Examples of Trebuchets
THE SIEGE OF MINERVE , JUNE– JULY 1210
By late June things were moving in a positive direction for Simon of Montfort. Though his overlord, the King of Aragon, had not accepted his homage, he had not rejected it either, and the lords of the viscounty had likewise failed to work out a solution with King Pere at Montréal. By 24 June Montfort decided to secure his lordship more firmly by beginning major military operations for the year. His first target was the mountain fortress and Cathar refuge of Minerve. Neither the siege of Minerve nor that of Termes later was that important militarily, as both were small castra deep in the mountains. He chose Minerve because it consistently served as a refuge for Cathar perfects, so taking it became crucial in establishing both church and vicecomital authority in that part of his territory.
Bolstered by reinforcements from the north, including men from Anjou, Brittany, Champagne, Frisia, and Lotharingia and other groups of ‘‘Germans,’’ Montfort besieged Minerve for seven weeks, from the third week of June to the end of July 1210. He did so, according to Peter Vauxde- Cernay, because the citizens of Narbonne asked him to, even though he had his own reasons for doing so as mentioned above. Though the chronicler is vague about why the people of Minerve were a ‘‘constant source of trouble’’ to the Narbonnais, Montfort had the support of Viscount Aimery and the town militia for the entirety of the siege. Having Aimery’s help at Minerve was a pleasant change from the previous year when the militia of Narbonne refused to help Montfort punish Giraud of Pépieux before the walls of Puisserguier. Also present at Minerve was a unit of Gascons, perhaps recruited by the Archbishop of Auch.
The siege of Minerve revealed Simon of Montfort’s talent and tenacity. The chief crusader still did not control every major city in the viscounty, and his hold on the ones he possessed was really only as good as his reputation when it came to defend them from both internal and external enemies. He could not count on having a large army at all times, and isolated parties of reinforcements could be picked off before they ever reached him. The agricultural base around Minerve was not enough to support an army of any size, yet the geography dictated there must be sufficient manpower to blockade the site. Logistics played a key role in the siege. Supplies were secured, bought, escorted, and hauled up steep, narrow, and dangerous roads from Carcassonne and other places more than thirty-five kilometers away. In addition to being the first great siege of the Occitan War under Simon of Montfort’s leadership, Minerve became the first example of his skillful use of siege warfare to take castles in geographically hostile conditions. Unlike Béziers and Carcassonne, both medium-sized cities in relatively open areas, Minerve sat atop a steep, rocky, peninsula-shaped plateau protected by vertical cliff walls and flanked by two deep river gorges. Even in the summer, when much of the water dries up in the gorges, it would have been virtually impossible to get in the castrum by force except along the narrow isthmus at its north end, and that side was guarded by a citadel. Montfort set up his main camp on the east side of Minerve across one of the gorges while he sent the Gascons under the command of one of his lieutenants, Guy of Lucy, to the west side of Minerve. As co-commander of the siege Aimery, with the militia of Narbonne, cut off the isthmus on the north side, while other crusader groups surrounded the south.
While the gorges surrounding Minerve are incredibly steep they are not overly wide, placing the town in easy range of siege weapons stationed across the gorges. Additionally, the land surrounding the gorges is higher than the walls of the town, and that made Minerve particularly vulnerable to missile fire. Even today, standing across from either the east or south one can easily see into the town. Viewing Minerve’s formidable geography, the crusader leadership realized from the start that it could not be stormed successfully. Almost immediately, therefore, a mangonel manned by a Gascon crew was brought up and began battering the walls from the west. Two other machines to the north and south meanwhile bombarded their respective sections of the walls from across the gorge. On Montfort’s side the crusaders brought up a special rock thrower (petraria). This may have been the first use of a large counterweight, or at the very least a traction, trebuchet, in the crusade. This ‘‘lady and queen’’ among the siege engines was called mala vezina, or ‘‘Bad Neighbor,’’ and its crew was paid twenty-one livres a day. Judging from Peter Vaux-de-Cernay’s explicit use of the sum, this must have been a lot of money to pay a siege crew, but evidently their ability was highly regarded by the army. Under this crew’s skillful handling, Bad Neighbor’s missiles broke up the walls of Minerve and even partially destroyed the house of Guilhem of Minerve, the lord of the place.
