CHAPTER V

 

The Albigensian War. [1]

 

War is the act by which a people resists injustice, at the price of its own blood.  Wherever there is injustice, there also is a legitimate cause for war.  Next to religion, war ranks as the first of earthly duties: one teaches us in what right consists, the other defends it; one is the word of God, the other is His arm.  Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts; that is, the God of justice; the God who sends forth the mighty to the succor of the poor oppressed; the God who hurls lofty powers in the dust; who, for the people’s sake, destroys the gates of brass, and brings destruction on the oppressor.  But even as with the holiest things, so war itself may be perverted from its lawful end, and become the instrument of oppression; therefore, to judge of the character of any particular war, we must first know its object.  Every war of deliverance is sacred, every war of oppression is cursed.

 

Until the era of the Crusades, almost the only cause that unsheathed and sanctified the sword, was the defense of the individual territory and government of each nation.  The soldier died on the frontiers of his native land, and her name it was that inspired his heart in the moment of battle.  But so soon as Gregory VII. had awakened in the mind of his contemporaries the idea of a Christian Republic, then the horizon of self-devotion widened with that of fraternity.  Europe, one in faith, felt, no matter who the oppressor might be, that every oppressed Catholic nation had a right to her aid and her sword.  Chivalry sprang into existence; war became not only a Christian, but also a monastic duty; and battalions of monks, clad in hair-cloth and shield, defended the outposts of the West. Every Christian clearly recognized himself as the instrument of right against might; and as the child of Him who heeds the faintest groan of His creatures, he too must be ever ready at the first cry of distress.  Even as the hunter, ready for the chase, stands at the foot of a tree, intently listening to know from which point the wind blows, so Europe, then, lance in rest, and foot in stirrup, listened attentively to know from what quarter the cry of injury came.  Whether it proceeded from a throne, or from a simple dwelling; whether the sea must be traversed, or only a horse mounted in order to reach it; time, place, peril, rank, all were unheeded.  They stayed not to count the gain or loss: blood gives itself gratuitously, or not at all.  Conscience rewards it on earth, God prepays it in heaven.

 

Among the causes which Christian chivalry had taken under her protection, was one most sacred of all; that of the Church.  Having neither soldiers nor ramparts for her defense, she was always at the mercy of her persecutors, and of any hostile prince; but when chivalry arose, it took the City of God under its guard, because she needed protection, and because the cause of her liberty was the cause of mankind at large.  As one oppressed, the Church had the same right as others to the aid of chivalry; as an institution founded by Jesus Christ, in order that she might carry on the work of enfranchising and saving mankind, the church was Mother, Spouse, and Sister of all whose heart was noble, and whose sword was good.  I like to believe that there is no one at the present day but can fully appreciate this sentiment; and that, amid all her misery, the glory of our age is, to know that there are wider and loftier claims than those of family and nation.  Sympathy makes nations go forth to aid each other, and the voice of the oppressed finds an echo in the world.  What Frenchman is there who, if he could not in person, would not, at least, with his good wishes, accompany an army marching to the relief of Poland?  What Frenchman, unbelieving though he may be, who does not rank among the greatest injustices done to that illustrious country, the violence shown to her religion, the exile of her priests and her bishops, the spoliation of her monasteries, the destruction of her churches, the torture of consciences?  If the despotic arrest and imprisonment of the Archbishop of Cologne has caused so deep an emotion throughout modern Europe, what must not the Europe of the thirteenth century have experienced, in learning that an Apostolic Legate had just been treacherously assassinated?

 

Neither was this the first act of oppression for which Christendom had to demand satisfaction from the Count of Toulouse; for a long time there had been no safety for the Catholics in his dominions.  The monasteries had been laid waste, the churches pillaged, and many of them turned into fortresses; he had expelled from there sees the Bishops of Carpentras and Vaison; a Catholic could obtain no redress; all the heretical undertakings were placed under his protection, and he manifested for religion that striking contempt which, in a prince, is synonymous with tyranny.  One day when the Bishop of Orange came to entreat him to spare the consecrated edifices, and to abstain at least on Sundays and holy days from his hostile course, he seized the Bishop’s hand and said: “I swear by this hand to take no note of Sundays or holy days, and to show no mercy either to persons or sacred things.”[2]

 

France was at this time overrun by a number for unemployed soldiers, who, having formed themselves into several bands, filled the land with murder and rapine.  Pursued by Philip Augustus, they could always take shelter with impunity in the territory of his vassal, the Count of Toulouse, and his on account of the service they rendered him by their depredations and sacrilegious acts of violence.   They carried off the sacred vessels from the tabernacles; profaned the body of our Lord; tore the ornaments from the images of the saints, to bestow them on abandoned women; laid the churches even to the ground; priests were beaten to death, many were skinned alive, and the execrable treachery of the prince left his subjects at the mercy of these persecuting assassins.  When, then, after so many crimes of which he was either the author or accomplice, the Count of Toulouse had received the murderer of Pierre de Castelnau into the ranks of his friends, and loaded him with favors, the measure of his iniquity was full; the moment had come in which tyranny had become enfeebled by her own excesses.

