NOSTRADAMUS RETROSPECTIVE ON THE ALBIGENSIAN CRUSADE
(Incl. quatrains III 45 & VIII 39 & IX 10 & I 79)
First we should investigate the brutal taking apart of the reasonably homogenous region of Occitania/ Midi/Pays Cathare from 1209 to1229. (The last known torching of a Languedoc Cathar was in 1321.)
Mediterranean France was divided largely between the Crown of Aragon and the County of Toulouse. In the Languedoc the polity was divided peacefully among local lords and town councils, a more urban kind of control system than the North of France with, in a wholesome sense, greater sophistication.
Catharism developed locally here in the oceanic old Western Empire alongside new ideas arising in the Rhine cities like Cologne. Cathar theology (which worshipped only the God of the New Testament, reviling the god of the Hebrew bible/OT) may have derived from earlier forms of gnostic Christianity in Albania, Bulgaria, Byzantium and Catalonia and it was probably influenced by the Bogomils. ‘Gnosticism’ is the form of Jesus belief that most easily allows new revelations about the faith despite the strict banning of such by the Church (which itself allowed the revelation of Saul on the road to Damascus, the sole Apostle who never met Jesus in the flesh). The city of Albi has nominal importance. Not only as it was a centre of Catharism but because the Church Council there in 1176 denounced Catharism as a heresy. Some have considered the County of Foix to be the historical source of Southern Catharism. (Much later, the Counts of Foix were to become the Kings of Navarre and then France.) The Cathar centres of Northern Italy, on the other hand, would not be scrutinized by the Papacy until the early Fourteenth Century.
Saintly Dominic (who later founded the Dominican Order which supported the infamous inquisitor Bernard Gui) had met and debated with Cathars in 1203 during his mission to the Languedoc. He concluded that only such souls as display real sanctity, humility and asceticism would ever win over these convinced, uncomplicated Cathar believers and the official Church generally lacked this spiritual prowess. Hence the two-decade Albigensian Crusade, a worldly response from a worldly authority. The spark came in 1208 when a papal legate was murdered on his way to Rome following an argument with Count Raymond of Toulouse as a result of which the Count had been excommunicated for aiding and abetting heresy. Philip of France declined the position of war leader and put forward two mad-dog battle barons, Montfort and Marly, who harvested the widespread enthusiasm in the strictly feudal North for plundering the pleasant South and changing its errant (and threatening) way of life. An army of barons with 10,000 men trod South hoping for land fiefs as the Pope had overbid the symbolic authority of the King of France by condoning confiscations from and despoliation of the Southern demesnes.
With some strategic aplomb they targeted the lands of the Trencavel, a powerful family but with few allies in the region, who were lords of Albi, Carcassonne and the Razes. The massacre at Béziers in 1209 (any prisoners were blinded, dragged by horse and used for target practice) featured Catholics of the city fighting alongside Cathars to repel the crusaders. (The Cistercian Caesar of Heisterbach was to record the order given by Bishop Arnaud-Amaury to kill them all, adding “Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”, the Lord will know his own. He reported to his holiness the pope that 20,000 were killed in one day regardless of age, rank or sex.) No regional reaction was forthcoming although Simon de Montfort’s subsequent homage/ceding of land gained to the King of France moved Peter of Aragon to action. Montfort, who took over from Arnaud-Amaury after Simon’s successful siege of Carcassonne, then spent much effort in defending his army’s extraordinary gains whilst waiting for the Summer and the arrival of reinforcements.
Other conquests were of Aveyron, St. Antonin, Beaucaire and many more, some without a fight, although his greatest achievement in French terms was the Battle of Muret. Not that this was Montfort’s intention but, together with the Battle of Bouvines, he had made a giant leap towards the distant future of modern unified France having destroyed the power of Aragon.
Cruelty was practised by both sides. it was reported that Cabaret “a leader of the anti-Christians” put out eyes and dismembered stray French and German soldiers. The crusader battle cry was ever ‘Montfort! Montfort!’ but in 1218 Simon de Montfort was pounded into the ground by a missile during the siege of Toulouse. Despite a wholesale massacre of Cathars, the hold of Catharism was not extinguished. 1244 saw 200 Cathar Parfaits burned to death en masse and 1299 saw the establishment of the Inquisition. It covered Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne and thereabouts up until the Fourteenth Century. All recanting Cathar ‘first offenders’ were punished and had to stitch yellow crosses on their clothing for life: the refusers were hanged or immolated.
Sheer impenetrables like the castle at Termes and its tower of Termenet had succumbed. (The Archdeacon of Paris brought with him money collected for servicing the siege-engines at Termes and organized the filling and levelling of its ravines whilst Montségur was besieged massacred and razed by the dire Archbishop of Narbonne) causing less impenetrable castles and fortresses to be abandoned. This prolonged and unyielding assault on the South, the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1229, was highly successful in spite of many reversals and the local princes and their Houses had lost much of their independence.
