Travel Destinations in Languedoc France: Carcassonne France hotels, family vacation rentals in France

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Travel Destinations in France - Medieval crusades and weapons

Travel Destination - Carcassonne, France

Part 5
by Wade Rowland

Pope Innocent III, alarmed at the spread of what the Church referred to as the Albigensian Heresy (for the town of Albi, where a famous debate between Catholic and Cathar clerics took place), dispatched to the region Dominico Guzman, later St. Dominic and founder of the Dominican order. He undertook his mission of preaching against the heresy with relish but was soon forced to admit failure. He was prophetic in defeat: "I have preached," he lamented, "I have entreated, I have wept...the rod must now do the work of benediction. Towers will be torn down, walls toppled, and ye shall be reduced to bondage. This is how might shall prevail where meekness has failed."

Carcasonne Events came to a head in 1208 when a papal legate was assassinated near Carcassonne. Innocent III seized on this pretext to launch a holy war which became known as the Albigensian Crusade. The pattern for the savagery that was to follow was set on a July day in 1209 in Béziers, where ecclesiastic authorities had identified 200 known Cathars. After a brief resistance the town was taken by storm and 20,000 men, women and children were put to the sword or burned to death, including hundreds who had packed the cathedral seeking sanctuary. "Kill them all," the Crusade's prelate is said to have urged. "God will know his own."

Although Carcassonne itself changed hands several times during the Crusade, only once was a siege mounted. Mighty wooden engines that could catapult boulders, rolling siege towers to help storm the walls and other marvels of the medieval military technology of the time were of little use against so well designed a defensive position and the besieging army found its most effective weapon to be mining the walls - tunnelling under them to cause them to collapse. The defenders counter-mined successfully, meeting the invading forces far underground and driving them back before they could complete their destruction. In the quiet of an evening's contemplation close by the walls, one envisions with a shudder the rat-like ferocity of these desperate, clawing struggles in pitch darkness.

The heretical beliefs of the Cathars proved remarkably persistent despite the eventual defeat of the last of their military strongholds, and to effect a final solution Pope Gregory IX set up the infamous Inquisition, presided over by the Dominicans. Its ruthlessness is well-known: in Carcassonne there is, in an out-of-the-way alley, a horrifying museum of the implements of torture used by the inquisitors.There are other reminders: the Inquisition Tower, where suspects were "questioned" before being sent to a prison outside the city walls; the Justice Tower, where it is believed the secret archives of the Inquisitors were stored.

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Travel Destinations - Travel reports from the world's best international travel and adventure travel destinations worldwide. Visit Carcassone, France with author Wade Rowland in this in-depth article.

World Travel Guide - Travel article about travel in Languedoc France: long-term vacation rentals in France, gite rentals, family holidays in France, Carcassonne France hotels, Cathar castles


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