What Was the Albigensian Crusade?


Quick Answer

The Albigensian Crusade was a religious war pitting Catholics against the heretical Cathars of southern France. Initiated by Pope Innocent III in 1209, the Albigensian Crusade lasted until 1229.

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Catharism, also known as Albigensianism after the city of Albi in southern France, was a religious movement teaching that the world was a battle between good, which was spiritual, and evil, which was physical. Because many of Catharism's teachings contradicted orthodox Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Church began to suppress the Cathars, first through persuasion and preaching and finally, after a prominent Cathar noble murdered a papal legate 1208, through a Crusade in southern France, the heartland of Catharism.

By 1215, the Crusaders had conquered most of the Cathar lands, converting the Cathars and executing or banishing those who refused to convert. However, resistance to the Crusade began to coalesce around Raymond VII of Toulouse, who beat back the Crusaders and by 1226 had reconquered much of the territory that the Cathar forces had lost. Sensing an opportunity, the French king, Louis VIII, entered the Albigensian Crusade in 1226, crushing the Cathar forces and persuading Raymond to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1229. This document ended the war but forced Raymond to cede all his land to the French throne upon his death. In this way, the Albigensian Crusade helped establish the power of the French king in Toulouse.

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