Chapter 25 from Miller’s Church History
by Andrew Miller (1810-1883)
A new field of blood, and an entirely new character of warfare, were now brought before the mind of the voracious priest of Rome. It was a war not against the enemies of the faith abroad, or against the refractory kings at home, but the army of the church warring against the confessed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was a new thing in the annals of Christendom.
By the favour of the princes and by the indifference of the clergy the Albigenses had been allowed for centuries to preach the gospel and to spread the truth unmolested. Roman Catholicism had nearly perished from the provinces of Count Raymond. The people generally were well inclined to break off their connection with the church of Rome altogether. When this state of things came to the ears of Innocent, he called for a crusade against the heretics of Languedoc, and rested not until he had swept the whole population from the soil of France.
But we must first of all go back a few steps in order to connect the line of witnesses for Christ and His gospel.
The Chain of Witnesses
When we parted with the Paulicians — the Eastern witnesses for God and His truth — we promised to meet with them again in the regions of the West. It is asserted that in their missionary zeal they spread themselves over Europe; but whether they remained a distinct and characteristic sect, or mingled with the sectaries of the West, has been a question with historians. Among the various forms of heresy which were denounced by the dominant church, scarcely one of them escaped the charge of Manicheism — the brand affixed to the emigrants from the East. But it would be unreasonable to contend from this general charge that the Western sects were the fruit of their mission, though branded with the same name. It is more than likely, however, that they found many separatists in spirit, though not openly so, and in such cases may have become their teachers, and in this way perpetuated their principles.
The Western witnesses we have no doubt were the result of the same spirit of grace and truth, through the faithfulness of God, who never left Himself without a witness, but we see no ground to speak of them as the descendants of the misrepresented Paulicians. More likely there was an intermingling of these seceders from the established church.
We shall now endeavour to trace the silver line of God’s grace, which was actively at work, though under different forms and names, during the darkest period of the papal oppression. There is no difficulty in identifying God’s witnesses from the earliest period down to the Reformation, or in tracing the unbroken chain of testimony against the wickedness of Rome, and for the true gospel of the grace of God. We brought the line of witnesses in the history of the Paulicians down to the tenth century; we shall now notice the more prominent sects which arose in the West before and since that period.
1. Claudius, a Spaniard by birth, was famous as a commentator on the scriptures in the court of Louis in Aquitaine. His patron, the Emperor, promoted him to the bishopric of Turin in the year 814. He is spoken of in history as the Wycliffe of the ninth century, and the strenuous advocate of primitive Christianity. On reaching his diocese he found the churches filled with images and embellished with flowers and garlands. He at once, and in the most unceremonious manner, ordered all such ornaments to be removed. No distinction was to be made in favour of any picture, relic, or cross; all were to be swept away as with the besom of destruction. He denounced the worship of such things as the renewer of the worship of demons under other names, in place of preaching the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He declared that the apostolic office of St. Peter ceased with the life of the apostle. He therefore made light of papal censures and the alleged power of the keys. It has been said that he went the length of separating his church from the Romish communion.
But, like many other reformers, Claudius was rough and intemperate in his zeal. The fearful corruptions of the clergy and the idolatries of the people led him to speak and write in strong and passionate terms. Nor need we wonder. But the Lord watched over him in the most marvellous way. Though he was a bold reformer and a fearless iconoclast in an Italian city, he was permitted by the unseen hand of Providence to finish his labours in the full privileges of a bishop, though not unopposed.
As a link in the chain of witnesses, Claudius has a very distinct place. His influence was great and widely spread. Theodemir, abbot of a monastery near Nismes, ingenuously confesses, says Milman, that most of the great transalpine prelates thought with Claudius. And the hostility to the Romish church and her many sacraments, which afterwards prevailed in the Alpine valleys, has been generally traced to the reformer, Claudius. He died in the year 839.
2. About the year 1110, a preacher, named Peter de Brueys, began to declaim against the corruptions of the dominant church and the vices of the clergy. As a missionary, he laboured chiefly in the south of France, Provence, and Languedoc. And, what may seem strange to us, he was allowed to disseminate his new doctrines with impunity for about twenty years. The enemy could neither silence nor kill the witness until his testimony was finished. But as nearly all we know of such men comes to us through the writings of their adversaries, we only hear of what were called their heresies. The venerable abbot of Cluny wrote a treatise against Peter’s followers — thence called Petrobrussians: they are charged with many offences but which may be reduced to the following — opposition to infant baptism, to the mass, celibacy, crucifixes, transubstantiation, and the efficacy of prayers for the salvation of the dead. But nothing which the founder of this sect did or said seemed to rouse the public feeling against him until he burned a number of crosses bearing the image of Christ. The priests then succeeded, a popular tumult was raised, and he was burned alive at St. Gilles in Languedoc. But his protest was not so easily consumed. Divine light may be overshadowed for a time, but it can never be extinguished.
3. The fire which burned Peter de Brueys neither discouraged nor silenced his followers. One of these, named Henry, a monk of Cluny, and a deacon, became a more daring and a more powerful preacher than Peter. In the retirement of his monastery he had devoted himself to the study of the New Testament; and having gained a knowledge of Christianity from the pure word of God, he longed to go forth into the world to proclaim the truth to his fellow-men. His personal appearance, and his private education, combined to make his preaching most powerful and awakening. The rapid change in his countenance is likened to a stormy sea; his stature was lofty, his eyes were rolling and restless; his powerful voice, his naked feet and neglected apparel, attracted an attention, which was fixed by the fame of his learning and his sanctity.
In years he was but a youth, yet his deep tones, his wonderful eloquence, with his remarkable appearance, appalled the clergy and delighted the people. In the spirit of a John the Baptist he called upon the people to repent, and turn to the Lord, and not infrequently assailed the unpopular vices of the clergy.
But the opposition which Henry encountered from the clergy only attracted the people the more towards him. Multitudes, both of the poorer and the wealthier classes, received him as their spiritual guide in all things. He is first heard of historically at Lausanne, but he traversed the south of France from Lausanne to Bordeaux; and, as Neander observes, “he chained the people to himself, and filled them with contempt and hatred towards the higher clergy — they would have nothing to do with them. The divine service celebrated by them was no longer attended. They found themselves exposed to the insults and gibes of the populace, and had to apply for protection to the civil arm.” The prudent bishop of Le Mans, seeing the influence he had gained over the people, contented himself with simply directing Henry to another field of labour. The zealous monk quietly withdrew, and made his appearance in Provence, where Peter de Brueys had laboured before him. Here he developed still more clearly his opposition to the errors of the church of Rome, and drew down upon himself the bitter hostility of the hierarchy.
Henry was apprehended by the archbishop of Arles; he was condemned as a heretic by the Council of Pisa, which was held in 1134, and sentenced to confinement in a cell. In a short time he escaped, and returned to Languedoc. Desertion of churches, it is said, total contempt of the clergy, followed the eloquent heresiarch wherever he went. A legate, named Alberic, was sent by Eugenius III. to subdue the revolt; but his mission would have been fruitless, had he not prevailed on St. Bernard to share with him the labour and the glory of the enterprise. “Henry is an antagonist,” he said, “who can only be put down by the conqueror of Abelard and of Arnold of Brescia.”
The powerful abbot of Clairvaux wrote to the prince of the Provence to prepare for his arrival, and signifying the object of his coming. “The churches,” he wrote, “are without people; the people without priests; the priests without honour; and Christians without Christ. The churches are no longer conceived holy, nor the sacraments sacred, nor are the festivals any more celebrated. Men die in their sins — souls are hurried away to the terrible tribunal — without penitence or communion; baptism is refused to infants, who are thus precluded from salvation.” The abbot wrought miracles, as was believed; the people wondered and admired; Henry fled; Bernard pursued, purifying the places infected by the pestilence of heresy. At length the heretic was seized; he was handed over in chains to the bishop of Toulouse, who consigned him to prison, where he soon afterwards died suddenly. He was thus delivered from all his persecutors in the year 1148, and entered into his rest.
Vaudois, Albigenses, Waldenses
4. The origin of the Western sectaries, so-called, under the common name of Waldenses, has been the subject of much controversy. One class of writers, favourable to Romanism, with the view of involving them in the common charge of Manicheism, have endeavoured to prove that their opinions were of Eastern, or Paulician origin, while the opposite party affirm that they were free from the Manichean error, and that they have been the inheritors and maintainers, from father to son, of a pure and scriptural Christianity, from the time of Constantine, if not from the days of the apostles. *
* In the first edition of Short Papers, the following sentence occurs:-“It also appears very certain that the Albigenses of the southern provinces of France owe their origin to the Paulicians.” Most of the general histories are calculated to give this impression; but after consulting the special histories and laborious researches of Peter Allix, D.D., W.S. Gilly, M.A., W. Beattie, M.D., and others, we are fully persuaded of their great antiquity, the purity of their faith, and their Alpine locality-that they existed as a distinct christian people long before the Paulicians, or even the papacy.
