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Photographer's Note

This town was the home of heretics and of an infamous massacre. For the pilgrims it is an uncomfortable sort of stop, a reminder of a humiliation of the pride of Languedoc by Rome and by the northern French.

The heretics were known as Cathars. They believed themselves to practicing a pure form of Christianity; like many Christian reform movements, they hearkened back to the age of the Apostles. The Cathars diverged significantly, however, in their dualism. They held that only spirit and spiritual things were created by God. They believed there was a second god, one purely evil, and it was this evil god who created the world and the flesh. This led them into some decidedly curious practices, including a refusal to eat meat and an emphasis on celibacy even stronger than that found in Roman Catholicism.

The Cathars first appeared in southern France in the 12th century (there's some evidence they were in contact with or were doctrinal descendants of the Bogomils). By the later 1100s the papacy was making concerted efforts to combat the Cathars, who were starting to form their own churches and were being protected by the local nobles. Cathar priests had a powerful reputation for sanctity that won them admirers and supporters as well as open converts. Catharism was spreading all across the duchy of Aquitaine.

By the early 13th century, some local bishops were calling for direct papal intervention, and eventually Innocent III complied. He sent in a legate. When that legate was murdered, the pope called upon the King of France to intervene. The king refused, but a number of northern French nobles stepped forward. The result was something called the Albigensian Crusade (named after the town of Albi, another Cathar stronghold). A grim war ensued that lasted for most of the 1210s and 1220s.

Béziers was one victim of the crusaders. An army arrived at the gates on 21 July 1209. The next day, a small force sallied out and managed to do some very slight damage. The army wasn't really in formation, but a bunch of camp-followers attacked the force. The gates didn't get closed, the camp-followers got inside, and the army soon followed.

There ensued a massacre, largely because the whole business had happened more or less by accident and the commanders either couldn't or chose not to curb their soldiers. The cathedral was set on fire, trapping many inside who had taken refuge there. The town was plundered, other fires soon broke out, and eventually the attackers had to retreat because of the heat. Béziers had been a city of 15,000 to 20,000. When the fires had died, almost no one was left.

There's a saying that's associated with this event: "Kill them all. God will know his own." This was supposedly uttered by the papal legate, Arnald-Amaury. Modern researchers have pretty well established that there's no evidence he actually said this, but it gets repeated as a 'fact' quite often.

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Ghost Cat (jasmis) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3156 W: 788 N: 3818] (58653)
  • Genre: Luoghi
  • Medium: Colore
  • Date Taken: 2004-09-15
  • Categories: Architettura
  • Camera: Canon G3
  • Esposizione: f/4, 1/500 secondi
  • Versione Foto: Versione Originale
  • Date Submitted: 2005-01-14 5:46
Viewed: 2416
Points: 8
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Additional Photos by Ghost Cat (jasmis) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3156 W: 788 N: 3818] (58653)
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