 

It must not be imagined that it was an easy thing for Christendom to call the count of Toulouse to account.  His position was a strong one, as the sequel will prove.  Raymond VI, after fourteen years of war, died victorious over his enemies; he transmitted his patrimony to his son, who enjoyed it during his life, and this important fief was only united to the French crown by the marriage between a brother of St. Louis and the only daughter of Count Raymond VII.  The strength of this house resulted from many causes; it was of great antiquity, and a well-earned reputation had won for it the love of the people.  Heresy, become almost universal, had formed between prince and people a new tie, which in separating them from the rest of Christendom gave their union the force of a religious league.  Vassals of all grades shared the heresies of their suzerain, and the eager desire of obtaining the goods of the clergy added to community of interest also.  The few Catholic who remained were neither fervent enough nor numerous enough to weaken in any great measure this union, of which the count was the head.  Moreover, he had as faithful allies in his cause, the Counts of Foix and Comminges, Viscomte de Béarn, the King of Aragon, Pedro II, whose sister he had espoused, and he feared nothing from Guienne, which was then in the hands of the English.  His suzerain, Phillip-Augustus, at that time fully occupied by his quarrels with England and the empire, could not head the crusade; and without a leader, the only one then capable of inspiring fear, the army of Crusaders, composed of discordant elements, could only promise themselves transient victories, and a dissolution yet more speedy than their defeat.  Master of the whole line of the Pyrenees, protected on the west by Aragon, on the right and left by the sea, and immediately surrounded by a number of fortified cities defended by faithful vassals, Count Raymond’s chance of success was a thousand-fold greater than that of his enemies.  The Albigensian war was therefore a very serious one, and one in which the strategic difficulties were far outweighed by the moral ones; for what was to be done with the country even if were conquered? We shall see the fine and noble soul of Innocent III keenly alive to the danger of the position, and a mighty captain, victorious at the outset, succumbing to the weight of affliction, ere meeting with a soldier’s death.

 

As soon as Innocent III had been apprised of the assassination of Pierre de Castelnau, he wrote to the nobles, counts, barons, and chevaliers of Narbonne, Arles, Embrun, and Vienne, and after eloquently describing his Legate’s death, declared the Count of Toulouse excommunicated, his vassals and subjects absolved from their oath of allegiance, and his person and territories placed under the ban of Christendom, at the same time leaving open a door of reconciliation, in case the Count should repent and desire to make his peace with the Church.  This letter is dated 10th March 1208.  The Sovereign Pontiff also wrote in similar terms to the Archbishops and Bishops of the same provinces; to he Archbishop of Lyons, the Archbishop of Tours, and to the King of France.[3]  To his only surviving Legate he associated Navarre, Bishop of Conserans, and Hugues, Bishop of Riez, specially charging the Abbot of Cîteaux to join with his monks in preaching the crusade.  The rest of the year and the following spring were spent in making preparations.

 

Meanwhile, alarmed at what was going on, and knowing that the Bishops of the province of Narbonne had deputed their colleagues of Toulouse and Conserans to inform the Pope of the woes of their churches, Count Raymond sent the Archbishop of Auch, and the former Bishop of Toulouse, Rabenstens, on his own behalf to Rome.  It was their duty to complain bitterly of the conduct of the Abbot of Cîteaux, and to assure the Sovereign Pontiff that their master was ready to make his submission and render full satisfaction to the Holy See, as soon as they would accord him more equitable legates.  Innocent III consented to his, and dispatched the apostolic notary, Milon (a man of consummate prudence), to France, in order that he might hear and judge the Count’s cause.  Milon convoked an assembly of bishops at Valence, where Raymond having presented himself, accepted the proposed conditions of peace, which were these: that he should expel the heretics from his territories; remove the Jews from all public offices; make compensation for the damage done to the monasteries and churches; re-establish in their sees the Bishops of Carpentras and Vaison; see to the security of the highways, exact on tax contrary to the ancient usage of the country; and purge his domains of the armed bands by which they were infested. 

