["Occitania in 1209," map created by Odejea, source: Wikimedia Commons]
The Crusaders first besieged the city of Béziers, calling on the Catholics to come out and the Cathars to surrender. Both groups refused and the city was sacked on 22 July 1209. The Crusaders slaughtered the inhabitants, Cathars and Catholics alike, making an example of the town.*** Shortly thereafter they took the city of Carcassonne and expelled its people. After this, many towns surrendered out of fear.
[image taken from Grandes Chroniques de Francesource: Wikimedia Commons]
[Cité de Carcassonne and vinyards, photographed by Harry, source: Wikimedia Commons]
The Crusaders ran into trouble over the next several years. Languedoc would not submit peacefully and many of the captured towns rebelled. Many of the knights also left the crusade because their stipulated time had run out and they wanted to return home. It was only when Louis VIII (son of Philip Augustus) intervened that they were able to take control again. In 1229 Raymond of Toulouse signed, ending the crusade and marrying his daughter and heir to her son Alphonse. Politically, the Crusade was a success and these lands now belonged to the French kings. The Cathars, however, had not yet been exterminated and would suffer much more.
*Or “He who stuck his nose into everything.” I find the guy fascinating, but seriously, you can connect him to everything.
**Which, as we know, did not go as intended. At all.
*** The story that Arnaud Amalric, Abbot of Cîteaux and papal legate to the Crusade, said something along the lines of “Kill them all, God will know His own” is probably a slightly later invention. Even so, it describes the attitude of the Crusaders quite well.
****If the name sounds familiar because you’ve studied British history, this would be that guy’s father. He was also a first class hypocrite. He abandoned the Fourth Crusade during the Siege of Zara because he refused to attack a Christian city. He had no such qualms during the Abigensian Crusade.
Barber, Malcolm. The Two Cities: Medieval Europe 1050-1320. London: Routledge, 1993.
Stephenson, Carl and Bryce Lyon. Mediaeval History: Europe from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in Languedoc
What was the Albigensian Crusade?
Who led the Crusade?
Who's Who in the Cathar War
Pope Innocent III
Simon de Montfort the Elder
Massacre at Béziers