Concerning the persecutions which the Albigenses have suffered from the Pope and his party.


MY design is not to enlarge here upon a particular description of their persecutions. This would be too vast a field to enter upon in a work of this kind which I have undertaken: but withal, I should think myself to blame, if, after having shewed with how much zeal the Albigenses maintained the truth of the Gospel by their preaching, and practiced the morals thereof in their conversation, I should not give a short account of what persecutions they have suffered, and with what constancy, by their martyrdom, they have borne witness to the same truth.

We have already taken a view of the persecutions exercised against Peter de Bruis and Henry his disciple, at the solicitation of Peter de Clugny, and Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, who caused them to be sacrificed to the interest of the Church of Rome, which, after the eleventh century, begun to persecute with sword and fire all those who durst be so bold to oppose her greatness by undervaluing her decrees. It was in compliance with this method, that Petrus Cluniacensis, writing to the Archbishop of Arles and Ambrun, and to the Bishops of Die and Gap, concerning the Petrobusians and Henricians, tells them,

“It is your duty to drive out the heretics from those places, (where they rejoice to have found lurking-holes,) not only by your preaching, but also, if need be, by armed force of laymen.” The Council of Toulouse, assembled in 1119, where Calixtus II. was present, gave occasion to these bloody executions. The third chapter enjoins all powers to repress the heretics, and that those that favor them be subject to the same condemnation.

In the year 1163 the Council of Tours, assembled by Alexander III. had ordained, that the Bishops of those provinces, where any of them were found, should not suffer any one to harbour or shelter them; that no commerce should be held with them about the things of common conversation; and ordered temporal princes to imprison and condemn them, and confiscate their estates and goods.

In the year 1179 the same Pope Alexander III. renewed the same orders, forbidding also their being buried in places set apart for the burial of Papists.

In 1181 Henry, who, from Abbot of Clairvaux, had been made Bishop of Alby, having, as Legate, gathered together some considerable forces by his preaching, went to visit them with armed force; but they, to avoid the storm that threatened them, pretended to abjure their errors: but no sooner was the storm blown over, but they lived as they did before. So that the contagion spread itself through several provinces on both sides of the Loire: and one of their false apostles, called Terric, who had hid himself a long time in a cave at Corbigny in the diocese of Nevers, was taken and burnt; and many more suffered the same punishment in several other places.

This was that sweetness of the Church of Rome, which the Bishop of Meaux so much boasts of, and which she put in practice long before she came to conferences, which served only for a prelude to the utter ruin of the Albigenses, which the Popes had designed long before.

Accordingly Innocent III. as Mezeray tells us in the History of Philip Augustus, finding himself unable to reduce the heretics of Languedoc, who had almost gained that whole province, resolved to make an example of Raymond, Earl of Toulouse, because he was their chief favourer, and because he had caused Peter de Chasteauneuf, a Cistertian Monk, and the first that ever exercised the function of Inquisitor, to be put to death: he excommunicated the Earl, absolved his subjects from their oath of allegiance, and gave his lands to the first that should seize them, yet so as without prejudice to the right of sovereignty of the kings of France.

Whereupon the Earl was so frighted, that being come to Valence, to meet with Milo, the Pope’s Legate, he wholly submitted himself to him, and gave eight strong places for ever to the Church of Rome, as a security of his conversion; and the year following, to obtain absolution, he suffered himself to be lashed with rods before the gate of the church of St. Giles, where Peter de Chasteauneuf was buried, and afterwards to be dragged to the tomb of that Monk by the Legate, who put a wooden yoke about his neck, before twenty Archbishops and an infinite multitude of people: after this he took upon him the croisade, and the year following joined himself with those that took his own cities, and those of his confederates.

But it was not his repentance that engaged him to endure so dreadful a disgrace, but the apprehension he had of a terrible tempest that was just then breaking over his head: for the Pope turning his torrent of zeal against the heretics, which pushed the people on to the deliverance of the Holy Land, had this same year ordered the croisade to be preached up against the Albigenses, and a great number of noblemen, bishops, and common people, had already listed themselves in that service, the King himself furnishing fifteen thousand men, maintained at his own charges.

