Events preceding the game
The game takes place in the year 1262, in a small town located in a valley in the mountains in what we would call southern France nowadays. Languedoc used to be a part of the Kingdom of Aragon but over the course of two crusades, King of France took control of the region. The justification of the conquest was that the local nobility did not persecute the Cathars – heretics in the eyes of the Church. The religious leaders of the Cathars were called simply the Good People. The Church started mockingly calling them parfait or perfecti – perfects. The people of Languedoc started using Parfait without its mocking undertone. At the time of our game, there are no Parfait left. The last one of them was burned at stake under Monsegur 18 years ago, after the last big battle of the war.
No one likes to remember the war times, there was a lot of looting and pillaging. Many living still remember the fighting. Majority of local nobility was killed in the battles of the war or had to go into exile and many manors were taken by the conquerors – members of the French families of the north who are seen as invaders by the locals.
The Dominicans operate in the region with the support of the new nobility – the pope endowed them with the right to preside over courts spiritual – the Inquisition. Their goal is to find heretics and to bring them back to the right faith or to sentence them for their heresy. The bishop of Narbonne was given governance over the region by King of France and he therefore held both secular and religious power over the region. The representatives of the Church are untouchable for both the locals and the French.
The French nobility brings new habits and traditions as well as their law. The French law is much less progressive in many ways that the local law. Men and women were almost equal in the South and there was also virtual freedom of religious beliefs. It was the norm that people in the South could read, which included reading the Bible and interpreting its texts. However, according to the Catholic Church, people should not own the Bible and reading and interpreting it is absolutely out of the question – that is the domain of priests. The spirit of ancient Rome survived in many habits in Languedoc. On the other hand, the French nobility is used to a very patriarchal and strictly Catholic society.
A person of 21st century would experience the culture of Languedoc in 13th century as liberal, relaxed and tolerant, maybe a bit indulgent and libertine. The new French nobles are offended by this culture and we would see their opinions as uptight, chauvinist and exceedingly puritan.
According to the old laws of Languedoc, there was no issue in Lady Eleanor inheriting the Quillan manor from her late husband Raimund of Quillan. However, according to the laws of Frencdh invaders, she has to pass the inheritance to an adult man, otherwise her manor will have to be surrendered to the Crown. Eleanor plans to give the manor to her son as soon as he gets married. The wedding is about to take place when our game begins.
Read more about history
You can read the text of this page either in the Design document, which you can download here, or continue reading.
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Don’t worry about needing this detailed information to play the game. They will make your game more intense if you like history, but it is not necessary to read this to play the game.
The world of Occitania
Our game takes place in historical Occitania. When we talk about Occitania, we mean a broader culturally relatively homogeneous region which roughly encompasses well known regions in the south of France – Provence, Languedoc, Auvergne, Aquitaine… “Spanish” Catalonia belongs to the same cultural area as well. It is a land of sun, wine, Mediterranean… the land of the language of ‘Oc. Until this day, Occitan (and the Provençal dialect of Occitan) is considered as a mother language by about 9.5 million people and closely related Catalonia is spoken by approximately 7 million people.
It is a fertile land – everywhere you look, you can see vineyards, fields, orchards… Many settled this fertile land, which is why Occitania became a melting pot for various ancient cultures, such as Greek, Phoenician, Gaulish, Roman. All these (and others later) cultures mixed into a rich and colourful culture that defines the people of this land. Lakes and shrines in Pyrenees belonged to the last places where druids illegally performed their rites in hidden sanctuaries and we are not talking not only after the influence of the Roman Empire spread to this area and after the ban of the druidic practices in the first century AD but even later after the Christianity was adopted. In the 5th century, Arian Christian Goths came and after that even Arabs for some time… Goths might have been Christian but they had embraced Arianism, a Christian tradition that did not believe in the Holy Trinity and for whom Jesus was the Son of God but that did not make him equal with the only true God, the Father. We are safe to say that followers of Arian Christianity were the minority in the Christendom. Moreover, local intellectual elite among the nobility counted themselves among the proponents of Gnosticism – with the oldest elements maybe dating all the way back to druidism and Pythagoras (6th century BC). There were large Jewish communities in the cities and the Mithraic mysteries preceded the spread of Christianity in the 4th and the 5th century AD… People learnt to be tolerant, not to make a fuss about the religious beliefs of their neighbours.
