This week, on 22nd July, was the exact 800th anniversary of the massacre at Béziers. Did you read anything about it in the papers? See an item on TV? Get a newsfeed or other alert about it? No, neither did I.
So I'm going to write about it here.
The Albigensian Crusade was launched by Pope Innocent 3rd against the Cathars in what is now the Languedoc region of France and mustered in Lyon in June 1209. It was led initially by Arnaud-Aimery, the Abbot of Citeaux, who was a Papal Legate.
When they reached Béziers, they sent its bishop in to negotiate with the citizens to hand over the 220 or so heretics listed as being in the town. They refused. By a fluke, the French army got into the city and started looting and killing.
People shetered in the cathedral of Saint-Nazaire and the church of Mary Magdalene, whose Feast day it was. They were all slaughtered - men, women, children, priests - burned or hacked down and the churches set fire to. It was on this occasion that the words "Kill them all - God will know his own" were attributed to Arnaud-Aimery.
He could have said them; he certainly wrote to the Pope saying that his army had killed 20,000 people that day. Twenty thousand people, two hundred and twenty of which were designated heretics. You can do the maths.
What does this have to do with books? I have written one about it, called Troubadour, published on 3rd August. So you can regard this as a shameless plug. Or a memorial to the brave citizens who were murdered 800 years ago in the name of religion.
Setting the bird free - Lari Don
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