But as it is not so much our object at present to trace the history of these ancient, simple, and devoted christian people, as to bring out another feature of the papacy under Innocent, in its most fully expressed blasphemy and cruelty; we will merely satisfy the reader as to who these people were, and as to the scene of their slaughter. “The terms,” says Dr. Gilly, “Vaudois in French, Vallenses in Latin, Valdisi in Italian, and Waldenses in English ecclesiastical history, signifying nothing more or less than ‘men of the valleys;’ and as the valleys of Piedmont have had the honour of producing a race of people who have remained true to the faith introduced by the first missionaries who preached Christianity in those regions, the synonyms have been adopted as the distinguishing names of a religious community, faithful to the primitive creed, and free from the corruptions of the church of Rome.”
The Albigenses, though essentially one with the Waldenses in matters of faith, were so called because the greater part of Narbonnese-Gaul which they inhabited was called Albigesium, or from Albi, a town in Languedoc. The Alps separated the two communities. God found an asylum for the Waldenses in the valleys on the eastern side, and for the Albigenses in the valleys on the western side, of that great mountain range, where they were preserved and fortified for many centuries.
From a similarity of names, Peter Valdo, or Waldo, the reformer of Lyons, has frequently been spoken of as the first founder of the Waldensian sect. This we think a mistake, but one easily made, and one which the Romanists eagerly improved as an argument against their antiquity, and one which has been adopted by most of the general histories. But Mr. Elliot, in his “Horae Apocalypticae,” and those mentioned in the note above, have examined the question with great patience and research, and, we believe, clearly established the conclusion of the orthodoxy and the antiquity of the “men of the valleys.” *
* See Marsden’s Dictionary, “Albigenses.” Milner, vol. 3, p. 92. Bartlett’s Scenery of the Waldenses, Introduction.
At the same time Peter Waldo is worthy of all praise for his self-denying services in the cause of truth, and against error. His piety, zeal, and courage were most conspicuous at a period when the papal hierarchy began to persecute all who questioned its authority and infallibility. He was no doubt raised up of God just at that time to give greater distinctness to the testimony of the Alpine peasants. The simplicity of their worship, and the scene of their tranquillity, appear not to have excited the jealousy of their neighbours or the suspicion of the universal church till about this time. It happened, under the hand of God, in this way.
About the year 1160 the practices of idolatry which accompanied the doctrine of transubstantiation deeply impressed Peter with an alarming sense of the wickedness of the times, and the dangerous corruptions of the papacy. This led to the true conversion of his soul to God. From that moment he was devoted to His service and His glory. He abandoned his mercantile occupations, and distributed his wealth to the poor, in imitation of the early disciples. Numbers gathered around him; he felt the need of instruction in the things of God; where was it to be found? He became deeply desirous to understand the Gospels which he had been accustomed to hear in church. He employed two ecclesiastics to translate them into the native tongue, with some other books of scripture, and some passages of the Fathers. This was Waldo’s greatest work, for which he deserves the best thanks of posterity. The scriptures at that time were in a great measure a sealed book in Christendom being only in the Latin tongue. The followers of Waldo being thus provided with copies of the scriptures in their own tongue, they were able to explain to the people that they were not advancing doctrines of their own, but a pure faith as it really existed in the Bible. After the manner of the seventy, he sent out his disciples, two by two, into the neighbouring villages to preach the gospel.
This awoke the thunders of the Vatican. As long as Waldo and his friends confined themselves to their own protest against the innovations, the hierarchy did not seriously molest them; but as soon as they employed that dreaded engine, the scriptures in the vulgar tongue, they were immediately anathematized and excommunicated. As yet they contemplated no secession from the church, but only its reformation. They persisted in preaching the glorious gospel of the grace of God to lost sinners: an interdict was issued against them by the Archbishop of Lyons. Waldo resolutely replied, “We must obey God rather than man.” From that time “the poor men of Lyons,” as they were called, were branded by the Clergy with obloquy and contempt as heretics. For three years after his first condemnation, which took place in 1172, Waldo contrived to remain concealed in the city of Lyons or its neighbourhood, but Pope Alexander the Third fulminated his threats and terrors so effectually not only against Waldo, but against all who should dare to hold the slightest communication with the reformer, that, for his friends’ sake, he fled from Lyons, and became a wanderer for the rest of his life. After seeking a shelter in several places, but finding a resting-place in none, he passed from among the Bohemian mountaineers, the ancestors of Huss and Jerome, into his eternal rest about the year 1179.
The Dispersion of Waldo’s Followers
When Waldo fled, his disciples followed him. The dispersion took place similarly to that which arose on the occasion of Stephen’s persecution. The effects were also similar; the blessed gospel was more widely disseminated throughout Europe. Their great strength was their possession of the sacred scriptures in their own language. They read the Gospels; they preached and they prayed in the vulgar tongue. Many of them, no doubt, found their way to the valleys of Piedmont and the cities of Languedoc. A new translation of the Bible was doubtless a rich accession to the spiritual treasures of that interesting people.
The scene was now ready for Pope Innocent: the papal threatenings having been transmitted to his vigorous hand, were executed with a willing and unrelenting mind. He who had humbled the great kings of Germany, France, and England, and had received implicit submission from almost every part of Christendom, was still disowned as supreme head of the church by the Waldenses wherever they were found. It was not likely that such a spirit as Innocent’s would continue to endure with calmness this resistance to his boasted universal supremacy. But what was their crime? where were they to be found? and how were they to be dealt with?
1. They had the highest reputation everywhere, even from their worst enemies, for modesty, frugality, honest industry, chastity, and temperance. “In no instance,” says a high authority, but not very favourable to what he calls the antisacerdotalists, “are the morals of Peter Waldo and the Alpine Bible-Christians arraigned by their bitterest foes.” Their mortal sin was found in their appeal to the scriptures, and to the scriptures alone, in all matters of faith and worship. They rejected the vast system of tradition-religion, as maintained by the church of Rome. Both in life and in doctrine they were noble witnesses for Christ and the simplicity of the gospel; but they formed a powerful protest against the wealth, the power, and the superstitions of the dominant religion. They rejected the almost innumerable sacraments of Rome, and maintained that there were only two in the New Testament — baptism and the Lord’s supper. In general we may say that they anticipated and held the same doctrines which, after the lapse of three centuries, were to be promulgated by the Reformers of Germany and England, and which form the creed of Protestants at the present time.
2. The progress of “the poor men of Lyons,” after their persecutions, appears to have been rapid, and widely extended. They spread abroad, we are told, into the south of France, into Lombardy, and into Arragon. “In Lombardy and Provence,” says Robertson, “the Waldenses had more schools than the Catholics; their preachers disputed and taught publicly, while the number and importance of the patrons whom they had gained, rendered it dangerous to interfere with them. In Germany they had forty-one schools in the diocese of Passau, and they were numerous in the dioceses of Metz and Toul. From England to the south of Italy, from the Hellespont to the Ebro, their opinions were widely spread.” *
* J.C. Robertson, vol. 3, pp. 179-202. Waddington, vol. 2, p. 187. Sir. J. Stephen’s History of France, vol. 1, p. 218.
3. Such was the state of things on the accession of Pope Innocent III. With anxious forebodings, and a far-seeing eye, he watched this spirit of religious independence, but how to crush it effectually was the question. Besides, at that time, as the reader will remember, his hands were full. He was seeking to destroy the balance of power in Germany and Italy, he was contending with the kings of France and England by turns, he was directing the march of the Crusaders, and overturning by their means the Greek empire at Constantinople; yet was he watching, and determined to punish every dissent from the tenets of the church of Rome, and every exercise of the thinking faculty on religious subjects. It was loudly rumoured about this time that the two principal seats of this disaffection towards Rome were the valleys of Piedmont and the south of France. The Piedmontese Christians flourished in comparative obscurity, while the Albigenses were rendered more notorious, as well as more dangerous, by the protection afforded them in the wealthy cities of Languedoc. Raymond VI., Count of Toulouse, not only favoured those of the Waldensian creed as the best of his subjects, but employed them in his family, though avowedly himself a Roman Catholic. The Count of Foix was married to a Waldensian, of his two sisters, one was said to be a Waldensian, and the other a catharist, or puritan.