The so-called Cathar Castles are scattered around the routes from Foix and Toulouse through Carcassonne to Minerve and Narbonne. Plenty of sites, ruins or restorations may be found such as at Agel (purpose-built to resist the Crusaders) Aguilar, Arques, Avignonet (another massacre, razed) Beaucaire (scene of a siege of a siege) Béziers (massacre) Biron (now a picturesque château) Bram (where a Cathar party were blinded save a one eyed man needed to lead them away) Castelnaudary (later demolished) Château Comtal (‘Count’s Castle’) La Commanderie (Cathar, occupied) Lastours (a Cabaret stronghold once famous for troubadours) Le Bézu, Marmande (massacre designed the Old Testament way) Montaillou, Montségur (a sometime refuge for Cathar females heavily fortified against the Crusaders) Muret (nothing left) Puilaurens (Aragonese, untouched) Puivert (‘monument historique’) Rhedae (Rennes-le-Chateau) Roquefixade (‘monument historique’) Lavaur, Pieusse (genuine and representative small Cathar castle) Peyreperteuse (‘Pierced Rock’) Quéribus (lofty but accessible) Saissac (‘monument historique’) Termes, Usson (a Cathar refuge, now ruined) and Villerouge-Termenès (a property of the Archbishop of Narbonne, seized by Simon de Montfort en passant who gifted it to a henchman).
There is a Languedoc-Roussillon Historical & Archaeological Society in the UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
The following quatrains are all in the future tense.
1555 Lyon Bonhomme
Les cinq estranges entrés dedans le temple,
Leur sang viendra la terre prophaner:
Aux Thoulousains sera bien dur exemple
D’un qui viendra ses loys exterminer.
The five strangers entered inside the temple,
Their blood will come to desecrate the land:
For the Toulousains it will be a very hard example
From one who will come to exterminate its rules.
A clear warning issued in 1555 about an event already in the past.
1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud
Qu’aura esté par prince Bizantin,
Sera tollu par prince de Tholoze.
La foy de Foix par le chief Tholentin,
Luy faillira ne refusant l’espouse.
What has been for the Byzantine prince,
Will be taken away by the prince of Toulouse.
The faith of Foix through the chief of Tolentino
He will falter by not denying his wife.
Denying a spouse will bring him to his end.
Line 4. The use of ‘ne’ in OF was, on occasion, emphatic and not necessarily negative (but I have not yet found the universal rule to apply to ‘Nostradamus’).
Cathars tried to avoid the making of vows and practiced sexual abstinence. This included in marriage – denying their spouse – although very many never married. A hasty Crusader test was to check if the suspected Cathar was legally married or not. The Crusaders seemed to believe that no Cathars were married and so denying having a spouse, conforming non-married status, was likely to prove fatal.
1568 Lyon Benoist Rigaud
Moyne moynesse d’enfant mort exposé,
Mourir par ourse & rauy par verrier.
Par Fois & Pamyes le camp sera posé
Contre Tholose Carcas dresser forrier.
Innocent man, innocent woman, shed their light on the death of an innocent child,
Killed by the She-Bear set in the glassy heavens.
The military encampment will be positioned by the towns of Foix and Pamias
Arraigned against Toulouse and Carcassonne by the quartermaster.
An enigmatic quatrain with a Zodiac reference about a vision of the Albigensian Crusade.
1555 Lyon Bonhomme
Bazaz, Lectore, Condon, Ausch,& Agine
Esmeus par loys, querele & monopole.
Car Bourd. Thoulouze Bay. Metra en ruine
Renouueler voulant leur tauropole.
Bazas, Lectore, Condon, Ausch, & Agine
Agitated by regulations, disputations and exclusion.
They will be ruined by bad changes in ‘Bourd. Thoulouze’ (and)
Left wanting to revive their ‘innocence-opolis’.
Line 4, ‘tauropole’ was an ancient portmanteau from the Greek meaning heifer-town, virgin-city (by association ‘Diana city’) or, in my own words, ‘innocence-opolis’.
The only profitable part these backward-facing quatrains could play is to aid our retrospective understanding of a portion of past history. Here we learn how the people – both Catholics and reformed Cathars – are thoroughly immersed in tyrranical alterations to their way of living and how they regret the changes and yearn for the lost world of relative innocence that many such ‘faitids’ (non-Cathars) had fought side-by-side with Cathars to preserve. It seems the Northern Crusaders were not popular with the Southern Christians that they might claim to have ‘liberated’ from the ‘anti-Christians’.