Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roman Catholic Policy, 1215: “Kill them all. God will know his own”


The Albigensian Crusade was immensely popular in northern France because it gave pious warriors an opportunity to win a Crusade indulgence (a remission from punishment in the afterlife for sin) without traveling far from home or serving more than 40 days. During the first season the Crusaders captured Béziers in the heart of Cathar territory and—following the instructions of a papal legate who allegedly said, “Kill them all. God will know his own,” when asked how the Crusaders should distinguish the heretics from true Christians—massacred almost the entire population of the city. With the exception of Carcassonne, which held out for a few months, much of the territory of the Albigeois surrendered to the Crusaders. Command of the Crusade was then given to Simon, lord of Montfort and earl of Leicester, who had served during the Fourth Crusade (1202–04)….

For all of its violence and destruction, the Albigensian Crusade failed to remove the Cathar heresy from Languedoc. It did, however, provide a solid framework of new secular lords willing to work with the church against the heretics. Through the subsequent efforts of the Inquisition, which was established by the papacy in the 13th century to try heretics, Catharism was virtually eliminated in Languedoc within a century.

I know, he “allegedly” said it. But that word is there because we don’t have video; it’s not for a lack of reliable witnesses. And whether or not that’s a precise quote, you still had a Papal legate leading the charge, and they “massacred almost the entire population of the city”.

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