The Region of Albi
The name of Languedoc was given to these remote provinces of the kingdom, because of the rich, melodious, and flexible language which was then vernacular there. In refinement, wealth, and liberty, both political and religious, they surpassed all the rest of France. The old Roman civilization still lingered in the valleys of Languedoc and Provence. The feudal chieftains, especially the counts of Toulouse and Foix, though owning the king as lord paramount, possessed and exercised sovereign authority in their own domains. By the favour of Raymond, and the indifference of the other chiefs, this beautiful region had advanced far more rapidly towards civilization than any other part of Europe, but this civilization, observes Milman, was entirely independent of, or rather hostile to, ecclesiastical influence. The curse of popery, as we have often seen, is not only ruinous to the souls of men, but destructive of all progress in the arts of life and in general civilization. Even the face of a Catholic country seems blasted by its withering influence. The mind must be kept ignorant, superstitious and enslaved, if popery is to flourish. But for a long time the inhabitants of Languedoc had been left unmolested by the hierarchy of Rome, and, as a natural consequence, their cities were filled with a peaceful, industrious, and wealthy community.
But, on the other hand, as was most natural, in proportion as the word of God and liberal opinions prevailed, the church of Rome and the clergy sank into the greatest comtempt. Nobles and knights no longer allowed their younger sons to be trained for the church, but put sons of their serfs into benefices, and appropriated the tithes. Equally hated by the nobility and the common people for their grasping and unprincipled conduct, the priests could offer no resistance to the progress of the new opinions. They were no longer feared for their spiritual power, and they were despised for their sensuality. They became the song and the jest of the Troubadours; their spoiling of orphans, their swindling of widows, their dishonesty, gluttony, and drunkenness, were proverbial, and undeniable. “So sensible,” says Robertson, “were they themselves of their ignominy, that they were fain to hide their tonsure by drawing the hair from the back of the head over it.” The simplest peasant, on hearing of a scandalous action, was in the habit of saying, “I would rather be a priest than be guilty of such a deed. ” So numerous were the seceders from Rome become, that they constituted the mass of the population. The Jews were also numerous and wealthy; and, of course’ a number of individuals properly of no sect, peopled the flourishing cities of Languedoc; but we must now speak of them all under the common name of Albigenses.
Innocent and the Albigensian Persecution
Such was the state of things in that sunny, peaceful, prosperous region, when a dark thunder-cloud gathered in the horizon. Innocent heard with dismay the progress of the new opinions, and resolved to crush them. With this object in view, he first of all addressed a letter to the prelates and princes of southern France, exhorting them to take vigorous measures for the suppression of heresy, all heretics were to be anathematized and banished. But to Raymond and others such a merciless requisition appeared so arbitrary, that it met with little attention. “We have been brought up with these people,” replied Raymond; “we have relations among them, we know that their life is honest; how can we persecute those whom we respect as the most peaceable and loyal of our people?” It was obvious that in such a sacrifice of the population the interests and the revenues of the princes were involved, and that it would amount to a process of extermination; but to this fearful process the supreme shepherd of Christ’s flock did not hesitate to resort, however much the temporal sovereign might. The Albigenses were excommunicated, and placed under an anathema, which extended to every one who might lodge or shelter them, deal with them in trade, or join with them in social intercourse. But the disobedient Raymond still showed favour to his heretical subjects, and the enraged pope, in consequence, next sent two legates — Reinerius and Guido — to inquire into the causes of the failure, and armed with full authority to extirpate the heretics. Many of these inoffensive people were arrested, condemned, and committed to the flames; still Raymond was inactive, and the heresy grew and gathered strength.
What was to be done? New powers were demanded; sterner and more active agents were required. Raymond, an independent sovereign, and knowing the blameless character of his subjects, refused to execute the demands of Rome. St. Bernard, long the champion of the papacy, was dead, but the pope turned to his spiritual descendants. Peter of Castelnau, a Cistercian monk, was sent to Raymond as apostolic legate, in the year 1207, to demand that he should exterminate his heretical subjects with fire and sword. But the tolerant prince, who seems to have been a gay, pleasure-loving man, without strength of character to be either a heretic or a bigot, could not be aroused to obey the papal mandate. Twice he refused, and twice he was excommunicated, and his dominions laid under a solemn interdict. Innocent sanctioned what his legate had done, and wrote a letter to Raymond, unexampled in the arrogance and insolence of its language. “Pestilent man! imperious, cruel, and direful tyrant; what pride has seized your heart, and what is your folly, to refuse peace with your neighbours, and to brave the divine laws, by protecting the enemies of the faith? If you do not fear eternal flames, ought you not to dread the temporal chastisements which you have merited by so many crimes? For verily the church can have no peace with the captain of freebooters and robbers — the patron of heretics — the contemner of the holy seasons — the friend of Jews and usurers — the enemy of the prelates, and a persecutor of Jesus Christ and His church. The arm of the Lord shall still be stretched out against thee, until thou art crushed to dust and atoms. Verily, He shall make thee feel how difficult it is to withdraw thyself from the wrath thou hast called down upon thine own head.”
Such is a specimen of the vehemence of papal invective in mediaeval times. And for what? the reader may inquire. Not for immorality, however bad he may have been; but because he refused to be the pope’s executioner, and shed the blood of his own peaceful, industrious, faithful subjects. But such was the power of these incarnate fiends, that Raymond was frightened into submission. He signed a treaty, most reluctantly, for the extermination of all heretics from his dominions. He was slow, however, in proceeding with the work of persecution. The legate perceiving this, could not conceal his rage, but broke out in the most reproachful language against the prince — called him a coward, accused him of perjury, and renewed the excommunication in all its plenitude. Need we wonder that a feudal prince was irritated to wrathful indignation by the daring impudence of the monk? He is reported to have exclaimed, in an unhappy moment, that he would make Castelnau answer for his insolence with his life. It is supposed that the menace was heard by one of his attendants, who, the following day, after an angry debate, drew his poignard struck the legate in the side, and killed him. The quarrel as has been observed, assumed an aspect similar to that which raged a short time before this between Henry II. of England and Thomas a Becket.
Raymond — a Spiritual Outlaw
Innocent had now obtained what he wished — a decent pretext for the full outpouring of the vials of his wrath. The honours of martyrdom were decreed to the victim, Raymond was denounced as the author of the crime, and proclaimed a spiritual outlaw; and the faithful were called upon to assist in his destruction. “Up, soldiers of Christ,” he writes to Philip Augustus of France, “up most christian King! hear the cry of blood; aid us in wreaking vengeance on these malefactors. Up ye nobles, knights of France, the rich and sunny lands of the south will be the reward of your valour.” The preaching of the crusade was entrusted to the Cistercian order, under their fanatical abbot, Arnold; “a man,” says Milman, “whose heart was sheathed with the triple iron of pride, cruelty, bigotry.” Just at this moment, the missionaries fell in with the notable Spaniard, Dominic, ever since famous as the founder of the Inquisition and the Dominican friars. His heart was in no wise softer than Arnold’s, and he was more successful as a preacher. Not a moment was lost in denouncing the crime and its perpetrators. Every heart and hand was engaged to take vengeance for the insult upon God in the person of His servant. The same indulgences which had ever been granted to the champions of the holy sepulchre were assured to those who should enter upon the new crusade against Raymond and the Albigenses. The clergy everywhere preached with indefatigable zeal this new way of obtaining the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.
“To that ignorant and superstitious generation,” says Sir James Stephens, “no summons could have been more welcome. Danger, privations, and fatigue, in their direst forms, had beset the rugged paths by which the crusaders to the East had fought their way to the promised paradise. But in the war against the Albigenses the same inestimable recompense was to be won, not by self-denial, but by self-indulgence. Every debt owing to man was to be cancelled, every offence already committed against the law of God was to be pardoned, and an eternity of blessedness was to be won, not by a life of future sanctity, but by a life of future crime; not by the restraint, but by the gratification, of their foulest passions; by satiating their cruelty, their avarice, and their lust, at the expense of a people whose wealth excited their covetousness, and whose superiority provoked their resentment.” Forward to this mingled harvest of blood and plunder, of priestly absolution and military fame, rushed all the wild spirits of the age. The whole of Europe resounded with preparations for the holy war.
The Home Crusade
In the year 1209, in answer to the call of one man, and he professedly the chief pastor of the church of Christ, three hundred thousand soldiers gathered around the infected provinces. Some of the writers of that age raise the number to half a million, and all wearing in solemn mockery the symbol of the cross. They formed three great armies, over each of which presided an archbishop, a bishop, and mitred abbot. But eminent above all the leaders of this sacred war was the notorious Simon de Montfort, lord of a fief near Paris, and Earl of Leicester, in right of his mother, an English lady. Satan had skilfully selected his instruments Innocent, Arnold, Dominic, and de Montfort are names of awful memory in history. It would be difficult to say which of the four hearts was most thoroughly sheathed in the triple iron.