 

As a pledge of his good faith Raymond gave the Count of Melgueil as hostage to the Legate, together with the towns belonging to him in Provence, on condition of forfeiting them if he failed to keep his word.  It was arranged that the reconciliation should take place at St. Gilles, with the accustomed forms.  Had the Count of Toulouse been sincere, the open penitence to which he submitted, far from lowering him in the eyes of his contemporaries and of posterity, would have given him a right to the esteem of every Christian.  The glory of Theodosius was not sullied by his permitting St. Ambrose to bar his entrance to the cathedral at Milan.  It is only crime that dishonors; and voluntary expiation, especially in a sovereign, is a homage rendered to God and to man, exalting him who is capable of such expiation, and rendering him partaker of the invincible glory of the Crucified.  Perchance my words are incomprehensible to pride, but what of that?  The Cross has long reigned over the world, and pride has not yet divined the reason why.  Let us leave this stone-blind one, and to those who will listen we will repeat the words of Him who, by voluntary submission to suffering, has conquered earth and heaven: “Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”[4]  So great is the power of misfortune, that had the Count of Toulouse been sincere, the penance to which he submitted would have won him universal sympathy.  But the Count of Toulouse was not acting with sincerity; policy alone, extorted from him promises which he did not intend to fulfill, and when, having sworn by the relics of the saints, and by the Host itself, to observe all his promises, he presented himself at the gates of the Abbey of St. Giles, offering his naked back to the scourges of the Legate, it was by a disgraceful scene of perjury and of ignominy.  That which the most urgent necessity would have failed to justify, this man allowed with impunity.  One memorable circumstance aggravated his punishment and rendered it the more striking.  On attempting to quit the church, the crowd was so great that he could not advance a single step, therefore they let him through a secret door which gave access to the crypt, and he passed, naked and mangled, in front of the of the tomb of Pierre de Castlenau.

 

A few days after this event, which occurred on 18th June 1209, the Legate, Milon, rejoined the army of the Crusaders at Lyons.  It was commanded by the Duke of Burgundy, the counts of Nevers, and of St. Paul, bar and Montfort, many other noble-men of distinction, and some few Prelates.  In case of the absolution of the count of Toulouse, Innocent III had ordered that they should leave his domains unmolested; but that they should march against his vassals and allies, in order to compel their submission.  The army therefore advanced in the direction of Languedoc, but had hardly reached Valence, when Count Raymond came forth to meet them, also wearing the Cross.  They laid siege to Béziers, which having been unexpectedly taken by assault, fell a victim to the fury of the soldiery, without distinction of age, sex, or religion.  The Legates, in their letters to the Sovereign Pontiff, computed the number of killed to be nearly twenty thousand, and this unforeseen and unwished for carnage is one of those events which have invested the Albigensian war with a character that no historian can efface.  The caking of Carcassonne almost immediately followed that of Béziers; the inhabitants surrendered and were spared, but the town was given up to premeditated pillage.  It was hardly possible to commence more unfortunately a war so just in principle.

 

Up to this moment the Abbot of Cîteaux was the soul and the leader of the Crusade; after the successes at Béziers and Carcassone, the Crusaders, of whom many meditated a

retreat, resolved on electing a military chief.  The choice being entrusted to the decision of a council, composed of the Abbot of Cîteaux, of two bishops and of four knights, they deemed none worthier of the command than count Simon de Montfort.  This warrior was descended from the house of Hainault; he was the offspring of the marriage of Simon III, Count of Montfort and Evreux, with a daughter of Robert, Earl of Leicester, and he had espoused Alice de Montmorency, a woman as heroic as her name.  No braver soldier of more pious knight could be found than the Count of Montfort, and had he but united to these eminent personal qualities more disinterestedness and more gentleness, none of the Eastern Crusades would have surpassed him in renown.  Hardly was he appointed to the general command than he beheld himself left almost alone.  The Count of Nevers, the Count of Toulouse, and the Duke of Burgundy withdrew, one after the other, leaving Montfort with about thirty knights and a small number of soldiers.  This was a change of fortune incidental to such expeditions, of which the members came and went according to their own good pleasure.

 

I need scarcely remark that I intend but to trace the general outline of the ware and is attending negotiations; the clue is not easy to find, inasmuch as two parties disputed the direction, - that of the Abbot of Cîteaux and that of the Pope.