It is worth our taking notice, first, that Pope Innocent III. to encourage the lords and people to the holy war, granted a plenary remission of all their sins to all those who took up the badge of the cross, vouchsating also the protection of the holy see to their persons and goods, as may be seen in his Epistles. He absolved the cities that had sworn to the Earl of Toulouse from their oath of allegiance, upon that excellent principle of the Church of Rome, that faith is not to be kept with heretics, because they do not keep theirs with God or the Church. Secondly, that the Earl of Toulouse was not guilty of the murder of Peter de Chasteau Neuf; for we read, that Earl Raymond went to meet King Philip, to obtain of him letters of recommendation from the Pope, that he might be fully acquitted of the murder of the Monk Peter de Chasteau Neuf, whereof they had most unjustly obliged him to confess himself guilty, only because the said murder had been committed in his territories, for which the Legate Milo had imposed upon him a most unjust and unheard of penance. From the court of the King of France he went to Rome, where he received absolution immediately from the hands of Pope Innocent III. This being a case reserved to him, the Pope received him very civilly, presented him with a rich robe and a ring of great value, and granted him plenary remission and absolution from the said murder, declaring that he looked upon him as sufficiently cleared upon that account.

In the year 1209, the army of these crossed soldiers, which consisted of no less than five hundred thousand men, entered Languedoc, and attacked the city of Beziers, being one of the strongest places the Albigenses had, took it by force, and put all they found in it to the sword; so that above sixty thousand persons were killed there, as Mezeray informs us.

There happened one thing very remarkable at the taking of this city, which was, that the zeal of these consecrated soldiers was such, that they put to the sword all the Papists and Romish Clergy that were in the city. The Earl of Beziers came out of the city, and cast himself at the feet of the Legate Milo, begging his grace in behalf of his city of Beziers, and entreating him that he would not involve the innocent in the punishment of the guilty, which would certainly come to pass, in case the city should be taken by force, (which would soon be done by such a great and powerful army, that was ready to scale the walls in every part round the whole city:) that it could not be otherwise but that in this case much blood would be spilt on both sides, which he might prevent. That there were in Beziers great numbers of good Catholics, who would be involved in the same ruin, contrary to the Pope’s intention, whose design was only to chastise the Albigenses. That if he did not think fit to spare his subjects for their own sakes, that at least he would be pleased to take pity of his age and profession, since the loss would be his, who was under age, and an obedient servant of the Pope, as having been educated in the Church of Rome, in the which he was resolved to live and die. That if he was offended that such persons as were enemies to the Pope had been tolerated in his territories, that this ought not to be imputed to him, because he had no other subjects but such as his deceased father had left him; and that in this his minority, and during the short time that he had been master of his estate, he had neither been able, by reason of his incapacity, to discern the evil, or to suit a remedy to it, though indeed this was his intention; and that he hoped, for the time to come, to give all manner of satisfaction to the Pope and the Church of Rome, as became an obedient son of both. The Pope’s Legate’s answer was, that all his excuses should be of no use to him, and that he might shift for himself the best he could.

The Earl of Beziers, being returned to the city, called the people together, and represented to them, that, after having submitted himself to the Pope’s Legate, he had interceded for them, without being able to obtain any thing, but a pardon, upon condition that those who professed the faith of the Albigenses should abjure their religion, and promise to live according to the laws of the Church of Rome. The Roman Catholics beseeched them to give way to this extreme violence, and not to be the cause of their death, because the Legate was resolved not to pardon one of them, except they all unanimously resolved to live under the same laws. To which the Albigenses answered, that they would never forsake their faith for the base price of this frail life: that they were well assured that God could protect them, if it seemed good unto him; but withal, neither were they ignorant, that, if he rather chose to be glorified by the confession of their faith, it would be an exceeding honor to them to die for righteousness’ sake: that they had much rather displease the Pope, who could only destroy their bodies, than offend God, who could destroy body and soul together: that they detested the thought of being ashamed of or denying that faith by which they had learned to know Christ and his righteousness; and for fear of eternal death to embrace a religion which entirely takes away the merit of Jesus Christ, and destroys his righteousness: that therefore they might make the best terms for themselves they could, without promising any thing that was contrary to the duty of true Christians.

As soon as the Roman Catholics understood this, they sent their Bishop to the Legate, to beseech him not to comprehend them in the same punishment with the Albigenses, they having always adhered to the Church of Rome, and of whom he who was their Bishop had good knowledge; judging also, that the rest had not gone so far from the ways of repentance, but that they might be reduced by a sweetness well becoming the Church, which takes no delight in shedding blood.

The Legate, being enraged at this, with horrible threats and oaths protested, that except all that were in the town did acknowledge their fault, and submit themselves to the Church of Rome, they should all be put to the sword, without any regard had to Catholics, to sex, or age, but that all should be exposed to fire and sword; and immediately commanded the city to be summoned to surrender at discretion: which being refused, he commanded all the warlike engines to play, and to discharge their instruments, and to cast stones, ordering them at the same time to give a general assault, and to scale the city round, so that it was impossible for those within to sustain the shock: for being pressed upon by above an hundred thousand pilgrims, they at last, saith the compiler of the Treasure of Histories, discomfited those within the city, and entering in all at once, killed vast numbers of all sorts, and afterwards putting fire to the city, they burnt it to ashes.