The trebuchet’s contribution to the siege is indicated by the worry it caused the defenders. One Sunday night a unit of southerners sortied out of the safety of Minerve, crossed the gorge, climbed up, and attempted to burn Bad Neighbor. Its crew had left it unguarded, confident that no one would brave so many obstacles to get to it. The southerners heaped baskets of flax, dry wood, grass, and grease around the trebuchet and attempted to ignite it. By sheer chance, one of Bad Neighbor’s crew members was urinating next to it and raised the alarm before being impaled by a spear. Crusaders rushed from all parts of Montfort’s camp to save the beleaguered siege weapon, and returned it to action in ‘‘two strokes’’ (‘‘per duos ictus jacere non cessavit’’).
Eventually the constant bombardment destroyed a great deal of the small castrum’s buildings. Completely cut off, Minerve’s swollen population of townspeople and Cathars from as far away as the Béziers region soon grew short of supplies. Undoubtedly the defenders lacked water as well, since the crusaders could easily prevent attempts to get water from the near-dry rivers in the gorges by firing missile weapons or dropping stones down from the heights. Guilhem of Minerve finally decided to meet with the chief crusader and negotiate a settlement. During the negotiations two papal legates, Arnaud-Amaury and Master Theodisius, arrived to complicate matters. Though Simon of Montfort was undisputed military head of the crusade, evidently he was unsure of his power because he deferred final judgment over terms to the legates. Arnaud-Amaury proposed that the castrum surrender to Montfort; Guilhem of Minerve, the villagers untainted by heretical beliefs, and the credentes, the rank-and-file Cathars, were to be simply reconciled to the church. Even the perfects would be spared if they converted back to orthodoxy. One of Montfort’s lieutenants, Robert Mauvoisin, feared that too many would accept the proposal and get off scot-free. Representing the more zealous warriors among the crusaders, he told the legate to his face that the men of the army would never accept the proposal to let professed heretics go free. According to our chronicler, the legate told Robert Mauvoisin that he knew his enemies well and figured that few would take the deal. This proved to be the case, at least among the perfecti. The Abbot of Vaux-de- Cernay and Simon of Montfort himself personally tried to persuade the perfects to be reconciled. In the end Guilhem surrendered the town, but 140 perfecti refused to abjure their Cathar faith – part of the agreement Arnaud-Amaury imposed – and were burned alive on a pyre constructed outside the town. Some of the perfects actually rushed forward to hit the flames faster, indicating how futile it had been to try to convert them.
This is one more example of the mass atrocities committed by both sides during the war. None of the sources give an exact chronology from the castrum’s surrender to the burning of the perfecti, but it seems there was an interval of hours or days between them. In other words, the burnings did not happen immediately after the town’s capitulation, and the people affected had plenty of time to decide whether to convert or die. Depending on one’s perspective this time interval either ameliorates what happened or makes it worse. Certainly Montfort and his men gladly participated in this mass burning, but it was under terms imposed by the legates, not by him or a council of the army. While not excusing the behavior of the crusaders, after the frustrations of a seven-week siege these things should not be so surprising. The villagers of Minerve and Cathar refugees who wished it were reconciled to the church and appear to have suffered no other punishment, indicating that at least at this point in the war atrocities were not the reaction of first choice. Guilhem, lord of Minerve, suffered no penalties for his defiance and was granted comparable lands around Béziers. He, like Giraud of Pépieux and so many other southern lords, later betrayed Montfort’s clemency by fighting against the crusade at Beaucaire in 1216 and at Louis VIII’s siege of Toulouse in 1219.
The taking of Minerve was an important moral victory for the crusade and enhanced Montfort’s military reputation, but his command over his territories remained tenuous. In the short term Montfort’s victory at Minerve helped him in the diplomatic realm. Peire-Roger of Ventajou, a rebellious lord from the previous fall, pledged his allegiance to the crusade, and Montfort punished him no worse than by pulling down the keep or tower (turris) of his fortifications. More importantly, Aimeric, lord of Montréal, was reconciled to the crusade for a second time and offered his territory up in exchange for suitable (meaning less defendable) territory somewhere else. This was duly granted in spite of the fact that Aimeric had already violated his word when he took back Montréal from the crusade in 1209. The fact that Montfort gave these two men a second chance suggests that he attempted to be flexible and merciful to avoid a siege or protracted conflict. In 1211 Aimeric of Montréal broke his word yet again and finally paid the ultimate price for his disloyalty when Lavaur fell.
