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The Cathars:  What was the Albigensian Crusade ?

The Albigensian Crusade was a Crusade against the people of the Languedoc which began in 1208.  It is also known as the Cathar Crusade.  Like all crusades it was a war, declared by the Pope, ( Innocent III), backed by the Roman Church with promises of remission of sins and a guaranteed place in heaven.  Why is it called the Albigensian Crusade rather than the Cathar Crusade?  In order to answer this, it is important to remember that Cathar is only of many names the Roman Church invented for members of this particular brand of Gnostic Dualism.  Among many other names, they were called Albigensians, from the (erroneous) belief that they were concentrated in the town of Albi.  The term Cathar has become the standard term for them only in recent times.

The term Albigensian Crusade (or Cathar Crusade, or Cathar Wars) is used loosely to describe a series of formal Crusades, interspersed with continual warfare against the people of the Languedoc which lasted for some forty years.  The (unspecified) target of the Crusade was Raymond V of Toulouse and his vassals, but Raymond joined the Crusade himself.  This meant that he and his vassals came under the protection of the Church.  That is why the first stages of the Crusade were directed against Béziers and Carcassonne, which did not belong to Raymond of Toulouse, but to a close relative Ramon-Roger Trencavel.  The trick did not work for long, and soon Raymond was excommunicated and his castles were under attack.  After the initial sieges of Béziers and Carcassonne, the (mainly French) Crusader forces were led by Simon de Montfort and later his son Amaury de Montfort, who were responsible for series of bloody battles, sieges and massacres. Voltaire wrote about this crusade against the people of the Languedoc. Click on the following link for an English translation by the webmaster.

Crusader Francs besieging Nicea. They are catapulting the heads of captured enemies over the city walls to terrorise the citizens. Guillaume de Tyr. Many of the Crusaders against the Cathar came from traditional crusader families.
We now think of the Languedoc as part of France, but it is important to remember that the reality was very different in the thirteenth century.  Local chronicles invariably refer to the foreign crusaders as The French, for the very good reason that the chroniclers did not consider themselves or their countrymen as French and neither did anyone else.

The Crusades are conventionally held to have ended in 1244 with the fall of the Château of Montségur ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about occitan. Montsegùr) , though Cathars were still being burned alive into the fourteenth century.  An Inquisition was founded to extirpate the last vestiges of Cathar belief.



You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of and )

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Theology.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Click here to visit the Cathar Country Website for more information



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The Cathar Crusade