In the middle ages, a sophisticated culture emerged in this area. While the French noble youth spent their days jousting, Occitan nobles were more likely seen playing a lute or a harp or composing music to accompany their sonnets. According to the popular tradition, Wenceslaus II of Bohemia was a great patron of music and arts and there were as many as three professional musicians at his court… The Lord of Puivert hosted 8 professional musicians at his castle in the Pyrenees…it was worlds apart from what we know about the nobility of the same period in the Central Europe. Each manor had a spa, every lord was a troubadour. Troubadours were no vagrant poets but noble and elegant singers of slightly frivolous poetry full of emotion and gallantry. And by noble we mean actual nobility – among the famous troubadours, one can find big names such as the Duke of Aquitaine Guillaume or his grandson Richard the Lionheart.
Only later, and in contrast to the troubadour poetry, a wave of trouveur poetry started spreading from Paris in the 13th century. Unlike the troubadour poetry where characters central to the poems were typically elegant nobles seducing women with their wit and gallantry, trouveur poetry praised God-sent heroes sacrificing themselves for noble ideals. Even the legend about King Arthur and the Holy Grail known today was created as a reaction to the Catharist version of the legend of the Holy Grail.
The Catharist version of the legend of the Holy Grail was in fact a family legend of the noble house of Trencavel which had it that the Viscounts of Carcassonne were descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene in a direct lineage. According to this legend, after the Crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene left with Joseph of Arimathea to the other end of the Roman Empire, which is here, to Languedoc. Jesus asked Mary to protect Life… and according to the legend, it was Joseph of Arimathea who hid and protected the Holy Grail, the Last Supper chalice which used to collect Christ’s blood upon his removal from the cross. But what if the vessel with Christ’s blood wasn’t a cup but his child? Surely you have seen a picture of uterus… Now draw the Holy Grail next to it, as it was depicted in various drawings, pictures, banners… And the expression itself, “San Gral”, is considered by some to be a cryptogram for Sang Réal which translates as royal blood.
This legend has been around since the 6th century AD and yes, it also, in a very indirect way, inspired Dan Brown in his Da Vinci Code, though he based his story mostly in the myths surrounding the famous hoax of Priory of Sion and its fictional history that attributed the descendancy of Jesus to Merovingian dynasty.
The manors of the lords of Occitania were nothing like the residences of Central European nobility – their manors weren’t castles overlooking their lands from the top of an inaccessible rock but mostly spacious palaces in the centre of a town or a village. Though using the term “village” doesn’t feel right when referring to the towns of Occitania – even the smallest still feel more like a town than a village, albeit having just three streets and a mere hundred of inhabitants.
The form of government in the medieval Occitania was also different from what we would imagine based on the history of Central Europe. The County of Toulouse had a form of government not unlike that of “republican” Venice – the Count of Toulouse was the ruler of Toulouse, but he did not wield the supreme power, which was held by the body of 24 voted consuls. There was hardly any other place in the medieval Europe where Arnald of Carcasséc could publish his Matrimonial Code in which women were equal to men, where women had the same rights when it came to inheritance, infidelity and vengeance and when their rights were infringed upon.
Even in art one can easily tell what was created in the sunny south and what came from the north. The “Southern” Romanesque art is full of lively colours, it is highly decorative and narrative. A Romanesque temple from the 12th century is like a colourful picture book full of Biblical stories. It radiates the joy of life. On the other hand, the “Northern” French Gothic architecture is stern, austere, even intimidating. It exudes the submission to almighty God.
The Counts of Toulouse, just like the Viscounts of Carcassonne, the Trencavels, were quite indifferent to the Catholicism; on the face of it they declared allegiance to avoid problems but at the same time they were more than tolerant to other faiths. Surely that was one of the main factors that led a large community of Bogomils expelled from Byzantium to seek refuge in Occitania in the 10th century AD. Catharism, another specific belief, that interpreted Christianity through concept of Gnosis, could also spread in Occitania thanks to this liberal environment.
