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Albigensian Crusade: Facts and Timeline

Vijith Menon Feb 28, 2020
The Albigensian Crusade was a war to eliminate the followers of Cathar who resided in the south of France. We summarize the facts about the Albigensian Crusade and gives you a timeline of the same.

Did You Know?

The game Carcassonne is inspired by the heavily fortified city of the same name, which refused to surrender to the Crusaders.
The Catholic Church, in an effort to spread its faith, had commenced crusades in the neighboring countries who refused to convert to Christianity. Pope Innocent III, the leader of the Catholic Church, sent its delegates to "convert" people to absolve themselves from sin. He was particularly interested in Languedoc, where the people practiced a separate sect of Christianity called Catharism.
Catharism was an austere religion. The Cathars were known as Albigensians due to the city of Albi being a stronghold of Catharism. It followed a dualistic ideology of the God and Satan as two separate beings, with God associated with purity and Satan with every aspect of evil. It encouraged its followers to adopt asceticism and celibacy even after marriage. 
Those who wished to serve the sect became Prefects after an arduous religious ceremony. This was deemed unnatural and the Pope issued a Papal bull decreeing it as sacrilegious to the Bible. This story summarizes the events in the Albigensian Crusade.

Timeline of the Albigensian Crusade

1208- Pope Innocent III declared a crusade against the Cathars in France after the assassination of Pierre de Castelnau.

July 1209- Simon de Montfort along with his crusaders besieged the city of Béziers, killing Catholics and Cathars alike.
August 1209- The town of Carcassonne surrendered to the crusaders and Raymond-Roger de Trencavel was executed.

December 1209- Pierre Roger de Cabaret repelled the attack on Lastours from the crusaders.

1210- The cities of Bram, Minerve, and Termes surrendered.
1211- Pierre-Roger de Cabaret and his supporters were hanged and Lastours was captured. Count Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse led the attack against the crusaders and captured Castelnaudary.

1213- King Peter II of Aragon and I of Barcelona, came to help Toulouse.

September 1213- King Peter II died in the Battle of Muret.
1214- Count Raymond fled to England and his lands were given to the French king, Philippe II Augustus by Pope Innocent III.

November 1214- Simon de Montfort captured the castles of Domme, Montfort, and Castelnaud and Beynac.

1216- Simon de Montfort ceded his lands to King Philippe II. Pope Innocent III died. Raymond and his son returned to reclaim Toulouse.
1218- Simon de Montfort was killed by a stone hurled by the defense.

1219- The French town of Marmande fell to the Crusaders.

1222- Count Raymond VI died.
1223- King Philippe II died and was succeeded by Louis VIII.

1225- Raymond VII, the son of Raymond VI was ex-communicated and made to pay the papal fine called the "Albigensian tenth".

1226- Louis VIII continued the crusade and invaded the town of Avignon.
1229- Raymond VII signed the Treaty of Paris at Meaux surrendering the town of Toulouse.

1234- The Inquisition was established to eliminate the remaining regions practicing Catharism.

Albigensian Crusade Map


Phase I (1209-1215)

  • Pierre de Castelnau was sent as an emissary of the Church to convince Count Raymond VI to eliminate the followers of Catharism.
  • As Pierre de Castelnau was exiting the state, he was assassinated. This led to the ex-communication of Count Raymond VI of Toulouse.
  • The assassination of Pierre de Castelnau led to Pope Innocent III declaring a crusade against Catharism and offered land to any who would fight.
  • Simon de Montfort decided to answer the call and gathered 10,000 crusaders to attack Béziers, and the princely states loyal to Catharism.
  • 10-20,000 people were slaughtered in Béziers.
  • Raymond Roger Trencavel, the nephew of Count Raymond VI realized that Simon de Montfort was heading to Carcassonne and rushed back to gather his forces.
  • During the siege of Béziers, a papal delegate, Arnaud Amaury is believed to have yelled "Slay them all! God will know his own".
  • The crusaders cut off the water supply of Carcassonne.
  • Raymond Roger Trencavel was executed and Simon de Montfort assumed control of Carcassonne and the surrounding areas.
  • After Carcassonne, the towns of Albi, Castelnaudary, Castres, Fanjeaux, Limoux, Lombers and Montréal surrendered.
  • In 1210, Simon de Montfort attacked Lastours but the attack was repelled by Pierre-Roger de Cabaret since it was bordered by four castles, with the Lord's castle right in the center.
  • Pierre-Roger de Cabaret captured Simon's cousin and lieutenant Bouchard de Marly as hostage. In retaliation, Simon seized the town of Bram and executed a hundred prisoners as a warning message.
  • In June, the crusaders attacked Minerve with trebuchets and destroyed its water system.
  • Thirst forced the residents of Minerve to surrender on July 22 to the crusaders. Arnaud Amaury refused to accept any negotiation terms and 140 believers of Catharism were burned.
  • During the siege of Termes, Pierre-Roger de Cabaret attacked one of the weapon wagons belonging to Simon de Monfort as a response to the mutilations.
  • Arnaud Amaury was relentless in his pursuit of the heretics and ex-communicated Count Raymond VI again for refusing to prosecute those of the Catharism belief.
  • With the aid of reinforcements, Simon de Montfort was able to shake the defense of Pierre-Roger de Cabaret's Lastours-Cabaret castle.
  • The fortress of Montferrand surrendered and Raymond VI's brother Beaudouin joined the crusaders.
  • On September 1213, Pedro II d'Aragón joined the forces of Raymond VI against the crusaders.
  • Pedro II tried to seize Muret but was killed in action on September 12.
  • After Pedro's death, Raymond VI soon fled to England.
  • In 1214, Pope Innocent III appointed King Philippe II as the new chief of the army. He joined forces with Simon de Montfort and continued the crusade further south.
  • On April 1216, Raymond VI and his son Raymond VII returned to claim their rightful kingdoms which caused a rebellion in the town of Languedoc.

Phase II (1215-1225)

  • In May 1216, Montfort had to relinquish his hold over the garrison of Beaucaire. He lost another battle at Lourdes.
  • In February 1217, Montfort decided to capture Montgrenier. Taking advantage of this absence, Raymond VI decided to seize Toulouse

  • The new pope, Honorius III asked the King of France, Louis VIII to assist Amaury de Montfort, the son of Simon de Montfort in the crusade.
  • Raymond VII was able to capture Castelnaudary in 1220. During the siege, Amaury's younger brother, Guy de Montfort was killed in action.
  • In 1222, Raymond VI died and was denied a Christian burial. His son, Raymond VII, became the heir apparent and the disputed ruler of Toulouse.

Phase III (1225-1229)

  • In 1226, Louis VIII seized Avignon. Following this, Carcassone surrendered and most of the regions in Languedoc submitted, while Toulouse alone resisted.
  • On November 8, 1226, Louis VIII died.
  • The temporary regent-in-charge, Humbert de Beaujeu, took over the reins of the crusade till Louis XI was of age.
  • The town of Labécède was massacred by Humbert de Beaujeu.
  • In 1228, Guy de Montfort was killed while attacking Vareilles.
  • Blanche de Castile decided to recognize Raymond VII as the true heir of Toulouse if he agreed to the matrimony of his daughter, Jeanne to her younger son, Alphonse, the brother of Louis XI.
  • Raymond VII signed the Treaty of Paris, to surrender Toulouse as well as pay damages to the Church.
The Inquisition was established in 1234 to continue the crusade and eliminate any towns harboring the remaining Cathars. The Albigensian Crusade was yet to continue for another 20 years resulting in the genocide of the Cathars.