Raymond, being wholly unprepared to meet such a host, took refuge in submission. The pope promised absolution on certain conditions. But these were hard and cruel in the extreme. 1. He must clear himself of the murder of Castelnau; 2. as a proof of his sincerity he must surrender seven of his best castles; 3. that he should do public penance for his past offences; 4. that he should in his own person become a crusader against his own subjects. The poor count complained of the terms imposed on him, but such were the tender mercies of the pope, and they must be rigorously fulfilled to the letter. He submitted and received absolution in St. Gilles in the presence of three archbishops and nineteen bishops. He next appeared in the cathedral where Castelnau was buried, with naked shoulders, and a rope round his neck, either end of which was carried by a bishop; the scourge was then applied, not as a mere ceremony, but with hearty goodwill, till, covered with blood, the unhappy count was permitted to escape from his tormentors and from the vast crowd which had gathered to witness this almost incredible degradation of their suzerain lord. But this was not the worst penalty; he was obliged to accompany the crusaders against his own loyal subjects, and against his nephew, Raymond-Roger, the Viscount of Beziers, whose territories were said to be full of the odious Albigenses.
The vindictive soul of the pope being so far propitiated with having abased and duped his enemy, the mighty armament moved on. Three hundred thousand infuriated warriors poured into his beautiful states. “Forward,” was the cry of the holy abbot, “you shall ravage every field, you shall slay every human being; strike and spare not. The measure of their iniquity is full, and the blessing of the church is on your head.” Thus instructed by the priest, De Montfort was prepared to act. The vast army marched through the land of vineyards, and of oliveyards, burning, slaying, ravaging, as they went. The peasantry were ridden down and slaughtered in cold blood.
The Slaughter and Burning of Beziers
Raymond-Roger, a gallant young man of twenty-four, displayed a braver spirit than his uncle, and resolved to defend his people against the crusaders. His two great cities, Beziers and Carcassonne, were his chief strength. He threw himself into the latter, the stronger place. “The soldiers of the cross the priests of the Lord,” as they called themselves, appeared before Beziers; which had been well provided and garrisoned by the viscount. The bishop of the place was in the army: he was allowed by Arnold to offer his advice to the people and recommend a surrender. “Renounce your opinions and save your lives,” was the bishop’s advice; but the Albigenses firmly replied that they would not renounce a faith which gave them the kingdom of God and His righteousness. The Catholics joined with the heretics in declaring that, rather than surrender, they would suffer death in its worst form. “Then,” said Arnold, “there shall not be left one stone upon another; fire and sword shall devour men, women, and children.” The town fell into the hands of the besiegers, and fearfully was the injunction obeyed. The knights, pausing at the gates, asked the abbot how the soldiers were to distinguish catholics from heretics; “Slay them all,” he replied, “the Lord knoweth them that are His.” The slaughter began: men, women, children, clergy, were massacred indiscriminately, while the bells of the cathedral were rung till the slaughter was complete. Trembling multitudes fled to the churches, in hope of finding a sanctuary within the hallowed walls; but not one human being was left alive. The vast population of Beziers, who so lately had thronged the streets and marts, now lay in slaughtered heaps. The numbers thus slain are estimated variously from twenty to one hundred thousand. So many from the open country flee for refuge to the cities at such times, that numbers cannot be correctly estimated. The city was given up to plunder, and then set on fire.
Never did the dragon-abbot say a truer word than that “the Lord knoweth them that are His,” though he said it in awful derision, and was himself an utter stranger to the remaining part of the verse, “And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Tim. 2: 19) The Lord surely knows all who believe in Him, and infinitely precious to Him is the feeblest of His saints. And Arnold will one day see, in the same glory with their Lord, those whom he denounced as heretics and slew with the sword. What a day that will be when the persecutor and the persecuted, the accuser and the accused, shall stand face to face in the presence of Him who judges righteously! Till then, may we walk by faith, seeking only to please the Lord.
The Siege Of Carcassonne
From Beziers, of which nothing now remained but a burning pile, the crusaders moved on in the direction of Carcassonne. As they advanced, they found the country desolate. The terrible example of Beziers struck terror into all hearts. The inhabitants of the defenceless villages fled as they saw the smoking ruins of the strong city. Woes innumerable tracked the polluted steps of these dragon hosts. They stood before the walls of Carcassonne: Roger commanded in person, and sustained a long siege with great valour. Simon de Montfort was foremost in the assault. On the other side, Roger was seen exposing himself everywhere at the head of the defenders, and animating their courage by words and example. During forty days the siege was continued, and the besiegers were repulsed with great loss. But for the treachery of the abbot, Raymond-Roger would have triumphed. Thus matters stood.
The soldiers of the cross were only required to serve forty days, both by feudal law and in order to gain all the privileges of crusaders. At the end of this period many of the leaders and the great mass of the troops returned home disappointed and dissatisfied. The excessive heat, the scantiness of water, the infected atmosphere from the unburied dead, the rapacity, cruelty, and perfidy of the priests, led many to welcome the close of their feudal term. In these extremities and surrounded with disorderly troops the abbot had recourse to craft — the wiles of Satan. The noble and brave viscount was decoyed into a conference. On the oath of the legate and the barons of the army that good faith would be maintained, Roger came out with three hundred of his followers. But with so formidable a heretic faith was not to be kept. And just as he was beginning to propose terms, the legate exclaimed that no faith was to be kept with one who had been so faithless to his God; and ordered the viscount to be put in chains and cast into prison with his followers. But he was soon relieved from his humiliation and suffering by death, which was popularly attributed to the hand of Simon. The people, dismayed by the loss of their chief, abandoned the city and escaped by means of a subterranean passage, but the priests consoled themselves by seizing about four hundred of the citizens, whom they hanged and burned for the common offence of heresy.
The city of Carcassonne and the princely heritage of Raymond-Roger were now in the hands of the papal party, and according to the law of conquest entirely at their disposal. The legate and his clergy presented these rich lands to Simon de Montfort as the firstfruits of a glorious victory over the heretics; and he was hailed as Viscount of Beziers and Carcassonne, promising to hold his dignities and territories on condition of a yearly tribute to the pope as liege lord of the conquered territories.
The election of Simon was confirmed by the pope, though the great principles of justice and the faith of treaties were so glaringly and shamelessly violated; but the King of Arragon, as suzerain, refused to invest Simon in his new possessions. The conquest appeared to be complete, but it was not really so. The Duke of Burgundy, the Count of Nevers, and other French noblemen, withdrew from the crusade, being greatly offended with the arrogance of the pope’s mercenaries. De Montfort, being thus left with a comparatively small force, was unable to maintain his position. Many cities and castles that had been taken by the papal party were again lost, and an incessant war was carried on; now marked by the fierce exasperation of the people, and the most relentless cruelties on both sides. De Montfort wrote in despair to the prelates of Christendom for a fresh army.
The trumpet of Rome was again sounded: a fresh crusade was preached. “Swarms of monks,” says Greenwood, “issued from the numberless cells and monasteries of the Cistercian order, preaching perdition to heretics, and boundless pardons to all who should shed the blood — were it only of one — of the accursed brood. There was no crime so black, no vice so rooted in the heart, but that a forty-days’ campaign against these outcasts would wipe it away, even to the last trace of guilt, nor leave the faintest sense of remorse behind.” Attracted by the promise of great earthly spoils in the sunny south, and of eternal felicity in heaven, unnumbered troops of fanatics flocked to the standard of De Montfort. In the spring of 1210 he received a large reinforcement under the command of his wife, and the war recommenced with fresh fury.
The Ruin of Raymond Determined
The submission of Count Raymond to the papal terms of reconciliation appears to have been complete. He had surrendered his castles, had undergone the basest personal humiliation, and had accompanied the crusades, notwithstanding his bleeding shoulders, against his own kinsman Roger. Surely the church will be satisfied, express her approbation, and receive him back into her bosom. But, alas, it was just the opposite. True, the pope in the most treacherous manner professed to embrace him as his obedient son, absolved him from his alleged guilt as to the murder of Castelnau, and gave him a cloak and a ring. With these valuable presents the count returned to his own country, in the hope that the pope’s concessions would be confirmed by his legates. But here, history has lifted the veil, and revealed the most deliberate and avowed treachery that ever blackened the policy of any ruler. In a letter written by this pontiff to his legates in Toulouse, he refers to the words of the apostle in justification of his deceitful conduct, “Nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.” (2 Cor. 12: 16) Thus he writes, “We counsel you with the apostle Paul to employ guile with regard to this count, for in this case it ought to be called prudence. We must attack separately those who are separated from unity. Leave for a time this count of Toulouse, employing towards him a course of dissimulation, that the other heretics may be the more easily defeated, and that afterwards we may crush him when he shall be left alone.” The confiding but doomed count, as a matter of course, urged the fulfilment of the pope’s decree. But the crafty legates, Theodosius and Arnold, who were in their master’s secret, had other intentions. They contrived delays, made demands, until the count found his case was hopeless in their hands. On being told that he had not cleared himself of the crimes of heresy and murder, and that they could not absolve him, he burst into tears; when the iron-hearted churchmen mocked his disappointment, quoting the text; “Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him” (Ps. 32: 6); and pronounced his excommunication afresh.