The Cathars had no institutionalized Church or fixed hierarchical structure. However they were not anarchists, after all most of local nobility and intelligence counted themselves among the Cathars. At the top of Catharist communities were Parfaits. The closest modern analogy to the Parfaits would be enlightened mystics who through experience or meditation realized that the human soul is an inseparable part of God. The majority of people who were not concerned with religious philosophy simply declared themselves Christians – which in this region mostly meant Catharism. The Cathars themselves had never propagated a revolt, they instead focused on the revival of Christianity in the spirit of original teachings of Jesus Christ from which the Catholic Church deviated in their opinion. The good people, as the Cathars called themselves, followed the Gospels, specifically the Gospels of those who knew Jesus personally and who were his direct disciples – Thomas, James and Mary. The Gospel of Mary was especially scandalous.
Most locals mixed the local legend of the Holy Grail with the Catharist form of Christian Gnosticism. As some of our players pointed out in the past, these two topics don’t have much in common but history, culture and simple coincidence often lead to surprising results and if we had had a chance to ask one of the locals back then, they would have probably seen no contradiction.
The Cathars are sometimes also called the Albigensians based on the city of Albi; despite some of the followers of the movement coming from areas north of Loira or even from Rheinland, their presence was the strongest around Albi. The origin of the term “Cathar” is attributed to the Cistercians and it was meant to be derogatory. The etymology of the term is not completely clear, but it is mostly thought to be derived from the Greek term “katharsis”, that is from catharsis, spiritual cleansing and rebirth. Other possible etymologies have been considered but those are mostly 19th century speculations. The “Cathars” never used the term when referring to themselves, they simply considered themselves to be good Christians, good men and good women – the good people.
What did it mean to be a good Christians, to be a good person? We don’t know exactly what were the principles and the fundamental teachings of Catharism despite having ample detailed records from inquisition trials. But if we relied in our knowledge of Catharism on the inquisition records only is like, it would be like basing our knowledge of the dissident movement in the socialist Czechoslovakia solely on the propaganda of communist establishment, the records of the secret police. Moreover, since there was no centrally governed Catharist Church, it is quite probable that individual mystics differed in opinions on various topics. This would not be considered as anything negative – they were seeking unity with God, not unity of opinions. Most probably, there was no unified doctrine of Catharist faith.
The Catharist communities were led by so called “Good people”, later called Parfait [parfé], their enlightened mystics and religious teachers.
They did not try to incite a revolt, their movement was nothing like the Bohemian Hussite movement. They instead focused on the revival of Christianity in the spirit of original teachings of Jesus Christ from which the Catholic Church deviated in their opinion – and mostly due to the influence of Paul of Tarsus. The Gnostic teachers based their teachings in the Gospels, specifically the Gospels of those who knew Jesus personally and who were his direct disciples – James, Phillip, Mary and especially Thomas. It was believed for a long time that the last three Gospels either never existed or were irreversibly lost (Mluvíme o třech evangeliích, ale o větu dřív jsme vyjmenovali tři apoštoly a Marii Magdalenu). Their fragments were found quite recently, in the 1950s, so called Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in excavations conducted by Roland de Vaux at Qumran Caves in Israel and the knowledge of ancient Gnostic texts was later expanded by the translation of the scrolls discovered at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.
Faith of the Albigensians – Christian Gnosis
Please note that the aim of the game is to explore the concepts of religion for mainly dramatic purposes and we expect the players to respect each other’s faith as real life persons, it is not the aim of anyone in the organization team to judge personal faith of any of the participants.
If you as a player don’t feel comfortable in a heated discussion of religion and alternative views, please let us know and we will give you a character that has a low probability of getting into these discussions, most characters have many other topics and personal twists to explore. Even if you pick a Cathar, no one says you have to engage in theological disputation, most of the common people in the area simply believed in God and wanted to be left alone to their own affairs. However, if you don’t feel comfortable even hearing other people discuss these topics, this is not the right game for you.
There were many reasons why the faith of the Cathars was considered heretical and heterodox by the Catholic Church. We must stress that even in its most radical form, it was a belief that contrasted itself with the established Church and often came with some pretty strong statements, but it was not aggressive and did not aim to overthrow the Church in order to replace it. They attacked the Church on an intellectual, philosophical and spiritual level.
