela, 25, laisse 30.
 Contamine, 102.
 Tudela, 24, laisse 29.
 Ibid., 25, laisse 30.
 Ibid., 23, laisse 25.
 Ibid., 26, laisse 32.
 Puylaurens, 34, XIV.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 54, # 98.
 Tudela, 29, laisse 40.
 Roger of Wendover, Flowers of History, ed. and trans. J.A. Giles (Lampeter, UK: Llanerch Publishers, 1996), ii, 281.
 Marvin, 53.
 Tudela, 27, laisse 35.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 56, #104.
 Madden, 99.
 Bradbury, 193.
 Donald E. Queller and Thomas F. Madden, The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 74.
 Marvin, 57.
 Marvin, 57-58.
 Tudela, 27-28, laisse 36.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 74, #136.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 70, #126-7; Tudela, 30, laisse 41.
 Marvin, 73.
 Bradbury, 132.
 George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, trans. Joan Hussey (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1969), 310.
 Marvin, 76-78.
 Tudela, 33, laisse 49; Vaux-de-Cernay, 82, #152.
 Ibid., 33, laisse 48.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 83, #152.
 Bradbury, 259-265.
 Contamine, 103.
 Gravett, 25.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 83, #153.
 Cowper, 44.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 85, #156.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 79, #142.
 Cowper, 44-45.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 90, #168.
 Ibid., 92, #173.
 Ibid., 92, #174.
 Tudela, 36, laisse 56.
 Marvin, 92.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 93, #175.
 Tudela, 37, laisse 57.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 97, #183; Tudela, 37, laisse 57.
 Tudela, 39, laisse 60.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 108, footnote 38.
 Marvin, 95-96.
 Ibid., 98.
 Cowper, 47.
 Tudela, 41, laisse 68; Puylaurens, 40, XVI; Vaux-de-Cernay, 111, #215.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 112, #216.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 115-116, #224-25.
 Puylaurens, 40, XVI; Vaux-de-Cernay, 117, #227; Tudela, 41, laisse 68.
 Tudela, 42, laisse 71; Puylaurens, 40, XVI.
 Tudela, 42, laisse 69.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 119, #231.
 Marvin, 111-112.
 Tudela, 46, laisse 81; Puylaurens, 42, XVII.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 125, #245.
 Joseph de Malafosse, “Le Siége de Toulouse par Simon de Montfort,” Revue des Pyrenees 4 (1892): 514. Paraphrased from French by author.
 Tudela, 50, laisse 92.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 131-32, #257.
 Ibid., 133, #261.
 Tudela, 51, laisse 92.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 133, #261.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 140, #279; Puylaurens, 43, XVIII.
 Tudela, 54-55, laisse 106.
 Oldenbourg, 392.
 Marvin, 131.
 Marvin, 141.
 Oldenbourg, 392.
 Tudela, 61, laisse 121.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 163, #344.
 Tudela, 61, laisse 121; Vaux-de-Cernay, 162-63, #343.
 McGlynn, 75.
 Marvin, 151.
 Jestice, 163-165.
 Peter Reid, A Brief History of Medieval Warfare: The Rise and Fall of English Supremacy at Arms, 1314-1485 (Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 2008), 324.
 Marvin, 164.
 Konstam, 172.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 194, #422.
 Sumption, 161.
 Puylaurens, 44-45, XIX.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 198, #435.
 Tudela, 64, laisse 130. At this point William of Tudela’s account in The Song of the Cathar Wars ends, leaving the rest to the Anonymous, a thoroughly pro-Languedoc partisan.
 Puylaurens, 45, XX; Vaux-de-Cernay, 203, #447.
 Puylaurens, 45, XX; Vaux-de-Cernay, 203, #446-47.
 Anonymous, 68, laisse 135; Vaux-de-Cernay, 204, #448.
 Marvin, 177.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 204, #448.
 Anonymous, 69, laisse 137.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 205-06, #450-51.
 Puylaurens, 46, XX; Vaux-de-Cernay, 207, #456.
 Anonymous, 70, laisse 139; Puylaurens, 47-48, XXI.
 Gesta Comitum Barcinonensium, eds. L. Barrau Dihigo and J. Massó Torrents (Barcelona: Institut d’Estudis Catalans, 1925), 54.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 209, #460.
 Puylaurens, 47, XX.
 Breton, 231-32.
 Jaume I, The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon: A Translation of the Medieval Catalan ‘Llibre dels felts,’ trans. Damian Smith and Helena Buffery (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, 2003), 23.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 209, #460
 Marvin, 184.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 210, #462.
 Anonymous, 70, laisse 139.
 Puylaurens, 48, XXI.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 211, #463.
 Puylaurens, 48, XXI.
 Anonymous, 70, laisse 140.
 Puylaurens, 48, XXI.
 Ibid.; Anonymous, 71, laisse 140; Vaux-de-Cernay, 212, #464.
 Ibid.; Vaux-de-Cernay, 213, #466.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 217, #480.
 Puylaurens, 49, XXI; Vaux-de-Cernay, 217, #480.
 Marcel Dieulafoy, “La Bataille de Muret,” Mémoires de l’académie des Inscriptions et belles-lettres 35.2 (1901): 134. Paraphrased from French by author.
 Marvin, 192-93.
 Puylaurens, 51, XXIII.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 227, #503; Puylaurens, 51, XXIII.