The Real Object of the Catholics
The reader has now before him the real, though then concealed, object of these Satan-inspired men. It is the old, the cruel story of Naboth and his vineyard: Jezebel must have the charming regions of the south as her own vineyard, the blood of Naboth the Jezreelite must be shed. It will be seen from the pope’s secret injunctions to his legates, that the ruin, not only of Raymond, but of all the princes in Languedoc, was determined; and that he had deceived Count Raymond by a feigned reconciliation, so as to separate him from the rest of the Languedocian nobles, that they might be destroyed one by one with greater ease. This was the policy of Innocent as written by his own hand and still extant, and his legates were apt disciples of their master. But the spoils of the Count of Toulouse and all his partisans were a matter of necessity to Simon and his allies the legates; nothing less than the whole south could satisfy the cupidity of De Montfort and the fanaticism of the rapacious priests. It was therefore determined to involve the Counts of Foix, Comminges, and Beam, with all their territorial dependencies.
The Count of Toulouse was suzerain of five great subordinate fiefs. The courts of these petty sovereigns vied with each other in splendour and gallantry. Life, we are told, was a perpetual feast or tournament. Some of them had been amongst the most distinguished of the crusaders in the East and had brought home many usages of oriental luxury. It was no question with such of either heretic, Waldensian or Albigensian. They were good catholics outwardly; but their religion really was chivalry, and the music of the troubadour. Still there were some honourable exceptions; we can trace the silver line of God’s rich sovereign grace in the courts of these gay princes. We read of Almeric, lord of Montreuil, and his sister, the Lady Geralda of Vetville, who were Albigenses, and who defended their own cities against the catholics, but were overpowered; and these lords and ladies with many others were instantly destroyed. Almeric, with eighty nobles, was brought before De Montfort. He ordered them all to be hanged the overloaded gibbets broke down; they were hewn to pieces; the Lady Geralda was thrown into a well and huge stones rolled down upon her. Only a few escaped the general massacre of Vetville to tell the tale. But the whole country shared a similar fate. The true Christian, the gay courtier, the gallant knight, the pleasure-loving multitude who were too enervated through the influence of the luxurious habits of the country to be either heretic or bigot — must either submit to the pope’s terms, or to the halter, the stake, or the faggot.
Every department of the south was now charged with the guilt of sheltering heretics; and Raymond as suzerain lord was summoned to appear before the council at Arles. All concealment of their savage iniquity was now thrown off. The count was accompanied by his friend Pedro, king of Arragon, a good and devoted catholic, who pleaded his cause and offered to become security for his fidelity. Their terms of reconciliation were these: let the reader note them carefully as a sample of popish arrogance and audacity in those days “That Count Raymond should disband his army; that he should raze all his castles, recall all the commandants of his walled towns and strong places; that he should renounce all the tolls and dues from which the principal part of his revenue was derived, that he should compel all gentry and commonalty of his domains to wear a penitential garb; that he should deliver up all his subjects suspected of heresy to be converted or burned, as the case might be; that he should hold himself personally in readiness to pass over to Palestine to serve under the brotherhood of St. John of Jerusalem till recalled by the pope; that every head of a family should pay yearly fourpence to the legate; that he should be obedient to the church, pay all the expenses which they charge on him, and during his whole life submit himself without contradiction. All these terms duly fulfilled, his lands would be restored to him by the legate and the Count de Montfort.” *
* Greenwood, book 13, chap. 7, p. 546; Milman, vol. 4, p. 218; Sir James Stephen’s Lectures, vol. 1, p. 225.
The intent of this fresh outrage was not to be mistaken; the unhappy count, in defiance of the council’s order, rode away, in company with his intercessor, the king of Arragon. Judgment was then given. “The Count of Toulouse was condemned as a declared heretic — an enemy of the church, and an apostate from the faith, and his domains and property, public or personal, were adjudged to the first occupants who should seize and appropriate them.” These terms and decrees will give the reader some faint idea of how the church, under the most sanctified language and pretensions, accomplished the ruin of a nobleman in those days, in order to obtain possession of his lands and his wealth. It was everywhere so. The prince and his people must be drowned in blood or consumed in fire, if his possessions cannot be obtained by milder means. Every Naboth must deliver up his field to Jezebel if she covets it. And before leaving this point, let the reader bear in mind, that, just at this moment, when the pope and his legates were working the ruin of the count and his vassal chiefs, the inquisitors Dominic and Reinerius were busily engaged in a “religious reconnaissance of the whole area of heresy,” having full authority from the pope himself to inflict capital punishment upon heretics. That dreadful tribunal, which then obtained, and yet retains, the name of the Inquisition was first opened this year — a year of awful memory, A.D. 1210, in a castle near Narbonne.
The War Changes Its Character
Count Raymond hastened to Toulouse; he caused the ban of excommunication, with the hard terms of his absolution, to be publicly read aloud; the citizens were indignant, and declared that they would rather submit to the greatest extremities than accept such shameful conditions. As the news spread from town to town, the same enthusiasm prevailed throughout his dominions. The character of the war was now completely changed. It was evident to all, that the crusaders were determined to conquer the provinces for the purpose of converting them into dependencies of the See of Rome; and the provinces were equally determined to resist the crusaders as base hypocrites, and to cast off the cruel and usurping tyranny of Rome. The professedly religious purposes of the crusade had degenerated into a war of universal carnage and plunder. The whole nation was thus in a state of general insurrection against the dominant church as against a foreign invader.
War was now proclaimed, but the combatants were unequal. Raymond seems to have been a gentle, kindly, indolent monarch; much loved by his people; and unambitious, save for the pleasures and gratifications of this life. There is no evidence that he was the least inclined to the Albigensian religion, but professedly a true Roman Catholic. On the other hand, Simon de Montfort, the great general of Rome, was considered the most daring and skilful military leader of his day, and the sworn champion of the papacy. He was regular in the exercises of his religion, and heard mass daily. “But,” observes one, “even with Simon’s better qualities were combined some of the vices which not uncommonly seek their sanctification from high religious profession — a vast ambition, a daring unscrupulousness as to the means of pursuing his objects, a ruthless indifference to human suffering, and an excessive and undisguised rapacity.” * At the head of a new host of crusaders, to execute the sentence of the church, and to win the noble prize of Raymond’s dominions, he marched through the devoted land. Slaughter, rapine, and the most savage barbarities, such as may not be described, tracked his every step. Heretics, or those suspected of heresy, wherever they were found, were compelled by the legate Arnold and De Montfort to ascend vast piles of burning faggots, while the monks revelled in their sufferings and mocked the shrieks of burning women.
* J.C. Robertson, vol. 3, p. 351.
The whole country, as the papal army advanced, became the scene of the most wanton cruelties: they destroyed vineyards and growing crops, burnt villages and farmhouses, slaughtered unarmed peasants, women, and children, they spread desolation over the whole land, and then spoke of their sanctified zeal for religion. The exasperated people retaliated — nor need we wonder — and a savage war was waged on both sides. But details must be left to the civil historian. Having placed the real motives and objects of the pope in this unparalleled outrage on humanity and religion, in as clear a light as brevity would allow, we will now only note a few of the principal engagements in this great struggle, which brought it to a close, and which manifest yet more fully the character of Simon and the monks of Citeaux, under the direction and sanction of the pontiff.
