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com During the medieval period, the Catholic Church condemned any sect of Christianity as heresy that differed from the tradional Catholic teachings. One of these sects, called the Albigensians (or Cathars), came out of southern France, and Pope Innocent III saw this group as a threat to the unity of Chirstendom at a time when he was leading a war to retake the Holy Land from the Muslims. The pope called for a separate “crusade” to destroy the Albigensian heresy, offering spiritual blessings to those warriors who would commit to forty days of service. His main goal in eradicating such heresies was to gain complete control over medieaval Europe, including Byzantium and Spain, and eventually regain control in the Holy Land. Despite efforts to unify Europe and retake the Holy Land, the Albigensian Crusade further divided the continent and increased the anti-roman sentiments of those living in southern France. The rift would eventually lead to a second pope sitting the throne at Avignon. At first, the pope attempted to make a peaceful reconciliation with the Albigensians, but when these efforts produced little resuts, Innocent became impatient and declared war on the “heretics.” The triggering event for his decision was the murder of a papal delegate in Toulouse. Innocent then appointed Simon de Montfort to lead an army 20,000 knights and 200,000 foot soldiers against Count Raymond of Toulouse (the man accused of murdering the delegate) and the Albigensians. Count Raymond surrendered quickly, but the rest of the Albigensians held out for a long time. While a skilled warrior in his own right, Simon never completely conquered the Albigensians, as he could only count on the French troops to stay around for forty days, and on top of that, he was an unpopular leader. In 1213, Innocent called off the crusade. But that did not end the fighting. The king of Aragon took up the cause of Raymond and the Albigensians and led an army against Simon and his allies. What had started as a war against a heretical sect turned into a war of two countries: France and Spain. This time, Innocent backed the king of Aragon and Raymond, but the majority of French nobles still supported Simon. The French forces eventually defeated the Spanish forces. Innocent would later excommunicate Simon de Montfort for his acts of brutality throughout the conflict. Simon died in 1218 at the Battle of Toulouse. Raymond died in 1222. The Albigensians continued to frustrate the Catholic Church until the year 1229 when Raymond’s son negotiated the treaty of Meaux, and the Albigensians territory was handed over to Capetian France and returned to the traditonal Catholic Church. Source: Whitters, Mark F. “Albigensian Crusade.” In Ackermann, Marsha E., Michael Schroeder, Janice J. Terry, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, and Mark F. Whitters, eds. Encyclopedia of World History: The Expanding World, 600 CE to 1450, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc. ItemID=WE49&iPin=WHII005&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 18, 2008). Additional Readings: Caesarius of Heisterbach on the Heresy of the Albigenses ( Bernard Gui on the Albigensians (

Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Trevor-Roper, Hugh. The Rise of Christian Europe: History of European Civilization Library. Norwich, England: Thames and Hudson, 1965. Copyright 2009 © Steven Till