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ALBIGENSES , generic name, deriving from the city of Albi, loosely applied to a number of Christian heretical sects which developed in Provence and south France in the 12th century, the term being used especially in connection with Cathari. Knowledge of their precise doctrines is vague, being derived mainly from the vilifications of their Roman Catholic opponents, now partly reinforced by the information embodied in Inquisitional trials. The Roman Catholic Church suspected that some of these heresies were deliberately stimulated by the Jews. This is out of the question, especially as in most cases the sectarian doctrines embodied dualistic elements which were even further removed from Judaism than those of normative Christianity. On the other hand, some of the allied bodies, such as the "Passagi" and "Circumcisi," had an Old Testament basis and can be characterized as Judaizing sects (see *Judaizers). Some of the other sectaries also apparently studied Hebrew in order to have a better understanding of the Old Testament, and personal relations between Albigenses and Jews seem to have been relatively cordial, this fact itself adding to the suspicions and animosities of the church. The Cathari accused the Roman Catholic Church of corruption, ritualistic pomp, and superficiality. Seeing them as a challenge to its power, the Church in return condemned them as Manicheans and Church Judaizers. However, though the Cathari rejected image worship, maintained certain prohibitions on the consumption of meat, and denied that Jesus was God, their theology and ritual contained a variety of contradictory elements. In fact, their attitude toward Judaism and the Old Testament was clearly hostile, as is borne out by the records of the Inquisition and the contemporary chronicles which cannot be suspected of a Catharistic bias. Jewish law was rejected by the Cathari as evil, because the "devil in the shape of a calf" (diabolus in forma vituli) had given it to them. Judaism as a whole was held to be an emanation of the material, visible, and consequently evil God.

Catharist hostility toward Judaism on the theological level, however, was not reflected on the social and cultural plane. Jews were held in high esteem in the French Midi, where their status was probably the best in Europe. Cities like Albi, Béziers, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Lunel, Montpellier, Marseilles, Beaucaire, and Nîmes, which were most affected by the heresy, also had large Jewish populations. Concomitantly, rulers of the Midi openly favored both Albigenses and Jews, whom they appointed to important functions in the fiscal administration. Roger ii, of Béziers, probably a Cathar himself, intermittently appointed Jews to the office of bailiff (bailli), a tradition apparently carried on by his son Raymond-Roger. Count Raymond vi of Toulouse, patron of Provençal poetry and tolerant of Catharism, generally favored Jews and employed Abba Mari b. Isaac of St. Gilles as one of his officials. In granting privileges to the Jews, the princes were motivated by reasons more powerful than mere sympathy. Owing to their commercial activity Jews often were a considerable source of revenue and some princes were in debt to them. More generally, the degree of independence of thought in Provence and the good will displayed to one another by Christians and Jews are probably explained by the fact that the whole region was then exposed to a wide range of outside influences which made it an island of civilization and tolerance, far removed from medieval obscurantism.

The situation which thus obtained in Provence Jewish prosperity expanding in the midst of heresy was doubly intolerable to the established church. In 1195, at the Council of Montpellier it was decreed that anyone who allowed Jews (or Muslims) to exercise public office would be excommunicated. In 1209, Pope *Innocentiii (1198–1216) ordered the Cistercians to preach a crusade against the Albigenses (January 1209). An army of monks, fanatics, and nobles marched into southern France. It was headed by Arnold of Citeaux, Cardinal Bertrand, and the rapacious Simon de Montfort, King Philip ii of France having refused to lead the enterprise. The first stage of the operation ended with the capitulation of Raymond vi of Toulouse. In June 1209, at Montélimar, he and his nobles pledged themselves by oath "to forever removing the Jews from all administration and office, not ever to restore them, nor to accept other Jews for any office… nor use their council against Christians, nor… to permit them to employ Christians, men or women, in their homes as servants." Next the Crusaders took Béziers and Carcassone (July/August 1209), defended by young Raymond-Roger. Twenty thousand Christians and 200 Jews were massacred at Béziers. Many others were carried away as captives. In September 1209 the Council of Avignon decreed that "the Jews should be restrained from the exaction of usury by excommunicating those Christians who enter into commercial relations with them… and that the Jews be compelled to remit what they had gained through usury. We also prohibit them… to presume to work in public on the Sundays or festivals. Nor shall they eat meat on days of abstinence." Seven years later the wife of Simon de Montfort emulated her consort by having all the Jews of Toulouse arrested. Children under age were promptly baptized, but the adults resisted conversion and were eventually set free.

The Albigensian Crusade came to an end in 1229 with the Treaty of Paris, which destroyed the power of the princes in the south. The remaining adherents of Catharism were left to the care of the Inquisition, which dealt them a final blow by setting up a collective stake at Montségur (1245).


S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the Thirteenth Century (1959), index; L.I. Newman, Jewish Influence on Christian Reform Movements (1925), index; G. Saige, Les Juifs de Languedoc (1881); Graetz, Gesch, 7 (c. 19004), 8 ff., 53; A. Borst, Die Katharer (1953); C. Schmidt, Histoire et doctrine de la secte desCathares ou Albigeois (1849); H.C. Lea, History of Inquisition in the Middle Ages (1958); J.M. O'Brien, in: Comparative Studies in Society and History, 10 (1967/68), 215–20.

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Albigenses (ălbĬjĕn´sēz) [Lat.,=people of Albi, one of their centers], religious sect of S France in the Middle Ages.

Beliefs and Practices

Officially known as heretics, they were actually Cathari, Provençal adherents of a doctrine similar to the Manichaean dualistic system of material evil and spiritual good (see Manichaeism; Bogomils). They held the coexistence of these two principles, represented by God and the Evil One, light and dark, the soul and the body, the next life and this life, peace and war, and the like. They believed that Jesus only seemed to have a human body.

