ALBIGENSES, the usual designation of the heretics—and more especially the Catharist heretics—of the south of France in the 12th and 13th centuries. This name appears to have been given to them at the end of the 12th century, and was used in 1181 by the chronicler Geoffroy de Vigeois. The designation is hardly exact, for the heretical centre was at Toulouse and in the neighbouring districts rather than at Albi (the ancient Albiga). The heresy, which had penetrated into these regions probably by trade routes, came originally from eastern Europe. The name of Bulgarians (Bougres) was often applied to the Albigenses, and they always kept up intercourse with the Bogomil sectaries of Thrace. Their dualist doctrines, as described by controversialists, present numerous resemblances to those of the Bogomils, and still more to those of the Paulicians, with whom they are sometimes connected. It is exceedingly difficult, however, to form any very precise idea of the Albigensian doctrines, as our knowledge of them is derived from their opponents, and the very rare texts emanating from the Albigenses which have come down to us (e.g. the Rituel cathare de Lyon and the Nouveau Testament en provençal) contain very inadequate information concerning their metaphysical principles and moral practice. What is certain is that, above all, they formed an anti-sacerdotal party in permanent opposition to the Roman church, and raised a continued protest against the corruption of the clergy of their time. The Albigensian theologians and ascetics, the Cathari or perfecti, known in the south of France as bons hommes or bons chrétiens, were few in number; the mass of believers (credentes) were perhaps not initiated into the Catharist doctrine; at all events, they were free from all moral prohibition and all religious obligation, on condition that they promised by an act called convenenza to become "hereticized" by receiving the consolamentum, the baptism of the Spirit, before their death or even in extremis.
The first Catharist heretics appeared in Limousin between 1012 and 1020. Several were discovered and put to death at Toulouse in 1022; and the synod of Charroux (dep. of Vienne) in 1028, and that of Toulouse in 1056, condemned the growing sect. The preachers Raoul Ardent in 1101 and Robert of Arbrissel in 1114 were summoned to the districts of the Agenais and the Toulousain to combat the heretical propaganda. But, protected by William IX., duke of Aquitaine, and soon by a great part of the southern nobility, the heretics gained ground in the south, and in 1119 the council of Toulouse in vain ordered the secular powers to assist the ecclesiastical authority in quelling the heresy. The people were attached to the bons hommes, whose asceticism imposed upon the masses, and the anti-sacerdotal preaching of Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne in Perigord. Languedoc and Provence, only facilitated the progress of Catharism in those regions. In 1147 Pope Eugenius III. sent the legate Alberic of Ostia and St Bernard to the affected district. The few isolated successes of the abbot of Clairvaux could not obscure the real results of this mission, and the meeting at Lombers in 1165 of a synod, where Catholic priests had to submit to a discussion with Catharist doctors, well shows the power of the sect in the south of France at that period. Moreover. two years afterwards a Catharist synod, in which heretics from Languedoc, Bulgaria and Italy took part, was held at St Félix de Caraman, near Toulouse, and their deliberations were undisturbed. The missions of Cardinal Peter (of St Chrysogonus). formerly bishop of Meaux, to Toulouse and the Toulousain in 1178, and of Henry, cardinal-bishop of Albano (formerly abbot of Clairvaux), in 1180–1181, obtained merely momentary successes. Henry of Albano attempted an armed expedition against the stronghold of heretics at Lavaur and against Raymond Roger. viscount of Beziers, their acknowledged protector. The taking of Lavaur and the submission of Raymond Roger in no way arrested the progress of the heresy. The persistent decisions of the councils against the heretics at this period—in particular, those of the council of Tours (1163) and of the oecumenical Lateran council (1179)—had scarcely more effect. But on ascending the papal throne, Innocent III. resolved to suppress the Albigenses. At first he tried pacific conversion, and in 1198 and 1199 sent into the affected regions two Cistercian monks, Regnier and Guy, and in 1203 two monks of Fontfroide, Peter of Castelnau and Raoul (Ralph), with whom in 1204 he even associated the Cistercian abbot, Arnaud (Arnold). They had to contend not only with the heretics, the nobles who protected them, and the people who listened to them and venerated them, but also with the bishops of the district, who