 

The plan of the Abbot of Cîteaux, in conjunction with the chief bishops of Languedoc and the neighboring provinces, was totally to destroy the House of Toulouse.  This was both unjust and impolitic.  It was unjust; for if Raymond VI merited destruction, and the suspicion in which he was held, it was not so with is son, a child twelve years old, who was neither an accomplice in his father’s crimes, nor incapable of Christian training under proper tutelage.  It was impolitic, inasmuch as a religious question, regarding which there was unity of opinion throughout Christendom, was now involved with a party question tending to promote disunion.  It also gave an ambitions hue to a war undertaken from the purest motives.  It is true that in the Count de Montfort, the Abbot of Cîteaux had the rare good fortune to meet with a man exactly fitted for the work; and this may possibly have decided the Abbot to effect the annihilation of the House of Toulouse.  The Count of Montfort’s martial qualities could but prove adverse to the subjects and vassals of that house, and the abbot, anxious to make prompt use of the forces of the crusade, overlooked the facts that time was required in order to substitute a new line for that of the old reigning one; also he should have feared transforming a war undertaken in the interests of Catholicism, into a mere party war between the House of Raymond and that of Montfort.  To the abuse of his authority in furthering this unwise scheme, the errors and outrages are to be attributed, which robbed the crusade against the Albigenses of the sanctity of character otherwise attaching to it. 

 

Innocent III was a man totally different to the Abbot of Cîteaux; moreover, he was seated on that privileged throne, which, besides the eternal aid of the Holy Spirit, has in virtue of its exaltation, the advantage of being superior to those passions which too often mingle with the noblest cause.  Whilst rash zeal too often aims at destroying the individual with the heresy, the Papacy always strives to save the individual by the destruction of the heresy.  Innocent III had no wish to exterminate the house of Toulouse, neither did he despair of awakening in Raymond feelings more worthy of his ancestral line.  In the letters of excommunication fulminated against the Count, the possibility of his repentance had not been overlooked, and the Pope had strictly enjoined that the Count’s territory should be unmolested.  But there were none in France ready to second the Holy Father’s generous intentions; he could not withstand the force of events, and his efforts, though fruitless, have shed additional luster on his memory.  Count Raymond, by departing from the pacific course he had at first adopted, also contributed to the success of his foes, and it needed a mighty arm to change the current of affairs.

 

Though left with but a handful of followers, Montfort continued to advance, storming, losing, and retaking towns; whilst the Count of Toulouse, secure in his reconciliation with the Church, appeared unmoved by the loss of his vassals and allies.  A council held at Avignon by the Metropolitans of Vienne, Arles, Embrun, and Aix, under the presidency of the to Legates, Hugues and Milon, roused him from his lethargy.  The council, opened on the 16th of September 1208, granted him a delay of six weeks, in which, under pain of excommunication, he was to fulfill the promises made by him at St. Gilles.  On hearing this, Raymond set out for Rome, and on being granted an audience of the Holy Father, who received him with many marks of affection, complained of the severity with which he had been treated by the Legates; produced authentic testimony respecting several church that he had indemnified, and declared himself ready to observe the remainder of his oaths, at the same time asking permission to be allowed to exonerate himself from the murder of Pierre de Castelnau, and from the charge of carrying on communications with the heretics.  The Pope encouraged him in these sentiments; and commanded that a fresh council of Bishops should assemble in France in order to hear his justification, with the express clause, that, if found guilty, his sentence should be reserved for the Holy See.  On leaving Rome, Raymond visited the Imperial Court, and that of France, hoping to obtain assistance, but in vain; he was therefore obliged to appear before the Council appointed to try his cause, and which was to be held at St. Gilles about the middle of September in the year 1210.  He wished to clear himself of the double charge of holding communication with the heretics and of being an accomplice in the assassination of Pierre de Castelnau; but the Council refused him audience on these two points, simply requesting that he would keep his word and purge his domains of the heretics and miscreants with which they abounded. Raymond could not, or would not, comply with this demand, and returned to Toulouse fully convinced that artifice was of no further avail, and that henceforth he could hope for nothing save from the chance of war.  The Council refrained from excommunicating him, inasmuch as the Sovereign Pontiff had reserved the right of pronouncing the final sentence, and Innocent III contented himself with writing an urgent and affectionate letter, abstaining from all menace and exhorting him to carry his promises into effect.[5]

 

The king of Aragon also used his influence in order to prevent a final rupture, and two conferences were held in the winter of the year 1211, one at Narbonne, and the other at Toulouse.  In the first of these the Count openly refused the conditions already proposed to him at St. Gilles, in the second, after apparently giving his consent, he abruptly withdrew.  The King of Aragon, irritated at such behavior, betrothed his son to a daughter of the Count de Montfort, both children being at that time about three years of age.  The boy was entrusted to the care of the Count in order that he might be trained under his direction; but Pedro soon regretted this step, and gave his sister in marriage to Count Raymond’s only son, thus strengthening the bond, already too firm, which united him to the heretical party.