The Barbarities of Simon and Arnold
Simon de Montfort, as feudal lord of the Viscounty of Beziers and Carcassonne, was bound by his ecclesiastical tenure to extirpate the heretics. He therefore continued his campaign; many towns and castles fell into his hands, some by force, some by panic. In the diocese of Albi, the chief seat of the obnoxious doctrines, the war was conducted with the most savage cruelty. When La Minerve, near Narbonne, after an obstinate defence, surrendered, one in whose heart a spark of humanity yet remained, proposed that the vanquished should be allowed to retire, if they would recant their heresy; but such mild terms were objected to by the merciless monks. “The terms are too easy,” they exclaimed, “we come to extirpate heretics, not to show them favour!” “Be not afraid,” replied the abbot in cruel mockery, “there will not be many converts.” And he was right, but not in the sense in which he spoke. His intention was to kill every one of them; but their intention, or rather, firm purpose was, to accept of death rather than the papal terms. The Albigenses in the meantime were assembled for prayer. The abbot of Vaux-Cernay found a number of christian women in a house quietly engaged in prayer and waiting for the worst that could befall them. They expected no mercy from these holy fathers, and were prepared to die. He also found a number of men on their knees in another house peacefully awaiting their end. The abbot began to preach to them the doctrines of popery; but with one voice they interrupted him; and all exclaimed, “We will have none of your faith; we have renounced the church of Rome, your labour is in vain, for neither death nor life shall make us renounce the truth we hold.” De Montfort was asked to speak to them. He visited both the men and the women, in all about one hundred and forty. “Be converted to the catholic faith,” he said, “or mount this pile.” He had previously caused an enormous pile of dry wood to be raised. Not one of the Albigenses wavered for a moment. They denied the supremacy of the pope and the authority of the priesthood; they owned no head but Christ, and no authority but His holy word. Irritated to rage at their constancy and calm firmness, he ordered the fire to be lighted, the pile was soon one mass of flames. The undaunted confessors of the name of Jesus, committing their souls into His hands, rushed voluntarily into the flames, as if ascending to heaven in a chariot of fire.
When the castle called Brau capitulated, De Montfort plucked out the eyes of more than a hundred of the defenders, and otherwise shamefully mutilated them, leaving one of them one eye that he might lead away the rest. Not, says the abbot of Vaux-Cernay, that the count took pleasure in such things, “for of all men he was the mildest,” but because he wished to retaliate on the enemy. Such was the judgment of the monkish historian. At Lavaur, the city of the good Roger Bernard, Count of Foix, the barbarities surpassed all precedent even in this fearful war. The count is claimed by the Waldenses as one of themselves. “Of all the provincial princes,” says Milman, “the Count of Foix was the most powerful, and the most detested by the church as a favourer of heretics. In this case the charge was an honour rather than a calumny. He was a man of profound religion; the first to raise the native standard against De Montfort, he was a knight of valour as of christian faith.” At length the city fell into the hands of the besiegers; a general massacre was permitted; men, women, and children were cut to pieces, till there remained nothing to kill except some of the garrison and others reserved for a more cruel fate. Four hundred were burned in one great pile, which caused universal rejoicing in the camp. And amid all this rioting in fiendish cruelty, the bishops and legates stood chanting, “Come, Holy Ghost.” It was here that lord Almeric with eighty nobles was brought before De Montfort, who ordered them to be hanged, as we have already seen. The pious Lady Geralda also suffered here; of whom it is said, “No poor man ever left her door without being fed.” *
* Latin Christianity, vol. 4, p. 223; Gardner’s Faiths of the World, “Albigenses.”
The Siege of Toulouse
From the blazing pile of four hundred human beings and gibbets overloaded with noble lords, the champion of the church advanced to the siege of Toulouse. His numerous conquests had rather inflamed than satisfied his “undisguised rapacity.” He hoped to add to his possessions the lordship of Toulouse, and thus to raise himself to a level with sovereign princes. The bishop Fouquet was in his camp. This new bishop of Toulouse, placed there to suit the pope’s purpose, is spoken of by historians, as one of the most treacherous, cruel, sanguinary and unscrupulous men that ever breathed. Rabenstein was deposed to make room for him that he might work within the gates the ruin of the count, while the inquisitors and crusaders were doing it outside. But in spite of all the pope’s treachery and Simon’s bravery the tide of fortune was on the turn. The Count of Toulouse, under the stern discipline of prolonged calamity showed that he was really gifted with courage and force of character. He had gathered around him his allies with their followers, who defended the city, and also made such bold sallies from the garrison that Simon was compelled to break up the siege. He revenged himself by wasting the gardens, vineyards, and fields. The state of matters was now completely changed. Raymond, instead of acting on the defensive, became the active and energetic assailant, and before a few months had elapsed, he recovered most of the places which had been seized by the crusaders. The forty-days’ feudal principle caused continued fluctuation in Simon’s army, and no doubt prevented him from improving his advantages to the full, so that his successes were chequered by occasional reverses. The triumph of Raymond, however, was but a temporary respite, and the prelude to a terrible defeat.
A fresh crusade was preached in Germany and northern France; many adventurers, trained in the wars of Germany and of the East, now joined the new army. All temporal blessing in a beautiful country, with heaven at last, induced numbers to assume the cross. The archbishops of Rheims and Rouen, the bishops of Paris, Laon, Toul, were with them, and William, archdeacon of Paris, was the chief engineer of the army. The poor discouraged Albigenses, at the approach of such a myriad host, fled from the open country and sought a refuge either among the woods and mountains, or in the large cities. Raymond, feeling his own weakness, sought the alliance of his kinsman Don Pedro, king of Arragon, the gallant Spaniard promised him his support, but before engaging in the war he made an appeal to the pope in favour of Raymond.
Moved by the king’s appeal, and becoming jealous of the growing power of De Montfort, his holiness, for a moment, seemed disposed to alter his line of policy. He intimated his displeasure to the legates: they had, he said, laid hands on territories that had never been polluted with heresy, he commanded the restitution of the lands of the Counts of Foix and Comminges, and of Gaston de Beam. He also suspended his indulgences to the crusaders. But all this appearance of justice or pity was mere sentiment in the mind of the pope He very soon revoked all his own concessions. The letters of his legates and inquisitors were absolutely furious — “Arm yourself, my lord pope, with the zeal of Phineas; annihilate Toulouse, that Sodom, that Gomorrah, with all the wretches it contains; let not the tyrant, the heretic, Raymond, nor even his young son, lift up his head, already more than half-crushed, crush them to the very utmost. The purification of Languedoc must not be thought of until the city of Toulouse be razed to the ground, and the citizens put to the sword. If the Raymonds be allowed to lift up their heads, they will take unto themselves seven other devils worse than the first. Let your apostolic wisdom provide against this evil; let not your hand be withheld from this holy and pious work until the serpent of our Moses shall have swallowed up the serpents of this Pharaoh; until the Jebusite with all the uncircumcised and impure be dispersed, and your people rejoice in the quiet possession of the land of promise.”
The Pope Temporizes — The Battle of Muret
The pope was in a difficulty, he yielded to a necessity. He alone had called forth the movement; but the power to control it had slips from his hold; his agents were only carrying out his instructions; he had no right to complain. Making a virtue of necessity, he sharply rebuked the king of Arragon the chief support of the Catholic cause in Spain — charged him with misrepresentation, threatened him with a crusade, and confirmed his sentence of excommunication against Raymond and his allies. De Montfort was proclaimed the active servant of Jesus Christ, and the invincible champion of the Catholic faith, he was also authorized to retain his conquests. The patience of the long-suffering king of Arragon was now exhausted, and, provoked by the insolence of the clergy, he flew to arms. At the head of a thousand knights and a large army, he crossed the Pyrenees, and encountered the crusaders at the little town of Muret, about nine miles from Toulouse. At the head of the warriors of the cross, attended by seven bishops, appeared Simon de Montfort in full military array. “His army,” says Greenwood, “though fewer in numbers, consisted of the heavy-armed chivalry of France, eager, by victory over the heretical host, to earn immortal honour, or by martyrdom to be wafted into the presence of the saints in paradise.” The battle which followed was fierce, short, and decisive. Don Pedro with many of his nobles was numbered with the slain. The remnant of his army, deprived of his command, broke and dispersed, and the whole of the raw and ill-armed militia of Raymond and his allies were either put to the sword, or drowned in the Garonne to the last man.
The cause of the Albigenses in consequence of the great victory of Muret had now become desperate, and the fate of the devoted land appeared to be decided for ever. Raymond was stripped of his territories; De Montfort was acknowledged as prince of the fief and city of Toulouse, and of the other counties conquered by the crusaders under his command. Overwhelmed by his misfortunes, and by the censures of the church, Raymond offered no opposition. Fouquet, the pope’s bishop, took possession of the palace of his ancestors, and, with a cruel impudence which no language can describe, ordered the noble count and his family to retire into obscurity. Such were and are the tender mercies of the Romish priesthood, even to their own flock if reckoned disobedient, for Raymond never was accused of heresy, only of sheltering heretics in his dominions — or, in other words, of refusing to massacre in cold blood his most dutiful and loyal subjects: this was his whole crime in the sight of Rome, as heaven will surely judge.
