Languedoc’s history: Toulouse’s powerful county and the war with the Cathars

Languedoc’s peculiarities include the fact that its inhabitants managed to keep their language. French became the official language in France in 1539. Local dialects began to die out in all regions of the kingdom as a result. Languedoc’s inhabitants were the only ones who managed to preserve their language. About 8 million people speak Occitan nowadays. Well, tourists may notice that they write street names in French and Occitan in Toulouse. Therefore, people often call Languedoc the “other” France. After all, the locals consider themselves to be Languedoc, rather than French.

There was a fairly powerful county of Toulouse in these regions in the past, it controlled all trade routes in the south of France. The period of the development is XII century. Interestingly, the county inhabitants enjoyed great freedom. There were many free cities in addition. Toulouse was the county’s capital.

Almost all French musicians and poets lived in the county during its heyday. After all, the French kingdom was experiencing severe economic difficulties in those years. Therefore, Toulouse became the intellectual and creative center of Europe in the XII century. It held poetic tournaments regularly.

The locals quickly accepted the Cathar religion, which did not frighten them with threats of going to hell. The Cathars did not recognize indulgences either. They treated people for free as well. Therefore, they looked righteous against the background of the very wealthy Catholic priests.

The massive transition of locals to the Cathar religion led to the fact that a crusade against Toulouse County started in 1209. It should be noted that the county beat off the Crusaders attacks for as long as 20 years. France seized part of the county lands in 1229. France annexed all county lands in 1271. As a result, the brilliant county turned into the French province of Languedoc.

The former “Occitania” means an original intellectual climate, due to the proximity of Arabic Spain and the movement of the Cathars (Albigensians). It was here that troubadours were born and real knights lived. The Cathars (they were Albigensians) appeared at the beginning of the XI century. They believed that the materialism that had conquered the Catholic Church should not flourish. They preached abstinence and asceticism and were the forerunners of Protestantism. By the way, then the Huguenots appeared not somewhere, but again here, in the kingdom of Navarre in the XVI-XVII centuries. Heresies enjoyed the support of local authorities in both cases. Paris and the Vatican reacted harshly in both cases.

They started the crusade against the Albigensians, carried out with all possible cruelty at the beginning of the XIII century. Of course, it was not an ideology that was the cause, but the desire to profit from the wealth of the southern lands. The South was satiated, the court prosperous, and the Albigensians were just an excuse. Anyway, it was true for King Philip II. Pope Innocent III tried to negotiate with the Cathars and sent negotiators there who, at the time, were the Spaniard Guzman. He could not do anything as people just laughed at him in Toulouse. Count Raymond refused to take any measures against the Cathars, as he himself was almost Cathar. Languedoc just did not want to talk to the Vatican. They killed the papal legate in Toulouse in 1208 and this caused the crusade.

Simon de Montfort’s army marched through Occitania with fire and swords. The war lasted for more than thirty years and the Cathars eventually fell. An indicative moment is that after the defeat of the Cathars in the middle of the 13th century, the surviving heretics filed for the Templar Order, which, in turn, the French king also defeated at the beginning of the 14th century. Isolated Cathar communities continued to exist for almost 100 years but lost their influence. The last Cathar known to the world was burned in 1321. The Huguenot movement also relied on the South.

In fact many communes lived here independently following their own laws during the XVI-XVIII centuries. They could not resist the absolutism power of Louis XIV. This was the second global subordination of the South to the North and the final formation of a united France. Occitania remained in legends only. Occitania includes the Midi-Pyrenees and Languedoc-Roussillon regions now; it is developing quite dynamically, relying on high-tech production. However, typical medieval coziness and ecological cleanliness have been preserved in many of its corners.

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