Faith and gnosticism
The Cathars, just like all the other Gnostic faiths, did not embrace most of the Christian dogma defined by the First Council in Nicaea in 325 AD. The Cathars openly criticized the Holy Trinity as an artificial construct and a misunderstood abstraction. They also insisted that there is no justification for the existence of the Church as an institution and for the forceful unification of faith that came hand-in-hand with existence of the Church. Furthermore, they pointed out that the Church incorrectly deviated from the original teachings of Jesus Christ. According to Christian Gnosis, the human soul is eternal, it is a part of God, his incarnation. Each human soul contains a divine spark within itself, emanation of the Holy Spirit. Everyone can discover his or her divine spark only on his or her own, through spiritual growth. There is no need for churches, altars, shrines or institutions in this journey.
For a Gnostic, it is unacceptable to consider Jesus Christ as anything more than a normal human, because every human has a divine spark within his or her soul. Just like Jesus had. It was their belief that Jesus managed to become enlightened and discovered his divine spark through the spiritual journey he went through. The Christians consistently label Catharism as a dualist belief. However, to a Gnostic, the Catholic doctrine is dualist because it separates the human soul from God. Some of the Gnostics would go as far as claiming that who separates the human soul from God is Dia-Bolos, the Devil. And the (Catholic) Christians are the ones who let themselves be deceived by him and serve him. They even established an institutionalized Church that puts itself forward as an intermediary between what they call God and a human, just like false prophets.
Some of the more radical Cathars saw the origin of all troubles was in the moment when this false god, the Devil, trapped the Spirit in the flesh, in the human body. That is when he created Adam and let him forget his divinity. Even worse, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and realized they had been deceived, the false god called this knowledge a sin and banished them from the “Paradise”. They saw the need to return to the state of “Adam”, the moment of incarnation and to correct the mistake at that point.
The legend of the Holy Grail, the greatest treasure of the Cathars, we have mentioned before, might have also other interpretations. The Grail could also have been a consolamentum, something like consecration, passed by laying of a hand (of a master) on the heart (of a pupil) in an uninterrupted lineage beginning with Jesus. The Catharist “good people” considered themselves to be direct followers of Jesus, when each pupil received consecration personally from a teacher and he or she then personally passed the consecration on. The Holy Grail could also be the realization of the Gnostic knowledge of our unity with God. We will never know for sure.
The consolamentum itself was one of the most important sacraments for the Good Christians. It was the moment of catharsis, spiritual rebirth. The moment, when one gets to the degree of spiritual evolution at which one stops clinging to physical reality. One becomes a Parfait, a mystic comparable to Buddhist holy men (though Parfaits could be both women and men). People, who had some exposure to yoga and Buddhism, are sometimes surprised with the number of parallels with Gnosis. It is not unusual to hear opinions that Jesus was exposed to Buddhist beliefs and Christianity is in fact just an evidence of his failed attempt to lead Jews to Buddhism. (Tohle bych navrhoval vyhodit, je to sporné, pro věřící potenciálně urážlivé a se hrou to moc nesouvisí.)
Most common did not embrace the Catharist faith because of complex religious questions but because of the Parfaits who were the paragons of the Catharist faith. The parfaits or, as they were mockingly called by the Cistercians, the perfects were modest, sober, they never lied, they didn’t eat meat, didn’t kill and didn’t steal. Thanks to their strict adherence to these values, they easily overshadowed Catholic clergy in the eyes of the common people. They were strictly vegetarian, they respected principles of non-violence – and not only among people but also towards animals. The God’s commandment “thou shalt not kill” was rigorously respected by the Cathars towards people, animals and to their demise also towards the Crusaders. The Catharist nobles lived among the people, Catharist clergy did not think of themselves as intermediaries, “better” believers, but teachers, those who started the spiritual journey towards enlightenment earlier. The Church was hated and despised – its representatives lived immorally and in luxury.
Some hints of what later informed Catharist beliefs appeared earlier in the history – we know that the confessor of Queen of France rejected the Holy Trinity and the concept of sin (let alone hereditary sin), and he was burnt at the stake with the canon of the cathedral in 1022. In 1030, the first council against the Cathars was held. It was recommended to prove their guilt by asking them to kill a chicken – the Cathars would not spill blood. In 1163 openly quarrelled with Dr. Eckbert in Cologne and they were subsequently burnt at the stake. Just 4 years later, an illegal Catharist council at Saint-Félix de Caraman took place – Catharist mystics and clergy discussed religious topics “their way”. The council was a clear signal that the Western Church is on the verge of its own schism. The situation escalated. Despite the Catholic clergymen in Occitania being among the most depraved, greedy, lecherous and gluttonous of all Europe. That was one of the main reasons why people lost interest in Catholic Christianity. There was no revolt, no chaos or violence. No resistance to the Church, people just ignored more and more openly…
More about albigensians faith >>
France at the time of the Cathar Wars
As it often is the case, at the beginning of what was later called Cathar Wars, was an ambitious man. France was ruled by Philip II. Augustus (at the time of our game it is ruled by his grandson Louis IX., also known as Saint Louis). Philip was a strict ruler, he ruled with a firm hand, he probably wasn’t a very pleasant man, he was ruthless, arrogant, selfish and extremely ambitious. At the same time, he was a deeply devout, almost fanatical Christian.
At the beginning of his rule, France was much smaller than what we know nowadays: In the map to the right, it is just the blue area. /vložit mapu/
He started war with King Richard of England and later with his brother John, because apart from large parts of Britain, they also owned Normandy, Bretagne, and Aquitaine… the yellow areas in the map.
He turned his envious eyes also towards Languedoc because it was a very rich duchy in the south. But it didn’t belong to France, it was a part of the Kingdom of Aragon. Even worse for Philip, King of Aragon was a Crusader and Pope’s favourite, so Philip couldn’t just take the land from him and even if he could, he didn’t have the money to finance such endeavour. So he came up with a plan: he would point out that there are heretics living in the South, Pope would declare a new Crusade, Philip would not have to pay the participants and he would get the land without spending any money.
Dominicans and Inquisition
The popularity of the Good People did not escape attention of a relatively unknown scholar and priest Dominic de Guzmán. He tried to convince the people of Occitania to move away from Catharism and eventually he asked Pope to approve foundation of a new religious order. Its members would live in poverty and just like Parfaits they would lead by personal example. On top of this “educative” focus, they would conduct a sort of inspection within the Church. A play on words that turns DOMINICANUS into CANUS DOMINI, or HOUNDS OF GOD in English, seems to explain everything.
Many Dominicans were entrusted with the power to preside ecclesiastical tribunals, for which a term “inquisition” was later used. It is not certain what the role of Saint Dominic was in this; it is entirely possible that this was not his intention. His mission really was to inspire by example and to educate commoners. If he ever intended to perform inspections or even tribunals, it was the righteousness of conduct of clergy on all levels or Church hierarchy, not to judge the faith of ordinary people. According to some sources, he was unhappy about what the Dominican order turned out to be but he didn’t have enough influence to change it.
Originally, the Dominicans really inspected the clergy in their conduct to ensure that they are diligent and abide their vows. If they found evidence of misconduct, they informed Pope, who in turn attempted to revitalize the Church of Languedoc. He was not very successful. The Church organized public debates where delegates of Rome quarrelled with the Cathars and to the horror of the Church, suffered a defeat in most cases. All attempts to use propaganda and indoctrination failed and proved to be totally counterproductive. Therefore, after some time, the Papists came accompanied by soldiers and after the debates the opponents of the Catholic theologians were regularly arrested and burnt at the stake. This of course put an end to any discourse and a chain of violence was initiated.
When pressure applied by the Church on Duke of Toulouse did not lead to him correcting the situation, a Crusade was authorized by Pope in 1208 and the first skirmishes started in July 1209. This Crusade was unlike any other as it was declared not against infidels somewhere beyond the sea but against Christians right at the centre of Western world. The success of the campaign was both impressive and frightening. On 22nd July, an army of Crusaders laid siege to Beziérs after conquering castle Beaucaire and the town of Montpellier. The citizens were asked to give up Cathars to save the city from lengthy siege.
Surprisingly, we can read in chronicles that only about one fifth of the citizens declared themselves as the Cathars, the rest were Roman Catholics. The city council however agreed to protect principles of the freedom of religion and civic solidarity despite the menacing hordes behind the walls of the city. One can only guess how we would behave nowadays, if we would be just as determined to protect our minorities. Who knows what would have been the result of the siege of well-fortified Beziérs if it hadn’t been for inexcusable recklessness on the side of the defenders. When they saw indecisiveness of the Crusaders, they decided to strike first and attack the Crusader camp. The military leaders of the Crusade immediately sensed an opportunity, repelled the attack, caused the citizens to flee and then they attacked the city through an open gate.