Buoyed by his success Montfort continued to take the offensive. Within the next couple of days a council of advisors, including Montfort’s wife Alice, met with Montfort at the town of Pennautier, about five kilometers northwest of Carcassonne. The council suggested that the chief crusader next besiege the castle of Termes, further south and even deeper into the mountains than Minerve. Besieging Termes was a greater gamble than besieging Minerve. Montfort still faced possible rebellion if he got bogged down in another protracted siege. He lacked manpower to replace the men who had participated in the siege of Minerve, won their indulgence and had now departed for the north, as well as the Narbonnais militia, who would not participate again. Finally, the rugged country in which Termes sat would place a greater logistical strain on the resources of the crusade than even Minerve. While the military leadership continued to meet at Pennautier, William of Cayeux arrived with a party of crusader-pilgrims from the north to reinforce the army and to bring word that a sizeable army of pilgrims from Brittany was marching south to join the crusade. Although Montfort’s army remained quite small even with the additions of William of Cayeux, these reinforcements offered the chief crusader sufficient incentive to march into the mountains southeast of Carcassonne to begin a siege of Termes.
Because Montfort marched to Termes with the bulk of his army it was clear he would be unable to respond quickly to any attacks or rebellions in crusader-held towns. Keeping Carcassonne safe was particularly important, since capable southerners extremely hostile to the crusade surrounded it. Peire-Roger of Cabaret commanded the mountain roads north of it while Raimon-Roger of Foix dominated the road and Aude River directly south of the city through his recapture of Preixan. Picking a governor of proven ability for Carcassonne was essential in order to prevent its loss and to keep a supply line open while the army besieged Termes. In succession Montfort asked two of his lieutenants, Lambert of Crécy and Rainier of Chauderon, to command the defenses of Carcassonne. Both refused because of the enormous responsibility of serving as governor over the most important conquered crusader city still in the middle of enemy territory. Several of Montfort’s lieutenants, and even Alice of Montfort, pushed forward William of Contres as garrison commander of Carcassonne. According to William of Tudela, at that time Montfort viewed William as one of his better field soldiers and wanted him to be at the siege of Termes, not governing Carcassonne. The consensus within the army supported his candidacy, so Montfort finally agreed, but further ordered Crespin of Rochefort, Simon the Saxon, and Simon the Saxon’s brother Guy to be William of Contres’s subordinates. The council now broke up, with the bulk of the army moving southeast thirty-three kilometers to Termes while William of Contres and his men rode a much shorter distance of about five kilometers southeast to Carcassonne, arriving there late in the evening of 29 July.
As it turned out, Lambert of Crécy and Rainier of Chauderon had made the right decision by refusing the command of Carcassonne. Besides protecting the town both internally and externally, Montfort had ordered William of Contres to send on a wagon train consisting of mangonels, other siege weapons, and their associated equipment currently at Carcassonne. Upon his arrival in Carcassonne William of Contres directed that the equipment and wagons be assembled for transport and placed outside the city on the road towards Termes alongside the Aude. With the wagons packed up and accompanied by a hundred-man escort, the train would get an early start the following morning. Though the train’s escort and drivers stayed with the wagons during the night, undoubtedly many slept at their posts while none was particularly vigilant, since they would not have been outside the walls in the first place had they expected trouble. A poorly guarded, unsuspecting prize of this magnitude was a perfect target for those willing to risk an attack in the shadow of the castrum’s defenses. A spy (espia), perhaps from within the garrison guarding Carcassonne itself, secretly left the city and rode the fourteen kilometers to Cabaret to inform Peire-Roger of the potential bounty and its weak guard.
Upon hearing the news, Peire-Roger led more than 300 men and two of his lieutenants, William Cat and Raimon Mir, on horseback from Cabaret in a moonlight raid on the siege train outside Carcassonne. A force this size riding hard to take advantage of the night would be fairly noisy, and evidently the guards of the train had some warning of their approach. The raiders struck part of the train strung out along the road, chopping up some of the weapons while they tried to light a fire to destroy the rest. Inside Carcassonne, William of Contres hastily mounted up about eighty sergeants, who joined him in a counter-charge against Peire-Roger’s raiders. The garrison’s quick response in turn surprised the raiders, and intense hand-to-hand combat broke out, spilling over the road and open ground leading down to the Aude. Men knocked from their horses in the fierce fighting drowned in the river, weighed down by their iron hauberks. Eventually the raiders appeared to have had enough, and retreated back towards Cabaret without accomplishing much. The need to strike a strategic blow to postpone the coming siege of Termes convinced the raiders to try their luck again that same night. Taking advantage of the fact that the defenders would not expect another raid, Peire-Roger’s men doubled back and attacked the train again near dawn. Once more the men fought at close quarters, but even the early morning light was insufficient to recognize friend from foe. In this second melee Peire-Roger was surrounded, but shouting the crusaders’ battle cry of ‘‘Montfort!’’ he rode off before anyone realized who he was. Once day broke the raiders fled for cover, and it took two days before Peire-Roger made it back to the safety of his mountain fortress. William of Tudela related how happy the crusaders were at driving off a superior force and preserving the siege train, but this joy must have contained a great deal of relieved embarrassment for William of Contres, who had opted for convenience over security.
