The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/35 – The Albigensian Crusade and Protestant Wars

In the thirteenth century, Southern France became the center of a heresy that grew rapidly and was in direct contradiction with the Roman Catholic Catechism. The Albigensian heresy, or the Cathars, argued that they were the true practitioners of the Catholic Faith and supposedly within their beliefs, one would find the full and unblemished truth. The Cathars affirmed that the temporal realm was the realm of Satan and that the powers of good and evil, were equal powers. They denied the priesthood, the sacraments and the Nicene Trinity. They believed that Christ was never a man, rejected the belief in the resurrection, in purgatory and in eating meat. The Cathari Church had its own bishops, deacons and liturgy. At the Third Lateran Council of 1179, the Cathari Church was anathematized and in 1184, both the Pope and the Emperor unanimously declared a Crusade against the Albigensian heresy.

Pope Innocent III (1198 – 1216) is considered as being among the greatest of the Catholic Pontiffs. He was interested in reform and innovation, recognizing the Franciscan and Dominican orders. He preached many crusades and at this point in time, preached a crusade against the Cathari. Nonetheless, he did not undertake the preaching of a crusade before attempting to convert the Cathari back to the Faith. Pope Innocent sent Arnold Amalric, the Abbot and Saint Dominic or Domingo de Guzman, to convert the Cathari. After much preaching, prayers and effort on their part, both clerics failed. Saint Dominic was later directly armed from heaven with the Holy Rosary and was more successful at the task. Southern France is today referred to as Languedoc and Provence, it was in those days a separate territory, partly belonging to the Southern kingdom of Aragon bordering onto Spain. The City of Toulouse, regarded itself as independent of the French Crown and Raymond VI of Toulouse (1194-1212) governed the county and was indecisive as with whom he should pledge his support, whether with the Pope and Emperor or the Cathari Sect.

In 1207, Pope Innocent kindly asked King Philip II of France to eradicate the heresy, Philip II interested in his own power, was locked in a military conflict with England, therefore, a second conflict with a sect, was not high on his agenda. The following year, Raymond of Toulouse protected the probable murderer of a certain Peter of Castlenau, and incited that the Roman Church had no right to interfere and prosecute. Pope Innocent, who called for the Crusade and pledged that the conquered land would become the ownership of the Crusaders, swiftly excommunicated Raymond. In June 1209, at Saint Gilles, Raymond fearing the loss of his territory, reconciled with the Catholic Church and personally led the Pope’s Crusade. A certain Simon of Montfort also led part of the Papal contingent. During the crusade Raymond of Toulouse found himself hard pressed by the Papal legates and crossed camp joining the enemy (the Cathari) who were protected by Prince Peter of Aragon. According to Raymond, this maneuver was necessary for Simon of Montfort, together with his portion of Papal warriors, placed both Raymond’s and Peter’s estates in jeopardy, the estates were deemed as new lands of conquest secured by Papal mandate.

Saint Dominic left for France to impede the Albigensian heresy from spreading further. He preached for three and a half years and achieved little if no success at all. One time while praying in a church dedicated to Saint Jacques, Our Lady appeared to him and invited Saint Dominic to preach the Holy Rosary, as a means for eradicating heresy and sin. If he were to follow her instructions, the Blessed Mother pledged victory over the Cathari. The Order of the Dominicans later incorporated this idea of ‘war on heresy and sin,’ based on the recitation of the Holy Rosary. In 1209, Saint Dominic and Simon of Montfort formed a strong friendship which lasted till Simon’s death beneath the walls of Toulouse, occurring on June 25, 1218. Dominic accompanied the crusader at the Siege of Lavaur in 1211, at the capture of La Penne d’Ajen in 1212 and at the Battle of Muret.

On the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, September 12, 1213, the Battle of Muret took place. Before battle, Saint Dominic prayed at the altar of Saint Jacque’s Church for the triumph of the Catholic armies. Soon, Prince Peter and Raymond joined for battle and Peter initiated the attack. The fear of being recognized by the enemy, led the Prince of Aragon to wear ordinary armor. Simon de Montfort was attending Holy Mass, when his messengers announced to him that Peter of Aragon had surrounded the town, “…let me finish the Mass first,” he replied, “and then I will be with you.” Confident of victory, he ordered the gates to be opened and together with his crusaders he fell upon Peter and defeated the whole battalion. Prince Peter of Aragon lay killed, unrecognizable amongst the fallen. With a cavalry consisting of 800 men and a handful of foot soldiers, Simon of Montfort defeated a besieging army of 30,000-40,000 men.

Following the victory at Muret, Simon of Montfort was joined by the French Prince Louis VIII, together, they conquered the Cities of Narbonne and Toulouse. Raymond of Toulouse was deprived of all his land, according to the Papal Bull for the Albigensian Crusade; conquered lands belong to the conqueror, to Simon of Montfort. However, King Philip Augustus of France donated Provence to Raymond’s son. In 1216 to 1218, Simon and Raymond warred continuously over Toulouse; this ended with Simon’s death in battle. The conflicts did not end yet, as a new crusade was called on by Pope Honourius and the course of events led to Raymond’s reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church. Toulouse was brought under the French Crown. While many Cathars were indeed reconciled and converted, the heretics were in the most part wiped out. The Albigensian heresy persisted in isolated places till the year 1279.