When the town was taken, the Priests, Monks, and Clerks came in procession out of the great church of Beziers, called St. Nazari, with the banner, cross, and holy water, bareheaded, clothed in their ecclesiastical vestments, singing Te Deum, in token of their rejoicing for the city’s being taken and purged of the Albigenses. But the pilgrims, who had received an express order from the Legate to kill all, rushed in amongst this procession, cutting off the heads and arms of the Priests, striving who could do most, till they were all cut to pieces.

These cruelties exercised upon the city of Beziers, upon the Papists themselves, yea, and upon their very Clergy, having opened the Earl of Beziers’s eyes to see that the Pope, under the pretense of religion, had a mind to ruin the Earl of Toulouse, his uncle, as well as himself, he shut up himself in his city of Carcasson, with a resolution to defend it against the Legate and his pilgrims. The King of Arragon, his kinsman, having discoursed with him, the Earl plainly declared, that he knew this to be the Pope’s design, because when he was treating for his subjects of Beziers, he refused to receive his Catholic subjects into his favor, nay, would not so much as spare the Priests, who were all cut in pieces in their sacerdotal ornaments, under the banner and the cross; that this example of cruel impiety, joined with what they exercised upon the village of Carcasson, where they had exposed all to fire and sword, without any distinction of age or sex, had fully convinced him that there was no mercy to be looked for from the Legate or his pilgrims; and that accordingly he would choose rather to die with his subjects, defending themselves, than to be exposed to the mercy of an inexorable enemy, such as he had found the Legate to be: and though there were in the city of Carcasson many of his subjects of a belief contrary to that of the Church of Rome, yet that they were persons that had never done any injury to any one; that they had always assisted him in time of need; and that for this their good service he was resolved never to abandon them, as they, on their parts, had promised him to hazard life and estate in his defense: that he hoped that God, who is the reliever of those who are oppressed, would assist them against this great multitude of ill-advised men, who, under the pretence of meriting heaven, had quitted their own habitations to come and burn, pillage, ravage, and murder, in the habitations of others, without either reason, judgment, or mercy.

The King of Arragon returned with this remonstrance to the Legate, who assembled a great number of Lords and Prelates to hear what he had to say, who declared to them, that he had found the Earl of Beziers, his ally, extremely scandalized at their inhuman proceedings against his subjects of Beziers and of the village of Carcasson; and that he was fully persuaded, seeing they had neither spared the Roman Catholics, nor the Priests themselves, that it was not a religious war, as was pretended, but a kind of robbery under the color of religion: that he hoped God would be so favorable to him, as to make his innocence, and the just occasion he hath had to defend himself, sufficiently known: that they must not hope now to have them surrender at discretion, since they had found that there was no other to be expected from them, but that of killing all they met with: that it had never been found good policy to drive an enemy to despair: wherefore if the Legate would be pleased to afford any tolerable composition to the Earl of Beziers and his subjects, that mildness would be a better method to reduce the Albigenses to the Church of Rome, than extreme severity: and that he ought also to remember that the Earl of Beziers was a young man, and a Roman Catholic, who might be very serviceable in reducing his subjects, who had so great confidence in him, to their obedience to the Church.

The Legate told the King of Arragon, that if he would withdraw a little, they would advise what were best to be done. The King being called in again, the Legate told him, that in consideration of his intercession, he would receive the Earl of Beziers to mercy; and therefore, if it seemed good to him, he might come forth, and eleven with him, with his goods and baggage: but that as for the people that were in the city of Careasson, they should only deliver to his discretion, of which they ought to have a very good opinion, he being the Pope’s Legate; and that accordingly they should come forth all stark naked, men, women, and children, without shirts or any other covering on their bodies. Also that the Earl of Beziers should be delivered into sure hands, and that all his estate should be surrendered up to the future lord of his territories, who should be chosen for conservation of the same.

The King of Arragon having endeavored to bring the Legate to easier terms for the young Earl, the Legate told him, that these conditions were very favourable: and yet what follows is still more infamous. The Legate employs a person of quality to endeavor to draw the Earl of Beziers out of Carcasson, and to bring him to him, with assurance under oath, that he would send him back to his city of Careasson, in case he should not be satisfied with the Legates proposals. The Count of Beziers, upon this assurance, comes to the Legate, and represents to him, that if he would think fit to treat his subjects with more kindness, he would easily induce them to comply with his desire, and recall the Albigenses from their error to the Church: that the terms which had been mentioned to him were shamefull and undecent, for those who were to keep their eyes chaste, as well as their thoughts: that he knew his people would rather die, than see themselves reduced to so scandalous an ignominy, and therefore entreated him to come to easier terms: and that he did not question but to make his subjects accept of any other more tolerable conditions.

