Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Albigenses (1203—1240)

The next great step in the building up of the French kingdom was made by taking advantage of a religious strife in the south. The lands near the Mediterranean still had much of the old Roman cultivation, and also of the old corruption, and here arose a sect called the Albigenses, who held opinions other than those of the Church on the origin of evil. Pope Innocent III., after sending some of the order of friars freshly established by the Spaniard, Dominic, to preach to them in vain, declared them as great enemies of the faith as Mahometans, and proclaimed a crusade against them and their chief supporter, Raymond, Count of Toulouse. Shrewd old King Philip merely permitted this crusade; but the dislike of the north of France to the south made hosts of adventurers flock to the banner of its leader, Simon de Montfort, a Norman baron, devout and honourable, but harsh and pitiless. Dreadful execution was done; the whole country was laid waste, and Raymond reduced to such distress that Peter I., King of Aragon, who was regarded as the natural head of the southern races, came to his aid, but was defeated and slain at the battle of Muret. After this Raymond was forced to submit, but such hard terms were forced on him that his people revolted. His country was granted to De Montfort, who laid siege to Toulouse, and was killed before he could take the city. The war was then carried on by Louis the Lion, who had succeeded his father as Louis VIII. in 1223, though only to reign three years, as he died of a fever caught in a southern campaign in 1226. His widow, Blanche, made peace in the name of her son, Louis IX., and Raymond was forced to give his only daughter in marriage to one of her younger sons. On their death, the county of Toulouse lapsed to the crown, which thus became possessor of all southern France, save Guienne, which still remained to the English kings. But the whole of the district once peopled by the Albigenses had been so much wasted as never to recover its prosperity, and any cropping up of their opinions was guarded against by the establishment of the Inquisition, which appointed Dominican friars to inquire into and exterminate all that differed from the Church. At the same time the order of St. Francis did much to instruct and quicken the consciences of the people; and at the universities—especially that of Paris—a great advance both in thought and learning was made. Louis IX.'s confessor, Henry de Sorbonne, founded, for the study ofPg 17 divinity, the college which was known by his name, and whose decisions were afterwards received as of paramount authority.

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