At Muret, Simon of Montfort considered the crusading victory, as altogether miraculous and attributed it, to the pious prayers of Saint Dominic. Incredibly, Simon’s eight hundred troops were victorious against thirty-four thousand troops belonging to the combined forces of Peter of Aragon and Raymond of Toulouse. In gratitude for their victory, wrought by the Blessed Virgin’s intercession, the crusaders erected a Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, in the Church of Saint Jacques. On one occasion during the conflict, Saint Dominic admonished the Bishop of Toulouse for traveling with the soldiery. Saint Dominic said that the enemies of the Faith cannot be overcome with the sword alone and that his Eminence should arm himself with prayer and clothe himself with humility rather than fine apparel. It might be added that essentially, St Dominic preached that humility, conversion and the recitation of the Holy Rosary, are necessary during such conflicts. Without a Catholic army’s involvement and the assistance of the Blessed Virgin, the Cathari might still be in Toulouse today or by now would have consolidated their sect throughout Europe and the whole world. Alas, one other Christian denomination caused such devastating effects in world history.

In 1955, in Pope Pius XII letter to the German Bishop of Augsburg, His Holiness described the Protestant Reformation, as the: “…most baleful event, which could ever have happened to Western Christendom and its civilization.” During the Protestant Reformation of Europe, in Zurich the Shrine of ‘Our Lady of the Hermits,’ at Einsiedeln, became a center for Catholic counter-offensive against Protestantism. Saint Peter Canisius invoked Our Lady’s aid against the Protestant ideologies and spread her devotions. Our Lady of Kavelear, found on the German and Dutch border, became also a center for the Catholic counter-offensive against Calvinists. Many remained faithful to Catholicism, thankfully, due to the help of Our Lady of Kavelaer in Germany.

In the seventeenth century, Protestantism threatened dangerously the Kingdom of France. La Rochelle was a protestant state on the Atlantic coast. King Louis XIII advanced towards the city with his Catholic army, this was a risky enterprise and removing this threat from his kingdom was a necessary measure. La Rochelle’s strength against the Catholic King, consisted in its seaward support from the English Protestants. The King had ordered the Dominicans of the Convent of Faubourg Saint Honoure, in Paris, to recite the Holy Rosary and in the presence of the entire court, the Archbishop of Paris led the Rosary. The Queen and two Cardinals joined in the Marian prayers. The army was subsequently instructed in the usage of the Holy Rosary by Fr. Louvet O.P. and many other friars. Fifteen thousand rosaries were distributed among the Catholic army. In May 1627, the Catholics marched towards La Rochelle. In October, the siege was bloody and the king decided to pledge the Blessed Virgin, the building in her honor of a chapel dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Deliverance,’ if she aided him in overcoming this Protestant stronghold. To augment this display of devotion towards the Blessed Virgin, the troops carried her statue in torchlight procession around the fortified walls of La Rochelle and happily sang “Ave Marias,” canticles and litanies.

It wasn’t long before the city capitulated and the English Protestants were ousted, the king and the Dominican friars entered La Rochelle first, carrying a large white standard with a blue border, having the following words: “Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo,” or “Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, who alone has crushed all the heresies in the world,”(1) the troops followed rejoicing and singing the hymn of Our Lady. In December 1629, to honor the Blessed Virgin, King Louis XIII, built the Church of Our Lady of Victories in Paris (Notre Dame des Victoires). The Sorbonne or the faculty of the University in Paris, declared that the victory was: “…a miracle owed to the Holy Rosary.” King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Immaculate Virgin, on February 10, 1638, and admitted that the birth of his son, was a miracle on the part of Our Lady’s intercession. The King had his son, King Louis XIV, enrolled in a Rosary Confraternity on November 6, 1638. Following the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions in the Rue du Bac in the eighteen hundreds, the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Victories in Paris, became the promoting world center for the devotion towards the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort had a deep devotion towards the Mother of God, his well known book, ‘Treatese on the true devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary,’ more than proves the saint’s devotion. However, Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort, also publicly preached the devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary. During the years 1793 to 1795, Saint Louis and his Montfortians upheld the recitation of the Holy Rosary during the Vendean resistance against the French Revolution, in so doing their efforts paid off, for they saved Catholicism in France. Saint Louis himself was subject to humiliating affronts by the Protestants and the followers of the ‘god of reason,’ who odiously hated the conversions which he victoriously gained. In this period the Montfortians preached in all the insurgent parishes regarding the Cross, the Blessed Sacraments and the Holy Rosary. The French Catholic army was called ‘Catholic and Royal’ and whilst on march or within camps, the troops recited the Holy Rosary and sang hymns to the Blessed Virgin. The Holy Rosary was prayed three times daily, in the morning, afternoon and evening, recited in its entirety. On May 2, 1793, following the victory at Bressuire, the soldiers grouped themselves indoors to mark their victory, by reciting once again the Holy Rosary.



1 Comment »

  1. I’ve seen 870 for de Montfort and 4,000 for the Comte de Toulouse and Aragon on places such as Wiki. They’re so sloppy and so agenda-driven you cannot know if a zero was dropped out of sloppiness or for propaganda purposes. If the abortiuonists and the “gay” rights people inflate their numbers in a “good cause” why shouldn’t Catholic bashers do it?
    No mention of the cities sacked and the thousands murdered – including a Papal legate by the Albigensians before the Pope issued his bull. The PC propaganda would have us believe them a bunch of Quakers! ORB claims that St. Dominic borrowed the impressive oratory of their preachers for his new order.
    New Advent has an entry in their online encyclopedia that states that the Albigensians or Cathars wasn’t a Christian heresy along the lines of n proto-Protestantism but an entirely different religion. The heresy would be in claiming their belief system to be Catholicism and setting up their own bishops and priests.
    Interesting to know that the sect began in Italy.

    Comment by Barbara — October 18, 2010 @ 3:14 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: