1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Languedoc

LANGUEDOC, one of the old provinces of France, the name of which dates from the end of the 13th century. In 1290 it was used to refer to the country in whose tongue (langue) the word for “yes” was oc, as opposed to the centre and north of France, the langue d’oil (the oui of to-day). Territorially Languedoc varied considerably in extent, but in general from 1360 until the French Revolution it included the territory of the following departments of modern France: part of Tarn et Garonne, Tarn, most of Haute-Garonne, Ariège, Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales, Hérault, Gard, Lozère, part of Ardèche and Haute-Loire. The country had no natural geographical unity. Stretching over the Cevennes into the valleys of the upper Loire on the north and into that of the upper Garonne on the west, it reached the Pyrenees on the south and the rolling hills along the Rhone on the east. Its unity was entirely a political creation, but none the less real, as it was the great state of the Midi, the representative of its culture and, to some degree, the defence of its peculiar civilization. Its climate, especially in Hérault (Montpellier), is especially delightful in spring and early summer, and the scenery still holds enough ruined remains of Roman and feudal times to recall the romance and the tragedy of its history.

Although the name is of comparatively late medieval origin, the history of Languedoc, which had little in common with that of northern France, begins with the Roman occupation. Toulouse was an important place as early as 119 B.C.; the next year Narbonne, the seaport, became a Roman colony. By the time of Julius Caesar the country was sufficiently Romanized to furnish him with men and money, and though at first involved in the civil wars which followed, it prospered under Roman rule as perhaps no other part of the empire did. While it corresponded exactly to no administrative division of the Roman empire, it was approximately the territory included in Gallia Narbonensis, one of the seventeen provinces into which the empire was divided at the death of Augustus. It was rich and flourishing, crowded with great and densely populated towns, Nîmes, Narbonne, Béziers, Toulouse; with schools of rhetoric and poetry still vigorous in the 5th century; theatres, amphitheatres and splendid temples. In the 5th century this high culture was an open prize for the barbarians; and after the passing of the Vandals, Suebi and Visigoths into Spain, the Visigoths returned under Wallia, who made his capital at Toulouse in 419. This was the foundation of the Visigothic kingdom which Clovis dismembered in 507, leaving the Visigoths only Septimania—the country of seven cities, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Elne, Béziers, Maguelonne, Lodève and Agde—that is, very nearly the area occupied later by the province of Languedoc. At the council of Narbonne in 589 five races are mentioned as living in the province, Visigoths, Romans, Jews—of whom there were a great many—Syrians and Greeks. The repulse of the Arabs by Charles Martel in 732 opened up the country for the Frankish conquest, which was completed by 768. Under the Carolingians Septimania became part of the kingdom of Aquitaine, but became a separate duchy in 817.

Until the opening of the 13th century there is no unity in the history of Languedoc, the great houses of Toulouse and Carcassonne and the swarm of warlike counts and barons practically ignoring the distant king of France, and maintaining a chronic state of civil war. The feudal régime did not become at all universal in the district, as it tended to become in the north of France. Allodial tenures survived in sufficient numbers to constitute a considerable class of non-vassal subjects of the king, with whose authority they were little troubled. By the end of the 11th century the house of the counts of Toulouse began to play the predominant rôle; but their court had been famous almost a century before for its love of art and literature and its extravagance in dress and fashions, all of which denoted its wealth. Constance, wife of King Robert II. and daughter of the count of Toulouse, gave great offence to the monks by her following of gallant gentlemen. They owed their tastes, not only to their Roman blood, and the survival of their old love for rhetoric and poetry, but also to their intercourse with the Mahommedans, their neighbours and enemies, and their friends when they were not fighting. Under Raymond of Saint Gilles, at the end of the 11th century, the county of Toulouse began its great career, but Raymond’s ambition to become an Oriental prince, which led him—and the hundred thousand men who, according to the chroniclers, followed him—away on the first crusade, left a troubled heritage to his sons Bertrand and Alphonse Jourdain. The latter successfully beat off William IX., duke of Aquitaine, and won from the count of Barcelona that part of Provence between the Drôme and the Durance. The reign of Alphonse lasted from 1109 to 1148. By the opening of the 13th century the sovereignty of the counts of Toulouse was recognized through about half of Provence, and they held the rich cities of the most cultured and wealthiest portion of France, cities which had a high degree of local independence. Their local governments, with their consuls at the head, show, at least in name, the influence of Roman ideas. It is still an open question how much of their autonomy had remained untouched by the barbarian invasions from the Roman period. The citizens of these free cities were in continual intercourse with Saracens of Palestine and Moors of Spain; they had never entirely abandoned pagan customs; their poetry—the poetry of the troubadours—taught them the joys of life rather than the fear of death, the licence of their chivalry with its courts of love led to the other extreme of asceticism in such as were of religious temperament; all things combined to make Languedoc the proper soil for heresy. The Church never had the hold upon the country that it had in the north, the people of the Midi were always lukewarm in the faith; there was no noteworthy ecclesiastical literature in Languedoc from the end of the Carolingian period until after the Albigensian crusade, no theological centre like Paris, Bec or Laon. Yet Languedoc furnished the most heroic martyrs for the ascetic Manichaean creed. The era of heresy began with the preaching of Peter de Brueys and his follower, Henry of Lausanne, who emptied the churches and taught contempt for the clergy. Saint Bernard himself was able to make but temporary headway against this rebellion from a sacramental and institutionalized Christianity. In the first decade of the 13th century came the inevitable conflict. The whole county of Toulouse, with its fiefs of Narbonne, Béziers, Foix, Montpellier and Quercy, was in open and scornful secession from the Catholic Church, and the suppression of this Manichaean or Cathar religion was the end of the brilliant culture of Languedoc. (See Albigenses, Cathars, Inquisition.) The crusade against the Albigenses, as the Cathars were locally termed, in 1209, resulted in the union to the crown of France in 1229 of all the country from Carcassonne to the Rhone, thus dividing Languedoc into two. The western part left to Raymond VII., by the treaty of 1229, included the Agenais, Quercy, Rouergue, the Toulousain and southern Albigeois. He had as well the Venaissin across the Rhone. From 1229 to his death in 1249 Raymond VII. worked tirelessly to bring back prosperity to his ruined country, encouraging the foundation of new cities, and attempting to gain reconciliation with the Church. He left only a daughter, Jeanne, who was married to Alphonse of Poitiers. Alphonse, a sincere Catholic, upheld the Inquisition, but, although ruling the country from Paris, maintained peace. Jeanne died without heirs four days after her husband, upon their return from the crusade in Africa, in 1271, and although she attempted by will to prevent the reversion of her lands to the crown, they were promptly seized by King Philip III., who used the opposition of Roger Bernard, count of Foix, as an excuse to appear with a formidable army, which had little to do to secure entire submission. Thus the county of Toulouse passed to the crown, though Philip III. turned over the Agenais to Edward I. of England in 1279. In 1274 he ceded the county of Venaissin to Pope Gregory X., the papacy having claimed it, without legal grounds, since the Albigensian crusade (see Avignon).

Such was the fate of the reduced county of Toulouse. At the division of Languedoc in 1229 Louis IX. was given all the country from Carcassonne to the Rhone. This royal Languedoc was at first subject to much trickery on the part of northern speculators and government officials. In 1248 Louis IX. sent royal enquêteurs, much like Charlemagne’s missi dominici, to correct all abuses, especially to inquire concerning peculation by royal agents. On the basis of their investigations the king issued royal edicts in 1254 and 1259 which organized the administration of the province. Two sénéchaussées were created—one at Nîmes, the other at Carcassonne—each with its lesser divisions of vigueries and bailliages. During the reign of Philip III. the enquêteurs were busily employed securing justice for the conquered, preventing the seizure of lands, and in 1279 a supreme court of justice was established at Toulouse. In 1302 Philip IV. convoked the estates of Languedoc, but in the century which followed they were less an instrument for self-government than one for securing money, thus aiding the enquêteurs, who during the Hundred Years’ War became mere revenue hunters for the king. In 1355 the Black Prince led a savage plundering raid across the country to Narbonne. After the battle of Poitiers, Languedoc supported the count of Armagnac, but there was no enthusiasm for a national cause. Under Charles V., Louis of Anjou, the king’s brother, was governor of Languedoc, and while an active opponent of the English, he drained the country of money. But his extortions were surpassed by those of another brother, the duc de Berry, after the death of Charles V. In 1382 and 1383 the infuriated peasantry, abetted by some nobles, rose in a rebellion—known as the Tuchins—which was put down with frightful butchery, while still greater sums were demanded from the impoverished country. In the anarchy which followed brigandage increased. Redress did not come until 1420, when the dauphin, afterwards Charles VII., came to Languedoc and reformed the administration. Then the country he saved furnished him with the means for driving out the English in the north. For the first time, in the climax of its miseries, Languedoc was genuinely united to France. But Charles VII. was not able to drive out the brigands, and it was not until after the English were expelled in 1453 that Languedoc had even comparative peace. Charles VII. united Comminges to the crown; Louis XI. Roussillon and Cerdagne, both of which were ceded to Aragon by Charles VIII. as the price of its neutrality during his expedition into Italy. From the reign of Louis XI. until 1523 the governorship of Languedoc was held by the house of Bourbon. After the treason of the constable Bourbon it was held by the Montmorency family with but slight interruption until 1632.

The Reformation found Languedoc orthodox. Persecution had succeeded. The Inquisition had had no victims since 1340, and the cities which had been centres of heresy were now strongly orthodox. Toulouse was one of the most fanatically orthodox cities in Europe, and remained so in Voltaire’s day. But Calvinism gained ground rapidly in the other parts of Languedoc, and by 1560 the majority of the population was Protestant. It was, however, partly a political protest against the misrule of the Guises. The open conflict came in 1561, and from that until the edict of Nantes (1598) there was intermittent civil war, accompanied with iconoclasm on the one hand, massacres on the other and ravages on both.

The main figure in this period is that of Henri de Montmorency, seigneur de Damville, later duc de Montmorency, governor of the province from 1563, who was, at first, hostile to the Protestants, then from 1574 to 1577, as leader of the “Politiques,” an advocate of compromise. But peace was hardly ever established, although there was a yearly truce for the ploughing. By the edict of Nantes, the Protestants were given ten places of safety in Languedoc; but civil strife did not come to an end, even under Henry IV. In 1620 the Protestants in Languedoc rose under Henri, duc de Rohan (1579–1638), who for two years defied the power of Louis XIII. When Louis took Montpellier in 1622, he attempted to reconcile the Calvinists by bribes of money and office, and left Montauban as a city of refuge. Richelieu’s extinction of Huguenotism is less the history of Languedoc than of the Huguenots (q.v.). By 1629 Protestantism was crushed in the Midi as a political force. Then followed the tragic episode of the rebellion of Henri II., duc de Montmorency, son of the old governor of Languedoc. As a result, Languedoc lost its old provincial privilege of self-assessment until 1649, and was placed under the governorship of Marshal Schomberg. During Louis XIV.’s reign Languedoc prospered until the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Industries and agriculture were encouraged, roads and bridges were built, and the great canal giving a water route from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean increased the trade of its cities. Colbert especially encouraged its manufactures. The religious persecutions which accompanied the revocation of the edict of Nantes bore hardest on Languedoc, and resulted in a guerilla warfare known as the rebellion of the Camisards (q.v.). On the eve of the Revolution some of the brightest scenes of contentment and prosperity which surprised Arthur Young, the English traveller in France, were those of the grape harvests in Languedoc vineyards.

In 1790 Languedoc disappeared from the map of France, with the other old provinces; and the departments mentioned took its place. But the peculiar characteristics of the men of the Midi remain as clearly distinct from those of the north as the Scottish type is distinct from the English. The “peaceful insurrection” of the Languedoc vine-growers in the summer of 1907 revealed to the astonished Parisians the same spirit of independence as had underlain the resistance to Simon de Montfort and Richelieu.

The one monumental history of Languedoc is that of the Benedictines, Dom Claude Devic and Dom J. J. Vaissete, Histoire générale de la province de Languedoc (5 vols., Paris, 1730–1745). This has been re-edited, and continued and increased by the addition of important monographs, to 15 volumes (Toulouse, 1872–1892). It is the great library of sources, critical apparatus and bibliographies concerning Languedoc, and carries the history up to 1790. The fine article “Languedoc” in La Grande Encyclopédie is by A. Molinier, perhaps the greatest modern authority on Languedoc.  (J. T. S.*)