 

Finally, the Abbot of Cîteaux launches the excommunication and sends an envoy to the Pope in order to obtain its confirmation; Innocent III confirms it.  Raymond, first assuring himself of the fealty of his subjects and the assistance of the Counts of Foix and of Comminges, and of many other nobles, prepares for war.  He repulses Montfort, who had appeared before the walls of Toulouse; the Albigensian army encamps before Castelnandary; a sanguinary battle ensues, and Raymond is forced to raise the siege.  The Crusaders win the day.  Town after town falls into their hands; the territories of Foix and Comminges are invaded, and Raymond proceeds to Spain to implore aid from the King of Aragon.

 

Subsequent events prove how perplexed and tired the Pope then was.  The King of Aragon, before arming in his brother-in-law’s defense, thought it best to try once more the result of negotiation, and sent an embassy to the Sovereign Pontiff, complaining not only of the Count of Montfort, who had seized some of he Fiefs, but also of the Apostolic Legates, who positively refused to admit the Count of Toulouse to penance.  On hearing this, Innocent III wrote to his legates, reproaching them for their conduct, and commanding them to summon a council of the bishops and nobles of the country, in order to decide on the best measures for securing peace.[6]  He ordered Count Montfort to restore the fiefs belonging to the King of Aragon and his vassals, “lest,” said he, “it should be thought that the Count had fought more from motives of personal interest than in defense of the faith.”[7] He then resolved to suspend the Crusade, and wrote a private letter to this effect, addressed to the Abbot of Cîteaux then, and for some time previously, Archbishop of Narbonne.[8]  But whilst these letters, dated early in the year 1213, were on their way, a council had assembled at Lavaur, at the request of the King of Aragon, who had sent written entreaties, begging the Legates and Bishops to restore the territories belong to the Counts of Toulouse, Comminges, and Foix, also those of the Vcomte de Béarn, and to re-admit them into communion with the Church, on such terms as the Legates and Bishops might think fit.  In case of refusal on the part of the Count of Toulouse, the King begged the council to do justice to the son.  The decision of the council was, that the Count of Toulouse having so often violated his word, could be allowed no further hearing, but that the Counts of Foix and Comminges, and the Vicomte de Béarn, would be admitted to penance as soon as they should desire it.  Concluding from this reply that there was a fixed determination to overthrow the House of Toulouse, the King of Aragon loudly declared, that from the inexorable severity of the Legates and Bishops he would appeal to the clemency of the Holy See, and take Raymond and his son beneath his own royal protection.  No suspicion of heresy can attach itself to this prince; he had surrendered his kingdom as apostolic fief of the Holy See, and had valiantly defended Christendom in her struggle with the Moors of Spain.  All was imperiled by the weight of his name and sword; therefore the Council of Lavaur hastened to dispatch four envoys to the Sovereign Pontiff, with a letter, the aim of which was to persuade him that unless the Count of Toulouse and his heirs were deprived of their territories, the Catholic cause would be lost.  The Archbishops of Arles, Aix, and Bordeaux, the Bishops of Maguelonne, Carpentras, Orange, St. Paul-Trois-Châteaux, Cavaillon, Vaison, Bazas, Béziers, and Perigueux, wrote in the same strain to the Holy Father.  Innocent III complained of having been deceived by the King of Aragon; and commanded him to desist from his undertaking, conclude a truce with the Count de Montfort, and await the arrival of the Cardinal, who he was about to dispatch to those parts.[9]  But the die was cast.  The King assembled an army in Catalonia and Aragon, and crossing the Pyrenees, united his troops with those of the Counts of Toulouse, Foix, and Comminges.

 

Montfort was at Fanjeaux, with he learned that the allied army, consisting of 40,000 infantry and 2000 horses, was advancing in the direction of Muret, an important place, situated on the Garonne, three leagues from Toulouse.  This was the sublime moment in his life.  He had at his disposal only about 800 horses and a small number of foot soldiers; he set out at once for Muret, early in the day, accompanied by his men-at-arms, and by the Bishops of Toulouse, Nîmes, Uzès, Lodève, Béziers, Adge, Comminges, and by three Cistercian Abbots.  Arriving the same day at the Cistercian monastery of Bolbonne, he entered the church, passed some time in prayer, and having deposited his sword on the altar, took it again into his hands, saying: “O Lord, who, unworthy as I am, hast chosen me to make war in Thy name, I take my sword back today from this altar, that in so doing I may receive my arms from Thee, in whose cause I go forth to fight!”[10] He then marched to Saverdun, where he passed the night.  Next day he made his confession, wrote his will, which he sent to the Abbot of Bolbonne, praying him, in case of death, to transmit it to the Sovereign Pontiff.  In the evening of the same day, he crossed the Garonne without receiving any interruption, and found himself close to the walls of Muret, guarded only by thirty of his knights.  This was Wednesday, 12th September 1213.  Before setting foot within the town, he had been rejoined by the Bishops, who had quitted him for a moment in order to sue for peace; but the King of Aragon had replied that it was needless that a King and Bishops should confer regarding a mere handful of soldiers.  In spite of the non-success of this attempt, when morning arose the Bishops commissioned one of the monks to notify to the King that they and all the Religious Orders would proceed barefooted, to implore him to come to a more merciful decision.  How bitterly the Count of Toulouse must then have regretted his perjuries and humiliations, all of which were fruitless! How must he have blamed himself for not having had recourse to a loyal and courageous war, instead of allowing his friends to be crushed and his own cause overwhelmed with dishonor!  He had indeed deceived himself; as artifice, so was war destined to prove destructive to him.  God saw this prince’s heart, and felt no pity for his fate.