rejected the extraordinary authority which the pope had conferred upon his legates, the monks. In 1204 Innocent III. suspended the authority of the bishops of the south of France. Peter of Castelnau retaliated by excommunicating Raymond VI., count of Toulouse, as an abettor of heresy (1207), and kindled in the nobles of the south that animosity of which he was the first victim (1209). As soon as he heard of the murder of Peter of Castelnau, the pope ordered the Cistercians to preach the crusade against the Albigenses. This implacable war, which threw the whole of the nobility of the north of France against that of the south, and destroyed the brilliant Provençal civilization, ended, politically, in the treaty of Paris (1229), by which the king of France dispossessed the house of Toulouse of the greater part of its fiefs, and that of Béziers of the whole of its fiefs. The independence of the princes of the south was at an end, but, so far as the heresy was concerned, Albigensianism was not extinguished, in spite of the wholesale massacres of heretics during the war. Raymond VII. of Toulouse and the count of Foix gave asylum to the “faidits” (proscribed), and the people were averse from handing over the bons hommes. The Inquisition, however, operating unremittingly in the south at Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne and other towns during the whole of the 13th century and a great part of the 14th, succeeded in crushing the heresy. There were indeed some outbursts of rebellion, some fomented by the nobles of Languedoc (1240–1242), and others emanating from the people of the towns, who were embittered by confiscations and religious persecutions (e.g. at Narbonne in 1234 and Toulouse in 1235), but the repressive measures were terrible. In 1245 the royal officers assisting the Inquisition seized the heretical citadel of Montsegur, and 200 Cathari were burned in one day. Moreover, the church decreed severe chastisement against all laymen suspected of sympathy with the heretics (council of Narbonne, 1235; Bull Ad extirpanda, 1252).
Hunted down by the Inquisition and quickly abandoned by the nobles of the district, the Albigenses became more and more scattered, hiding in the forests and mountains, and only meeting surreptitiously. There were some recrudescences of heresy, such as that produced by the preaching (1298–1509) of the Catharist minister, Pierre Authier; the people, too, made some attempts to throw off the yoke of the Inquisition and the French, and insurrections broke out under the leadership of Bernard of Foix, Aimerv of Narbonne, and, especially, Bernard Delicieux at the beginning of the 14th century. But at this point vast inquests were set on foot by the Inquisition, which terrorized the district. Precise indications of these are found in the registers of the Inquisitors, Bernard of Caux, Jean de St Pierre, Geoffroy d’Ablis, and others. The sect, moreover, was exhausted and could find no more adepts in a district which, by fair means or foul, had arrived at a state of peace and political and religious unity. After 1330 the records of the Inquisition contain but few proceedings against Catharists. (See also under Cathars.)
Authorities.—See C. Schmidt’s Histoire de la secte des Cathares ou Albigeois (Paris, 1849), which is still the most important work on the subject. The following will be found useful: D. Vaissete, Histoire de Languedoc, vols. iii. iv. vii. viii. (new edition); Ch. Molinier, L’Inquisition dans le Midi de la France (Paris, 1880), and the other works by the same author; L. Tanon, Histoire des tribunaux de l’Inquisition en France (Paris, 1893). Les Albigeois, leurs origines (Paris, 1878), by Douais, should be read with caution. Of the sources, which are very numerous, may be mentioned: the Liber Sententiarum of the Inquisition of Carcassonne, published by Ph. van Limborch at the end of his Historia Inquisitionis (Amsterdam, 1692): other registers of the inquisition analysed at length by Ch. Molinier, op cit., some published in vol. ii. of the Documents pour l’histoire de l’Inquisition (Paris, 1900), by C. Douais; numerous texts concerning the last days of Albigensianism, collected by M. Vidal, “Les derniers ministres albigeois,” in Rev. de quest. histor. (1906). See also the Rituel cathare, ed. by Cunitz (Jena, 1852); the Nouveau Testament en provençal, ed. by Clédat (Paris, 1887); and the very curious Débat d’Yzarn et de Sicart de Figueiras, ed. by P. Meyer (1880). On the ethics of the Catharists, see Jean Guiraud, Questions d’histoire et d’archéologie chrétienne (Paris, 1906); and P. Alphandery, Les idées morales chez les hétérodoxes latins au début du XIII e siècle (Paris, 1903). (P. A.)
- These they often confounded and a heretic is described as saying: “Clergy and French, they are one and the same thing.”