One of the darkest moments of known history followed. Cistercian abbot Arnauld Amaury was asked by the leader of the Crusader army “How should we distinguish Cathars from Catholics?” and reportedly he replied “Slay them all, God will recognize his own.” This declaration was attributed to Arnauld Amaury by Caesarious of Hiesterbach more than ten years after the siege took place, so we should take it with a pinch of salt. An undisputed fact however is, that an unprecedented massacre took place and all citizens of Beziérs were murdered, in total about 20 thousand people. Considering the size of population of that time, this carnage could be compared to the bombing of Dresden or Hiroshima. The land was gripped by fear, especially since just two days later Crusaders laid siege to Narbonne and on 2nd August they set camp in front of the walls of Carcassonne. While a part of the Crusader army was laying siege in the summer heat, Simon de Montfort, the most outstanding leader of the campaign, attacked other towns and cities.
When the situation was clearly desperate, the ruler of Languedoc Raymond-Roger Trencavel gave himself up on the condition that the city will be spared. The Crusaders agreed but Viscount was immediately accused of several crimes, imprisoned and possibly murdered in his own dungeon on 10th November. Neither did they keep their promise – immediately after its surrender, they plundered Carcassonne. Both settlements on its outskirts were razed to the ground and were never rebuilt. Those who survived the ravages of the Crusaders, were allowed to leave and they founded a new city beyond the river.
After the surrender of Carcassonne, Simon de Montfort understandably felt that he is on a winning streak – he also plundered the County of Foix which belonged to a side line of Trencavel family. He achieved his triumph and the Church rewarded him by giving him control of the land he conquered. In later years, he kept conquering and after destroying Minerve he attacked the regional centre – Toulouse which, under threat of ending up like Beziérs or Carcassonne, surrendered. Subsequently, the Dominicans settled there and in the following years, the city of Toulouse became notorious for ecclesiastical tribunals and burning at the stake.
After the shocking advances of the Crusaders in the early years of the Crusade, a slither of hope appeared in King Peter II of Aragon who was the liege lord of both Toulouse and Trencavel and Montpellier sacked by the Crusaders was even a part of a dowry of his wife. He was one of the staunchest supporters of the Church – he was crowned by Pope himself in Rome and he was an acclaimed vanquisher of Muslims. (nepodařilo se mi zjistit, kdo jsou Mohadité, takže jsem to nemohl přeložit) He declared Montfort’s campaign and his conquest of the land illegitimate and he raised an army against Montfort. Many locals and citizens of local cities joined his ranks and for the first time over the course of the Crusade, Montfort had a reason to fear his opponent. The battle took place on a plain south of Toulouse, near Muret on 12th September 1213. Peter of Aragon, strengthened by local volunteers and citizens of Toulouse commanded an army of about 20 thousand infantrymen and approximately 2 thousand mounted knights. Simon de Montfort had at his disposal approximately 2 thousand infantrymen and about 800 mounted knights. The difference between the two forces was stark, however the French forces were seasoned fighters and veterans of many skirmishes while majority of Peter’s ranks never saw battle. The same was true for the French knights – they belonged among the best in Europe. It is therefore no surprise that after the first attack of Peter’s unified infantry was repelled by Montfort’s armoured forces, the hordes of scared citizens of Toulouse and villagers started to flee the battlefield. In the subsequent clash of cavalry, the French dominated the battlefield. King Peter was killed in the carnage that followed and his army was routed.
The fate of the Cathars was decided, despite continued armed resistance, which for years forced Simon de Montfort to re-conquer already defeated cities because of revolts. In one of such conflicts, he was killed under the walls of Toulouse on 25th June 1218. According to popular belief, a fair woman defending Toulouse from the ramparts first shot Simon’s brother off his horse and then, when Simon came to his help, she brilliantly shot him with a stone as well. Needless to say, she became a heroine to the locals.
As soon as the news of Montfort’s death spread, Languedoc revolted. Year 1224 was marked with utter failure of the Crusaders. Simon’s son Almarich of Montfort fled to the north and ceded claims to the land in Occitania to King Louis VIII.
When the fighting was over, Count Raymond VII returned to Toulouse. He repented and begged and humiliated himself until Pope Honorius III gave him a pardon. The Church stopped supporting the Crusade. But only until the Council of Bourges in 1225 which was held completely under influence of King of France. A new Crusade was declared and Louis VIII, son of Philip II Augustus was chosen as its leader. Shortly after the campaign began, young King died and Queen Blanche of Castile ruled as regent of her young son Louis IX. The conflict was resolved by a diplomatic solution – a single heiress of Raymond VII became the wife of the younger brother of King of France and one of the conditions was that if they wouldn’t have any children, the County of Toulouse would be inherited by the French Crown… which is exactly what happened in the end. Trencavels were banished and Languedoc was “taken over” by King of France from Montfort. That was when the whole south became a fiefdom of King of France.
Fourth Lateran Council
It was convoked by Pope Innocent III in 1215 after the first Crusade to Languedoc. The main topic was the fight against the Cathars. However it turned out to be a turning point for the freedom of thought in Europe. Not only due to the fact that measures against the Cathars were accompanied by new measures against Jews. The Catholic Church used the council to declare its monopoly to religious thought.
If we try to summarize and simplify the results of the council, it was established that there is only one correct interpretation of the Bible and only one faith. And this single truth is articulated by the Church. To avoid any doubt, it was also accepted that Pope is infallible in questions of faith. The Cathars therefore became outcasts and outlaws.
Cruel repressions inevitably led to resistance. It fully broke out in 1240 when son of the last Trencavel returned from exile, raised an army and started fighting for his hereditary rights. The locals saw him as their messiah. But he stood no chance against the French army. He was defeated before he could liberate Carcassonne, his hometown.
After losing this last hope, the exodus of Cathars became massive. The Cathars were leaving for mountains during the whole war, they were seeking protection of several impenetrable castles – Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, and Montségur.
Montségur itself was populated by 300 Catharist Good Christians and at the time of the siege there were additional 500 men of hired garrison (many of them were true Catholics). It was similar in other castles. It was incredibly overpopulated.
On occasions, royal soldiers scoured the land, they looted and murdered but local villagers usually hid away and no one dared to attack or lay siege to Catharist castles. The villagers supplied and supported the defenders. The soldiers of Montségur organized sorties even quite far away from the castle and fought the royal soldiers, especially the Inquisition led by the Dominicans.
On 25th May 1242 one such party slaughtered a group of inquisitors at Avignonet. These sorties are often described as acts of desperate revenge, but their real goal was typically the destruction of inquisition archives which could help the Dominicans to accuse many more people.
After this event, Louis IX sent a strong army which laid siege to Montségur in autumn 1243.
Catharist Montségur looked different that the ruins of the castle we know today. It was more of a fortified village with a keep on top. Streets double bent down. /obrázek/.
The keep that dominates the castle is the only original building. The courtyard is definitely more recent. There used to be some other buildings in its place. The material for the buildings we can see at Montségur today were almost certainly reused from the original buildings. The fortifications were most probably less formidable but covered more area. A troop of Templars also joined the army but they mostly just blocked one of two possible entry points to the castle and did not help the royal army. It was said that they secretly helped the Cathars (when the purge of Templars was at its peak in 1313, this accusation was often used by inquisitors).
In 1244, the royal soldiers surrounded the castle with incredible force of 10 thousand men.
Only after a number of bloody attacks which cost the royal forces many men, they conquered barbican and started bombarding the castle with a trebuchet. The defenders surrendered in the end and they set a day of their surrender. All hired soldiers could leave with honour and freely, just like all the Cathars that would convert. None of them did. On 16th March, all 205 Cathars were hurriedly burnt at the stake under the castle (there is a monument commemorating them there today).
That is not the end of the story. The night before the surrender, four man left the castle and according to what we know, they took the Holy Grail with them. Maybe also a chest with money which sustained a small community in Italy.
How did they get out of impenetrably surrounded castle? They rappelled down 600 meters of rock and then down a rock chimney and through a cave. Of course, it all came to light right the next day and the royals frantically searched for the fugitives for long weeks. In vain, no one ever saw those four or heard about them again.