 

The Bishops were preparing to leave Muret in guise of suppliants, when a body of hostile Knights hastened towards the gates.  Montfort ordered his men to place themselves in battle array in the lower part of the town; and after praying in a church were the Bishop of Uzès was offering the Holy Sacrifice, donned his own armor; then, when equipped, he re-entered the church.  As he knelt, the bands which fastened the lower parts of his armor broke in twain, and it was observed that as he set his foot in the stirrup, the charger tossed back his head and wounded him; but thought men of his temperament are usually susceptible to such omens, the knight heeded them not.  He rejoined his troops, followed by Foulques, Bishop of Toulouse, bearing the Crucifix in his hands.  The knights dismounted in order to adore their Lord and kiss His sacred image; but the Bishop of Comminges, seeing that time pressed, took the Crucifix from Foulques, and standing on an elevated spot, made a brief harangue to the army, and blessed it.  After this, all the ecclesiastic then present withdrew to the church to pray, and Montfort, at the head of 800 horse, quitted the town.

 

The ranks of the allies were drawn up in line, on a plain west of the town; Montfort, having issued by an opposite gate, as if he wished to flee, divided his forces into three squadrons, and made straight for the enemy’s center.  After God, he placed his hopes on being able to break the lines of the confederates, and by the boldness of the attack, throw them into a state of terror and confusion, and profit by all those chances which, at such a moment, the eye of a great captain knows how to discern.  His hopes were realized.  The first squadron broke through the enemy’s vanguard, the second penetrated to the hindmost ranks, where the King of Aragon and the elite of his army were stationed; Montfort, following closely with the third squadron, attached the bewildered Aragonese in the flank.  Fortune wavered a while, and time was precious, for the battalions through whose ranks a passage had been so happily made, were rather dazed than defeated, and might overwhelm Montfort in the rear.  A blow that unhorsed and killed the King of Aragon, decided the day.  The Aragonese shout and flee, and the rest follow their example.  The Bishops, anxiously praying in the church of Muret, some of them prostrated on the pavement, others raising their hands to heaven, are soon drawn to the walls by the sound of victory, and behold the plain covered with fugitives fleeing before the terrible arm of the Crusaders.  A body of troops, endeavoring to take the town by assault, throw down their arms and are cut to pieces in their flight.  Montfort, returning from the pursuit of the vanquished, in traversing the field of battle beholds the corpse of the King of Aragon extended on the ground, already stripped and bare.  He dismounts, weeping, kisses the mangled remains of this unhappy prince. Pedro II, king of Aragon, was a brave knight, beloved by his subjects, a sincere Catholic, and worthy of a better death.  The ties which united his two sisters to the two Raymonds, had induced him to defend a cause, regarded by him as no longer on of heresy, but one of justice and relationship.  He fell by a secret judgment of God, perhaps for having despised the supplications of the Bishops, and for having, in heart, already made ill use of a victory regarded by him as certain.  After providing for his burial, Montfort entered Muret, barefooted, went to the church to render God thanks for his protection, and bestowed his horse and armor on the poor.  This memorable battle, fruit of a conscience that believed firmly it was fighting in the cause of God, will ever rand among the noblest acts of faith.

 

Dominic was at Muret with the seven Bishops and the three Cistercian monks already named.  Some modern historian assert that he headed the combatants, Cross in hand, and they even shoed in the Inquisition at Toulouse, a Cross, pierced with arrows, and said to be the one born by him at the battle of Muret.  Contemporary historians relate nothing of the sort; on the contrary, they affirm that Dominic, with the Bishops and monks, remained in the town engaged in prayer; and one of his biographers, Bernard Guidomo, who lived in the Inquisition at Toulouse from 1308 to 1322, makes no mention of the Crucifix, shown later on.