The Conquerors Quarrel Among Themselves
The conquest appeared to be complete, and the conquerors began to divide the spoil; but Arnold and De Montfort quarrelled about the ducal crown of Narbonne. Each claimed the dukedom. The legate had assumed the archbishopric of Narbonne, to which he affirmed the rights of temporal sovereignty were attached, but De Montfort, who took to himself the title of Duke of Narbonne, felt indignant that a priest should lay claim to that temporal authority which he asserted was all his own as prince and sovereign of the whole land. The quarrel became serious. Simon, branding Arnold and all his adherents as heretics, invaded the prelate and took possession of the city by force of arms; the legate, exercising his spiritual authority, excommunicated the great crusader, and laid all the churches of the city under an interdict. The pope, regarding with jealousy the formidable power of these great rivals, and not feeling equal to interfere in this strife, convened — A.D. 1215 — the fourth Lateran Council, in order to bring to an end the crusade against the Albigenses, and finally to dispose of the conquered territories.
This was the most numerous council ever held in Christendom. But we must not venture even on the faintest description of its proceedings. We would only notice what immediately affects our present subject. “Raymond and his son accompanied by the Counts of Foix and Comminges, and many other nobles of Languedoc were admitted to the presence of the pope, seated in full consistory among his cardinals and other prelates. They knelt before him: the young Raymond presented letters from his uncle the king of England. The English monarch expressed his indignation at the usurpation of the inheritance of Raymond by Simon de Montfort. The pope was moved by the beauty and graceful bearing of the young prince, thought of his wrongs, and was observed to shed tears. ” This noble youth of the old ancestral house of Toulouse, and connected by blood or marriage with all the sovereigns of Europe, and who had never been accused of the taint of heresy in any way, had been robbed and spoiled by the pope’s agents, and driven into exile. The son was followed by the father, and the other counts, who complained of the injustice of the legate and of De Montfort; of the pillage of their lands and the lawless massacre of their subjects. The enormous cruelties of Fouquet were dwelt upon by all the witnesses, whom they denounced as the destroyer of more than ten thousand of the flock entrusted to his pastoral care.
Something like pity seemed for a moment to touch the heart of Innocent on hearing the depositions of so many noble witnesses, and all professedly Catholics. Many members of the Council were also touched with remorse, and spoke in favour of the dispossessed princes. But this tendency to something like justice on the part of the Council raised the indignation of Simon’s partisans to the most vehement height. They assured his holiness that, if the legate and De Montfort were compelled to surrender the territories and lordships which they had, no one henceforth would ever embark in the cause of the church; no one would ever be found to run any hazard in her defence. Still the pope seemed disposed to listen to the complaints of the princes; and raising his voice said, “I give leave to Raymond of Toulouse and his heirs to recover their lands and their lordships from all who hold them unjustly.” The prelates were furious. The pope stood dismayed before the power he had created, and by which he was now compelled into injustice. De Montfort was confirmed in all his conquests, with the exception of the territory of the Venaisin, which was reserved for the younger Raymond if his conduct should satisfy the legate. Philip Augustus acquiescing in this sentence, granted to Simon de Montfort the investiture of the Countships of Toulouse, of Beziers, and of Carcassonne, and of the dukedom of Narbonne. Simon was now on the throne which he had reached through oppression, tyranny, and blood; he was proclaimed sovereign of Toulouse, and general of the armies of God, the son and darling of the church. The clergy and people came out to meet him with the blasphemous salutation, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” But the triumphing of the wicked is short; his end and his eternal award were near at hand.
The Lies of Fouquet
The decree of the Lateran Council, which prohibited the further preaching of the crusades, deprived De Montfort of fresh supplies. This changed state of affairs revived the spirit of the younger Raymond, who resolved to raise an army and make an heroic effort to regain the conquered dominions of his father. He was soon at the head of a large force; the hope of deliverance from the cruelties of Simon, and attachment to their hereditary sovereigns, animated the whole population of Languedoc. De Montfort now treated Toulouse as a conquered city, exacting enormous sums, and endeavouring to secure them by the sternest measures. A general rising of the oppressed citizens was evident, but they unwisely accepted the treacherous mediation of their bishop, the perfidious Fouquet. He assured them that not a hair of their heads would be touched if they agreed to the terms of De Montfort. The citizens agreed, and thus he swore to them: “I swear by God, and the holy Virgin, and the body of the Redeemer, by my whole order, the abbot and other dignitaries, that I give you good counsel, better have I never given; if Count de Montfort inflict on you the least wrong, bring your complaints before me, and God and I will see you righted.” How cruel! This is popery. These were the sheep of his own pasture. We are not now speaking of the rights or the wrongs of the war, but of the perfidious falsehoods of the avowed shepherd of the sheep.
The people were now in the snare of Satan. They were treated as subjects detected in revolt, and punished by the bishop himself with all his relentless cruelty. The first act of De Montfort was “the demand of thirty thousand marks of silver, the demolition of the walls, and every stronghold in the city, and the plunder of the inhabitants to the very last piece of cloth, or measure of meal.” Thus they had to spend the winter, but the ensuing spring brought relief.
The Death of De Montfort
On the appearance of the old Count and his son beneath the broken-down walls of Toulouse with a large army, fear gave way to the enthusiastic joy with which the people welcomed back the Raymonds to the palace and the dominions of their ancestors. Many of the nobles of Languedoc raised troops and threw themselves into the city. Simon and his son, Guy, hurried to the spot, but were ignominiously repulsed. The bishop of Toulouse and the wife of Simon sought help in France. A new crusade was preached, but De Montfort could not keep an army more than forty days; numbers flocked to the Raymonds. The siege lasted nine months, it was the scene of many a fierce encounter. In the spring of 1218, De Montfort came against Toulouse with a fresh company of one hundred thousand crusaders. “You are about to conquer the city,” said the lying spirit, “to break into the houses, out of which no single soul, neither man nor woman, shall escape alive; not one shall be spared in church, in sanctuary, in hospital!”
Such were the counsels of Rome, but God had decreed otherwise. When kneeling at high mass, a shout announced that the besieged had made a sally; instantly springing to his feet, Simon placed himself at the head of his veterans and hastened to the place of attack. But little did he think it was for the last time; at that moment he was wounded by an arrow from the city walls; this evidently troubled him in spirit; he retired a few paces, when a fragment of a rock, thrown from a machine struck him on the head and severed it from his body. As the lifeless trunk lay on the ground, his admirers dared to reproach God with his death, and to arraign the divine justice. But there we must leave them: Simon is before God, and has learnt his eternal doom.
The siege was raised, the besieging army was entirely defeated. The bell was tolled to call the citizens to offer thanksgivings in tumults of exultation. Raymond was hailed as their lawful and now undisputed sovereign; and again the standard of the house of St. Gilles waved above the palace and the ramparts of Toulouse.
The Kings of France and the Albigenses
Innocent III. was now dead, and the papal throne was occupied by the third Honorius, who entered with great ardour into the cause of De Montfort, and was warmly supported by the kings of France. The prospect of peace to the poor Albigenses under the mild government of Raymond was intolerable to the new shepherd of Rome. To gratify the infuriated pope, and under the pretence of fulfilling his vow and ensuring his eternal welfare, Louis, son of Philip Augustus, conducted a crusade as early as the year 1219. All the atrocities of the former time were renewed and surpassed, if possible, under the direction of the clergy. But we spare the reader the description of the satanic mixture of deceit, hypocrisy, perfidy, baseness, and savage cruelty, displayed by the clergy under the sanction of the sovereign.
The elder Raymond died, leaving the defence of his states to his son, then in the vigour of his age and hopes. It is said by Milner, “that he died of sickness, in a state of peace and prosperity, after his victory over Simon — that no man was ever treated with more injustice by the popedom.” Philip Augustus also died, leaving his crown to Louis. The younger De Montfort, in the year 1224, despairing of success, finally abandoned Languedoc, and Raymond VII. sat on the throne of his ancestors, with no enemy to dread, excepting the pope and his sovereign — his pastor and his liege lord. But Raymond had a beautiful portion in France, and Louis was impatient to unite it to his crown.