 Marvin, 205.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 229, #508.
 Oldenbourg, 76.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 231, #513.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 231, #513.
 Ibid., 232, #517.
 Ibid., 233, footnote 81.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 233, #519.
 Ibid., 233-34, #520.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 235, #524.
 Ibid., 236, #525.
 Marvin, 211.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 236, #525.
 Ibid., 236, #526.
 Ibid., 237, #527.
 Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 247-262.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 237-38, #530.
 Marvin, 213.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 242-43, #545-47.
 Ibid., 249, #556.
 Anonymous, 71-72, laisse 141; Vaux-de-Cernay, 246-47, #550-552.
 Peters, 38.
 H.J. Schroeder, ed. and trans., Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1937), 242.
 Anonymous, 77, laisse 147; Puylaurens, 54, XXIV.
 Anonymous, 82-83, laisse 152.
 Marvin, 236.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 255, #573.
 Anonymous, 83-86, laisses 153-154.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 258, footnote 6.
 Marvin, 243.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 258, footnote 5.
 Anonymous, 87, laisse 156.
 Anonymous, 88, laisse 156.
 Ibid., 88, laisse 157.
 Ibid., 88-89, laisse 158.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 259, #576.
 Marvin, 248.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 259-60, #578.
 Anonymous, 90, laisse 159.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 261, #581.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 261, #582.
 Puylaurens, 57, XXVI; Anonymous, 90, laisse 159.
 Marvin, 252-53.
 Anonymous, 97-98, laisse 164.
 Anonymous, 99, laisse 165.
 Ibid., 100, laisse 166.
 Ibid., 100, laisse 167.
 Ibid., 103, laisse 169.
 Anonymous, 105, laisse 170.
 Madden, 134.
 Anonymous, 105, laisse 170.
 Anonymous, 106, laisse 171.
 Ibid., 107, laisse 172.
 Anonymous, 107, laisse 172.
 Puylaurens, 58, XXVII.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 263, #585.
 Anonymous, 117, laisse 179.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 266, #592.
 Ibid., 267, #594.
 Ibid., 269, #598.
 Anonymous, 122-23, laisse 182; Puylaurens, 59, XXVIII.
 Ibid., 123-24, laisse 183.
 Ibid., 128-29, laisse 186.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 271, #602.
 Marvin, 268.
 Anonymous, 132, laisse 187; Puylaurens, 60, XXVIII; Vaux-de-Cernay, 270, #600.
 Marvin, 269-70.
 Anonymous, 130, laisse 186.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 271, #603.
 Anonymous, 133, laisse 188.
 Ibid., 135-36, laisse 189.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 271, #603.
 Anonymous, 139, laisse 190.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 271, #604; Anonymous, 138-39, laisse 189.
 Ibid., 272, #605; Anonymous, 141-42, laisse 192.
 Anonymous, 144-45, laisse 193.
 Ibid., 146-47, laisse 194; Puylaurens, 61, XXVIII; Vaux-de-Cernay, 273, #606B.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 273, #606A; Anonymous, 148-50, laisse 195.
 Anonymous, 153, laisse 197.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 273, #606B; Anonymous, 154-55, laisse 197.
 Anonymous, 155, laisse 198.
 Ibid., 156, laisse 198.
 Anonymous, 157-58, laisse 198-99.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 274, #606C.
 Anonymous, 158, laisse 199.
 Anonymous, 159-60, laisse 199-200.
 Ibid., 161, laisse 200.
 Ibid., 161, laisse 200-01.
 Ibid., 163, laisse 201.
 Anonymous, 163-63, laisse 202.
 Ibid., 164, laisse 202.
 Ibid., 166, laisse 203.
 Anonymous, 167, laisse 203-04.
 Ibid., 168-70, laisse 204-05.
 Ibid., 170, laisse 205.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 275, #607 and footnote 120.
 Contamine, 298.
 Marvin, 292.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 276, #609.
 Puylaurens, 61, XXVIII.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 276, #610.
 Anonymous, 172, laisse 205 (The remark refers to Hospitaller knights who took vows of chastity).
 Anonymous, 172, laisse 205.
 Puylaurens, 61, XXVIII; Vaux-de-Cernay, 277, #612.
 Anonymous, 173, laisse 206.
 Sumption, 199.
 Anonymous, 174-75, laisse 207.
 Anonymous, 176, laisse 207-08. According to Janet Shirley in the The Song of the Cathar Wars, Montfort’s remains were exhumed in 1224 and reburied in a priory church near Chevreuse (Seine-et-Oise).
 Marvin, 297.
 Vaux-de-Cernay, 278, #619.
 Puylaurens, 79-80, XXXVII and footnote 160.
 McGlynn, 173.
 Cowper, 54.
 Marvin, 302.
 Tyerman, 68.
 Cowper, 28.
 Puylaurens, 107-08, XLIV.
 Marvin, 303.
 Madden, 133.
 Strayer, 53.
 Laurence W. Marvin, “Thirty-Nine Days and a Wake-up: The Impact of the Indulgence and Forty Days Service on the Albigensian Crusade, 1209-1218,” Historian, Vol. 65, Issue 1 (Fall 2002): 92.
 Barber, “Wars Like Any Other,” 55.
 Marvin, War in the South, 385.
 Gravett, 17.
© Copyright 2010 by Michael Taulier. We thank Mr. Taulier for his permission to republish this thesis.