 

The battle of Muret gave the death-blow to the cause of the Count of Toulouse.  His allies, and the people of his capital, tendered their submission to the Sovereign Pontiff, who commissioned Cardinal Pierre de Bénévent to reconcile them to the Church, and compel Count de Montfort to send back to Spain the new King of Aragon, the young child retained as hostage since his betrothal to the Count’s daughter.  This double mission was fulfilled by the Cardinal during the winter of 1214, and strange to relate, he even gave absolution to the Count of Toulouse, but this act of mercy availed not as regarded the temporal interests of the latter.  In December following a council assembled at Montpellier to decide to whom the sovereignty of the conquered territories should pertain.  The council decided unanimously in favor of the Count de Montfort, whose strong and glittering sword had turned the tide of war.  Nevertheless, the Sovereign Pontiff, in a letter of the 17th of April 1215,[11]  declared that Montfort should only retain his conquest until the Lateran Œcumenic Council – to which the Pope referred the decision – should have pronounced its final sentence.  This was a last effort made by Innocent III to save the unhappy House of Toulouse.  Count Raymond, deserted by all, had withdrawn his son to the English court.

 

The sun as it rose above the crest of the Apennines on the 11th November 1215, shone on the most august assembly in the whole world, then reunited within the church of St. John Lateran.  Seated there were 71 Primates and Metropolitans, 412 Bishops, more than 800 Abbots and Priors, numerous representatives of absent Bishops and Abbots.  The ambassadors of the King of the Romans; of the Emperor of Constantinople; of the kings of France, Hungary, Aragon, Jerusalem, and Cyprus; the envoys of a countless number of princes, nobles, and municipalities, and above them all was seen the venerable form of Pope Innocent III.  the Abbot of Cîteaux, Archbishop of Narbonne, was there, and Count Simon de Montfort was represented by his brother, Guy de Montfort.  The two Raymonds were also there in person, likewise the Counts of Foix and Comminges.  On the day appointed to hear the grand cause of the Albigensian crusade, the two Raymonds entered the assembly, accompanied by the Counts of Foix and Comminges, and prostrated themselves at the foot of the apostolic throne.  Having risen, they stated that they had been deprived of their fiefs, notwithstanding their entire submission to the Holy See, and the absolution bestowed on them by the Legate, Pierre de Bénévent.  A cardinal then rose, and spoke with much force and eloquence on their behalf, as also the Abbot of St. Tiberius, and the Chanter of the church at Lyons, of whom the latter appeared to make a great impression on the Holy Father.  But the majority of the Bishops, especially the French ones, pronounced against the supplicants, protesting that should their estates be restored to them, the catholic cause in Languedoc would be doomed, and the blood and zeal expended on its behalf would all have been given in vain.  The council declared count Raymond VI to have forfeited his fiefs, which were then finally transferred to the Count of Montfort, and a pension of four hundred marks was assigned him on condition that he would live out of his former territories; his wife Eléonore was to retain her dowry; the Marquisate of Provence was reserved for their son Raymond, to be handed over to him on attaining his majority, if he remained faithful to the Church.  As for the Counts of Foix and Comminges, their cause was deferred for further examination.  It is worthy of remark, that the Marquisate of Provence, destined for young Raymond, consisted of the towns forfeited to the Holy See by the non-observance, on his father’s part, of the treaty of St. Gilles.  It had often been proposed that the Sovereign Pontiff should unite them to the territory of the Holy See, but the Pope never would consent to this, and the only use he made of the rights he had acquired was to retain these towns for the Houses of Toulouse.  At the close of the council young Raymond, whose noble behavior had won universal esteem, went to take leave of the Holy Father.  He did not dissimulate his conviction that he was unjustly deprived of his ancestral patrimony, and naïvely and respectfully asserted that he should seize every opportunity of gloriously recovering that, which had been lost by no fault of his.  Innocent III, touched by the innocence and courage of this youth of eighteen, gave him this prophetic benediction: “My son, in all your actions may you begin well, and end still better!”[12]

 