The Legate’s answer was, that the people of Carcasson might consider what they had to do; that he would concern himself no further, since the Earl was his prisoner, and should continue so till the city were taken, and his subjects acknowledge their duty.

When Simon, Earl of Montfort, was made general or the Church, he was so careful to destroy the Albigenses, that he seized upon all the places belonging to Popish lords, that lay convenient for him, so that the King of Arragon was forced to complain to the Pope of these his proceedings, in some letters yet extant, to oblige him to make restitution. And for the merciful temper of this renowned Earl, take but this one instance of it. After a siege of six months the city of Lavaur was taken by storm and scaling of the walls, and all that were found in it were put to the sword, except fourscore gentlemen whom the Earl caused to be hanged and strangled, and Almericus was hanged on a gallows higher than the rest. The lady of Lavaur was cast alive into a pit, and there stoned to death.

The conduct of the Pope and the Lateran Council, in the year 1215, is worth taking notice of, because it was nothing but a confirmation of all these proceedings. Mezeray gives this account of it. Prince Lewis took upon him the badge of the cross to go against the Albigenses, and assisted in the expedition of Languedoc; the Earl of Montfort met him at Vienne, and the Legate at Valence. When he was come to St. Gilles, Montfort, who accompanied him, received bulls from the Pope, who, pursuant to the decree of the Council of Montpellier held some months before, had given him the whole territory of Toulouse, and all the rest he had conquered with his crossed pilgrims, provided he could get investiture from the King, and would pay him the accustomed homage: so that we may say, that the Pope nominated him to his dignity, and the King, in compliance with the said nomination, conferred it upon him. From thence Lewis went to Montpellier, and then to Beziers, where he gave order for the demolishing of the walls of Narbon and Toulouse. In the mean time the Council of Lateran, notwithstanding the pitiful remonstrances of the Earl of Toulouse, who was present there in person with his son, adjudged the propriety of his lands to Montfort, reserving only the lands he had in Provence for his son, and four hundred marks of silver a year for his own subsistence, and that too upon condition of his being obedient to the Church. After this, Montfort assumed the title of Earl of Toulouse, and came and received his investiture from the King in the city of Melun. I should never have done, should I barely mention all the cruelties and barbarities which the Romish party exercised for near twenty years together by their continual croisades, against a people who were taken to be heretics, as soon as they found a New Testament in the vulgar tongue about them.

I shall conclude this chapter with setting down the laws which the King of France enacted in the year 1228, against the Albigenses.

“Wherefore because the heretics have now of a long time spread their poison in your parts, polluting our mother the Church after several manners; we do in order to their utter extirpation decree, that all heretics deviating from the Catholic faith, by what name soever they are called, as soon as they are condemned of heresy by the Bishop of the place, or by any other ecclesiastical person that hath power to do it, be without delay punished; ordaining also, and firmly enacting, that no man do presume to harbour or protect the said heretics, or favor or trust them; and that if any one do presume to commit any thing contrary to these premises, he be made incapable of being a witness, or of any honor whatsoever, as also of making a will, or inheriting any thing. Moreover, we enact, that all his goods, real or personal, be, ipso facto, confiscated, never to return to him or any of his posterity. We also enact and command, that all barons of the land, and our bailiffs, and other our subjects present and future, be careful and diligent to purge the land of heretics and heretical contagion, commanding them to be very industrious in searching them out, and faithful in discovering them, and as soon as they have found any of them, to present them without delay before the persons above named, that so being convict in their presence of error and heresy, they may, setting aside all hatred, entreaties, rewards, fear, favor, and love, give sentence against them. And that those who are diligent and careful in the searching for and seizing of heretics, may not want the encouragement of honor and reward; we do enact, will, and command, that our bailiffs, in whose bailiwicks the said heretics shall be seized, pay to the taker for every heretic, two marks in silver, for the term of two years, and after that time expired, one mark only.”

Hitherto we have taken a view of what was charged upon the magistrates and lords, to whom the execution of these laws was committed. Let us now consider what other means the Church of Rome made use of; which was, the erecting the tribunal of the Inquisition, the maxims and conduct whereof Pope Gregory XIII. thought good to make known to the world by publishing the Directory for Inquisitors. This tribunal, erected by the Popes for the extirpation of the Albigenses, is a thing in itself so very horrid, that it strikes the Papists themselves with horror, that are not used to it; and yet such as it is, it hath justly been esteemed, and is still to this day thought to be the right hand of the Church of Rome. One may see from some of the published registers of these Inquisitors, and by some of their trials of the Albigenses, the horrid impostures of these Inquisitors, and the terrible punishments they have inflicted upon the Albigenses in all places, where from age to age they have been able to discover them.


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