The Albigenses were extremely ascetic, abstaining from flesh in all its forms, including milk and cheese. They comprised two classes, believers and Perfect, the former much more numerous, making up a catechumenate not bound by the stricter rules observed by the Perfect. The Perfect were those who had received the sacrament of consolamentum, a kind of laying on of hands. The Albigenses held their clergy in high regard. An occasional practice was suicide, preferably by starvation; for if this life is essentially evil, its end is to be hastened.

They had enthusiasm for proselytizing and preached vigorously. This fact partly accounted for their success, for at that time preaching was unknown in ordinary parish life. In the practice of asceticism as well, the contrast between local clergy and the Albigenses was helpful to the new sect.


Early Years

Albigensianism appeared in the 12th cent. and soon had powerful protectors. Local bishops were ineffectual in dealing with the problem, and the pope sent St. Bernard of Clairvaux and other Cistercians to preach in Languedoc, the center of the movement. In 1167 the Albigenses held a council of their own at Toulouse. Pope Innocent III attacked the problem anew, and his action in sending (1205) St. Dominic to lead a band of poor preaching friars into the Albigensian cities was decisive. These missionaries were hampered by the war that soon broke out.

The Albigensian Crusade

In 1208 the papal legate, a Cistercian, Peter de Castelnau, was murdered, probably by an aid of Raymond VI of Toulouse, one of the chief Albigensian nobles. The pope proclaimed (1208) the Albigensian Crusade. From the first, political interests in the war overshadowed others; behind Simon de Montfort, the Catholic leader, was France, and behind Raymond was Peter II of Aragón, irreproachably Catholic. Innocent attempted to make peace, but the prize of S France was tempting, and the crusaders continued to ransack the entire region.

In 1213 at Muret, Montfort was victor and Peter was killed. The war went on, with the son of Philip II (later Louis VIII) as one of the leaders. Simon's death in 1218 robbed him of victory and left his less competent son to continue the fight. Raymond's son, Raymond VII, joined the war, which was finally terminated with an honorable capitulation by Raymond. By the Peace of Paris (1229), Louis IX acquired the county of Toulouse. The religious result of the crusade was negligible.

In 1233, Pope Gregory IX established a system of legal investigation in Albigensian centers and put it into the hands of the Dominicans; this was the birth of the medieval Inquisition. After 100 years of the Inquisition, of tireless preaching by the friars, and of careful reform of the clergy, Albigensianism was dead.


See S. Runciman, The Medieval Manichee (1947, repr. 1961); R. Rose, Albigen Papers (3d ed. 1979); S. O'Shea, The Perfect Heresy (2000).

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A sect that originated in the south of France in the twelfth century. They were named for one of their territorial centers, that of Albi, and were a branch of the Cathari heresy. It is probable that the heresy came originally from Eastern Europe, since they were often designated "Bulgarians" and undoubtedly kept up relations with such sects as the Bogomils and the Paulicians. It is difficult to form any exact idea about their doctrines, as Albigensian texts are rare and contain little concerning their ethics, but we know that they were strongly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church and protested the corruption of its clergy.

Their opponents claimed that they admitted two fundamental principles, good and bad, saying that God had produced Lucifer from himself; that Lucifer was indeed the son of God who revolted against him; that he had carried with him a rebellious party of angels who were driven from Heaven along with him; that Lucifer in his exile created this world with its inhabitants, where he reigned, and where all was evil. It is alleged that the Albigenses further believed that, for the reestablishment of order, God produced a second son, Jesus Christ. Furthermore the Catholic writers on the Albigenses charged them with believing that the souls of men were demons lodged in mortal bodies in punishment of their crimes.

Following the murder of the legate of Pope Innocent III, who was sent to root out the heresy, a crusade was brought against them, resulting in wholesale massacres. The Inquisition was also set upon them, and they were driven to hide in the forests and among the mountains, where, like the Covenanters of Scotland, they met secretly. The Inquisition so terrorized the district in which they lived that the very name of Albigenses was practically blotted out, and by the year 1330, the records of the Holy Office show no further writs issued against the heretics.

It seems possible that such heresies as the Albigenses and the Cathari, with their belief in Lucifer as lord of the world, may have sometimes merged with the pagan folklore that went to form the witchcraft heresy, which was also ruthlessly persecuted by the Inquisition.

(See also Gnostics ; Arthur Guirdham )


Holmes, E. G. A. Albigensian or Catharist Heresy. London: William & Norgate, 1925.

Lea, Henry C. A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. 3 vols. London: Sampson Low, 1888.

Warner, H. J. The Albigensian Heresy. 2 vols. London: SPCK, 1922-28.

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Albigenses. A branch of the Cathars of S. France. Christian dualist heretics, Pope Innocent III failed to convert them; a savage Crusade, led by Simon de Montfort, went on until 1218; and in 1233, the Dominican Inquisition undertook to eliminate them. Their main centre was Albi (hence the name); they may have had remote ancestry in the teaching of Maṇi.

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Albigenses the members of a heretic sect in southern France in the 12th–13th centuries, identified with the Cathars. Their teaching was a form of Manichaean dualism, with an extremely strict moral and social code including the condemnation of both marriage and procreation. The heresy spread rapidly until ruthlessly crushed by the elder Simon de Montfort's crusade (1209–31) and by an Inquisition.

The name is from medieval Latin, from Albiga, the Latin name of Albi, the town in southern France where the Albigenses originated.

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Albigenses (Cathars) Members of a heretical religious sect that existed in southern France from the 11th to the early 14th centuries and took its name from the French city of Albi. In 1200, Pope Innocent III ordered a crusade against them, which caused much death and damage in Languedoc and Provence.