Jezebel again plots; she convenes a council at Bourges, in the year 1225, at which Louis is enjoined to purge the land of heretics, and raises money for that purpose. Louis accordingly takes the cross, and attended by his barons and their followers, to the number of two hundred thousand men, advances once again to devastate the budding fields of Languedoc, and to exterminate all heretics according to the decrees of Rome. Poor unhappy Languedoc! When will Rome, the dragon, the devourer of God’s saints, be satiated with blood? — with the blood of infants, of little children, of mothers and maidens, of unarmed, inoffensive young men and fathers! A name could be given to the beast that symbolizes the Chaldean, Persian, and Grecian empires, but the fourth beast which symbolizes the Roman, whether pagan or papal, must be left unnamed. “After this I saw in the night visions,” says Daniel, “and, behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” (Dan 7: 7) As a matter of interpretation, Daniel’s vision refers more directly to the civil power, but the ecclesiastical aspect of the beast as in Revelation is more blood-thirsty than the civil ever was.
This unnamed monster we have now before us in the king of France urged to extremities by the pope. At the approach of the two hundred thousand crusaders under the banner of their own sovereign, the hearts of the people sank within them. Town after town yielded, for all the defenders had died. “They had so repeatedly endured all the horrors of war in all their most frightful forms, that the barons, knights, and communes of Languedoc, with one accord, hastened to avert, by timely concessions, the continuance of these intolerable calamities.” But just at this moment when all seemed lost, the hand of the Lord interposed. A pestilence broke out in the invading camp. Louis himself was carried off, and thirty thousand of his soldiers were swept away by the contagion. The impending ruin of the inhabitants, and of the house of Raymond, was postponed for a little.
At the death of Louis VIII. his son, who was but a child, succeeded to the throne of France, and the reins of government meanwhile fell into the hands of his mother, Blanche of Castile. By her orders the siege of Toulouse was renewed. The advantages of the war were all in favour of Raymond; but the glory of his victories, according to one chronicler, were sullied by the cruelty with which he treated the vanquished who fell into his hands. The siege of Toulouse was protracted and difficult; the crusaders were losing hope; in their perplexity, Fouquet, the evil genius and the lying spirit of Toulouse, suggested the only means of a successful attack. By his advice all the vines, the corn, and the fruit trees were destroyed, all the houses burned for miles round the city, till the country was converted into a desolate wilderness; and the city of Toulouse stood in the centre of a desert. Of course no supplies of any kind could be procured. This was the work of the bishop of the place, this was his diocese, these were the people over whom he had been appointed as overseer! The reader must judge whether he partakes more of the spirit of Daniel’s fourth beast, or of Him who says to every shepherd, “Feed my sheep . . . Feed My lambs.” (John 21)
When this new vial of papal wrath was poured out on their devoted land, and every green thing withered up, the inhabitants of the city were so discouraged, and the spirit of Raymond their leader so completely broken, that at the end of three months peace was obtained on the most humiliating terms. The treaty of Paris, which terminated the war for a time, was signed in the month of April, 1229. The terms were dictated by the papal legate, and approved by the king of France. Raymond VII. whose comely form and graceful manners, together with the sense of his wrongs, drew tears from Innocent in the great Lateran Council, now bows his neck to a foreign yoke, and bares his shoulders to a spiritual despotism. He was led by the legate to the church in Paris and, like his father in St. Gilles, with naked shoulders and bare feet, he underwent the same public and ignominious flogging by priestly hands. On his knees, in the church of Notre Dame, he solemnly abdicated all his feudal sovereignty to the king of France, and submitted to the penance of the church. The reader may remember that the father in his penance renounced seven castles, now the son renounces seven provinces. Thus it was ordered by Him who rules over all, and ordered for the future humbling of Rome, that the peace of Languedoc turned out so much to the advantage of Rome, as of the rapidly increasing monarchy of France. Philip Augustus had wrested from the feeble hands of John the continental possessions of the English crown, and now the dominions of the Count of Toulouse, and of the king of Arragon, north of the Pyrenees, were added to the French crown. “The possession of Normandy,” says James White, “had already made France a maritime power; and now, by the acquisition of the Narbonnais and Maguelonne from Raymond VII., she not only extended her limits to the Mediterranean, but, by the extinction of two such vassals as the Count of Toulouse and the Duke of Normandy, incalculably strengthened the royal crown.” *
* For fuller details both as to the papal and the Albigensian side of this bloody warfare, see Du Pin, thirteenth century; Sir J. Stephen’s Lectures, vol. 1, pp. 214-242; Milman, vol. 4, pp. 167-238; J. White. pp. 282-289; J.C. Robertson, vol. 3, pp. 340-433; Milner, vol. 3, pp. 92-155; Gardner’s Faiths of the World, “Albigenses.”
Reflections on the Calamities of Languedoc
To every thoughtful mind, to every man of faith, especially to those who study history from a scriptural point of view, the wars in Languedoc are most suggestive. They are the first of the kind on record. It was reserved for Innocent III. to inaugurate this new character of warfare. There had been many instances of individuals being sacrificed to the prejudice of the priesthood, such as Arnold of Brescia: but this was the first experiment on a great scale, which the church made to retain her supremacy by force of arms. It was not, observe, the army of the church going forth in holy zeal against the pagan, the Mahometan, the denier of Christ, but the church itself in arms against the true followers of Christ against those who acknowledged His deity, and the authority of the word of God.
We might fill pages with quotations from their worst enemies as to the soundness of their faith, the purity of their morals, and the simplicity of their manners. We will only give two or three from the highest authorities in the church of Rome. “They denied,” says Baronius, “the utility of infant baptism; that the bread and wine became the body and blood of the Lord by the consecration of a priest; that unfaithful ministers had any right to the exercise of ecclesiastical power, or to tithes or firstfruits; that auricular confession was necessary. All these things the wretched men asserted that they learned from the Gospels and Epistles, and that they would receive nothing, except what they found expressly contained therein; thus rejecting the interpretation of the doctors, though they themselves were perfectly illiterate.” Reinerius, the inquisitor, and persecutor of the Albigenses, says, “they were the most formidable enemies of the church of Rome, because they have a great appearance of godliness, because they live righteously before men, believe rightly of God in all things, and hold all the articles of the creed; yet they hate and revile the church of Rome and the clergy; and in their accusations they are easily believed by the people.” St. Bernard, who knew them intimately, lived amongst them, yet deemed it his duty to oppose them as being enemies to the pope, candidly admits, “If you ask them of their faith, nothing can be more christianlike; if you observe their conversation, nothing can be more blameless, and what they speak they make good by their actions. You may see a man, for the testimony of his faith, frequent the church, honour the elders, offer his gifts, make his confession, receive the sacrament. What more like a Christian? As to life and manners, he circumvents no man, overreaches no man, does violence to no man. He fasts much and eats not the bread of idleness; but works with his hands for his support.” *
* See Milner and Gardner, as quoted above.
Such then, was the spiritual, moral, and social character of the Albigenses, as evidenced by their enemies. They were true witnesses for Christ, evidently formed by the grace of God to show forth His praise in the world. And had we as many of their writings as we have of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, we might find that they were more simple on certain points of doctrine than these were. But according to the mind of the Lord, other three hundred years were necessary to ripen Europe for the Reformation; and in the meantime the arts of printing and paper-making were discovered.
What then, it may be asked, was the crime of the Albigenses? The head and front of their offence was simply this they denied the supremacy of the pope, the authority of the priesthood, and the seven sacraments as taught by the church of Rome; and, in her eyes, greater criminals there could not be on the face of the whole earth: therefore utter extermination was the one unchangeable decree. Those who escaped the sword of the crusader must be caught in the toils of the inquisitor.
“In hundreds of villages,” says the historian, “every inhabitant had been massacred. Since the sack of Rome by the Vandals, the European world had never mourned over a national disaster so wide in its extent, or so fearful in its character.” What a record! what a witness! and if such be the records of earth, what must they be in heaven! Oh, Rome! Rome! drunken with the blood of God’s saints, and covered with the execrations of millions, what must thy future be? How wilt thou bear the reproaches of those whom thou hast deceived with thy lies and caused to perish with thy sword? Do any think that we speak too strongly? let them listen to the address of one of the bishops to the crusaders before the battle of Muret: “Whosoever has confessed his sins to a priest, or has the intention of doing so after the battle, will in dying, obtain eternal life, and escape the passage through purgatory. I will be your surety in the day of judgment. Depart in the name of Christ.” Was not this a soul-deceiving lie? But Jezebel will hear of it again. “For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled, fill to her double…. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her…. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” (Rev. 18: 5-24)
But Rome overreached herself. Though Languedoc was desolate, the Albigenses who escaped the sword, fled into other countries. By the grace and the good providence of God, they preached the gospel in almost every part of Christendom, and testified against the cruelties, the superstitions and the falsehoods of the church of Rome. From this time it begins to lose its hold on the confidence and reverence of mankind. Thus the Lord prepared the way for Wycliffe and Huss, Melancthon and Luther.
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