Montfort, invest by Phillip Augustus with the titles of duke of Narbonne and Count of Toulouse, did not long enjoy the power he had so laboriously acquired.  Before the close of 1216, young Raymond had made himself master of a part of Provence; and Toulouse, wearied of the yoke of its new master, recalled old Raymond from the English court where he had fled for refuge, and opened its gates to him.  At the first intimation of a change of fortune a number of nobles hastened to swear fealty to their former suzerain.  Then the conqueror of Muret knew that martial renown alone will no ensure a people’s allegiance; and, by his misfortune, learnt the lesson that he who would rule effectually, must reign in this subject’s hearts.  Chased from Toulouse, after having disarmed and chastised it in vain, he sorrowfully laid siege to those walls within which he would never more re-enter.  The length of the siege, the uncertainty of the future, the reproaches of inaction addressed to him by Cardinal Bertrand, the Apostolic Legate, joined to the depression reverses cause when they com late in life, threw the brave knight into such a state of melancholy, that he prayed God for death.  Very early in the morning of the 25th June 1218, he was told that the foe was in ambush in the castle moat.  He called for his arms, and having equipped himself, went to hear Mass.  When it was already commenced, they came to tell him that the engines of war were assailed and in danger of destruction.  “Leave me,” he rejoined, “that I may behold the Sacrament of our Redemption.”  Then another messenger arrived with the tidings that the troops could resist no longer.  “I will not depart,” he replied, “until I have seen my Savior.” Then when the priest had elevated the Sacred Host, Montfort, kneeling on the ground, with hands upraised to heaven, uttered these words, Nunc Dimittis, and set out. His presence on the field made the enemy retreat to the fosses surrounding the town; but this victory was his last.  He was hit on the head by a stone, and striking his breast and recommending himself to God and the Blessed Virgin, he fell down dead.

 

Fortune continued to favor the Raymonds.  Of two sons left by the Count de Montfort, the younger was killed before the walls of Castelnandary.  Four years of non-success convincing the elder that he could not retain his father’s heritage, he ceded his rights to the King of France.  Old Raymond reposing at Toulouse, secure in his son’s success, had time to turn his thoughts to Him who had abased and re-exalted him.  On the 12th July 1222, on returning from the door of a church, for he was still excommunicated, he felt himself indisposed, and sent in haste for the Abbot of Saint-Sernin that he might reconcile him to the church.  The Abbot found him already speechless.  On beholding him, the old Count raised his eyes to heaven, and taking the Abbot’s hands in his, grasped them till his last breath.  His body was removed to the church of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, which he had chosen for his place of sepulture, but being excommunicated they dared not inter him.  He was therefore left in an open coffin, and three hundred years after was still to be seen there, no hand having been so daring as to hail a plank on that bier hollowed by death and time.  At his son’s request, the question of sepulture was discussed during the pontificates of Gregory IX and Innocent IV.  Numerous witnesses asserted that before death he had given real signs of repentance; yet men feared to disturb those ashes, by rendering them a tardy homage.

 

Raymond VII survived his father twenty-six years.  He withstood even the arms of France, but too feeble for the continued struggle, he concluded with St. Louis, in 1228, the treaty ending this long war.  The chief conditions of peace were these: His only daughter was to be given in marriage to one of the King’s brothers, the Count of Poictiers, with the reversion of the county of Toulouse, as her dowry; certain territories were to be ceded; he was to promise fidelity to the Church, and use his authority to suppress heresy.  The Church confirmed this peace by restoring the young Count to her communion; and by way of penance, he promised to serve in Palestine for the space of five years.  Twenty years later on, he seriously thought of fulfilling this duty, and set out for the Holy Land.  But God arrested him on his way; he fell ill at Pris, near Rhodes, whence he was removed to Milhaud, and died there on the 26th September 1248, surrounded by the Bishops of Toulouse, Agen, Cahors, and Rhodes, the Consuls of Toulouse, and a number of nobles, all of whom had arrived to take a last leave of a prince whom they loved, and who was the last male representative of the elder branch of an illustrious race.  On the Holy Viaticum being brought, the count rose from his bed, and knelt in the presence of his Lord, in death as in life, realizing the wish expressed by Pope Innocent III, when he blessed him as a youth, in these words: “My son, in all your actions my you begin well, and end still better.”

 

 

 

 

[1] The chief contemporary historians of the Albigensian war are Pierre de Vaulx-Cernay, Cistercian monk, and Guillaume de Puys-Laurens, chaplain to Count Raymond VII.  The Recueil des Lettres d’Innocent III. contains much valuable information on this head.  See also L’Histoire Générale du Languedoc, by the Benedictines of Saint-Maur, and L’Histoire du Pape Innocent III., et de ses Contemporains, by Hurter, President of the Consistory of Schafthausen.

[2] Lettres d’Innocent III., book x. letter 69.

[3] Book xi. letters 26,27, and 28.

[4] St. Matthew xxiii, 12.

[5] Book xiii. letter 88.

[6] Book xv. letter 211

[7] Ibid. 215.

[8] Ibid. 215.

[9] Book xvi. letter 48.

[10] Pierre de Vaulx-Cernay, Histoire des Albigeois, ch. lxxi.

[11] Vide Conciles de Labbe, t. xiii. P. 888

[12] Histoire Générale du Languedoc, t. iii.

 


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