The siege train departed soon after, probably on 31 July 1210, its escort greatly supplemented by the large party of Breton crusaders who had finally arrived in Occitania soon after the chief crusader had left for Termes. These crusaders arrived in Carcassonne by way of Castelnaudary, where they had been refused admittance to the castrum by the townspeople and spent the night in the fields and gardens around it. Montfort heard what happened at Carcassonne when the train arrived with its escort about three days later. He was still preparing the territory of Termes for the siege, and even though William of Tudela said the chief crusader was overjoyed at the successful check of Peire-Roger, his joy too must have been tinged with relief that disaster had been narrowly averted. Though no source says it, this raid may have further convinced him that the nuisance of Peire-Roger and Cabaret would have to be dealt with as soon as an opportune moment presented itself.
Montlaur, had rebelled against their Montfortian garrison and were besieging the men inside the keep. Only six kilometers from Capendu, in terms of actual distance Montlaur was much farther due to the winding roads leading up into the mountains. Leaving Alice in the castle at Capendu, Montfort took what troops she had brought and those he already had with him and rode quickly to Montlaur, surprising the besiegers and quickly ending the siege. Given the fact that Montfort was a man of his word, when others broke their promises to him he did not take it lightly. He showed his displeasure at what he rightly regarded as treachery on the part of the people of Montlaur by hanging the men he caught for their disloyalty. Some got away however.
The year 1210 began in uncertainty, but conditions for the crusade would rapidly improve when the weather warmed and reinforcements arrived. It was in this year that one of the most important and infamous aspects of the Albigensian Crusade became institutionalized by the papal legates: the forty-day service (quarantine) required to win the indulgence. Montfort’s ability to fight in geographically hostile country amidst his enemies was tested by this requirement. Besides undergoing repeated military and logistical tribulations, he had to worry about diplomatic efforts by the Count of Toulouse, the people of Toulouse, and the King of Aragon possibly undercutting his position.
Though Raimon VI had taken the cross and served with the crusade through the capitulation of Carcassonne, as mentioned previously he intended to seek out support and protection from the crusade by going directly to the sources of power, in this case his primary feudal overlord, Philip Augustus, and his spiritual overlord, Pope Innocent. When Montfort’s military fortunes began to sour during the autumn of 1209 the Count of Toulouse traveled north to visit the King of France. While Philip treated him graciously, he refused to assist him in his attempt to reinstate tolls he had previously imposed in his territories. Next the count traveled to Rome via parts of eastern France. On his journey to the pope Raimon VI visited two of the most prominent crusaders from the previous campaign season, Odo, Duke of Burgundy, and Hervé, Count of Nevers. Evidently the time Raimon had spent in the crusader army had predisposed at least some to like him, because both received the Count of Toulouse warmly and the duke gave him gifts.
Once Raimon VI arrived in Rome, our sources vary as to the pope’s response to his visit. Peter Vaux-de-Cernay says the pope chastised the count and made accusations against the depth of his faith and his support of Christianity. William of Tudela relates that the pope treated the Count of Toulouse warmly and kindly, giving him gifts and showing him relics in his personal possession. The tone of the pope’s reception was probably somewhere in between. Innocent III had a furious temper, but he was extremely accommodating to those who made personal visits to him and willingly gave people second and even third chances. He ordered Raimon VI to purge himself of the murder of Peter of Castelnau and also of any taint of heresy, orders he commended in writing to the Archbishops of Narbonne and Arles, the Bishop of Riez, Master Theodisius, Arnaud- Amaury, and Raimon of Toulouse himself in January 1210.
In exchange for this any sentence of excommunication would be lifted unless Raimon attempted to reinstate any tolls. As the Count of Toulouse attempted to win back the pope’s favor, so did the people of Toulouse. During the previous fall they told the leaders of the crusade that they would treat with the pope directly. By November 1209 a delegation of town consuls had traveled to the pope in hopes of freeing Toulouse from any possible visit from the crusade. In addition they sought a lifting of the sentence of excommunication against the consuls and the interdict laid on the city the previous September by Master Milo. They were quite successful; Innocent lifted the interdict and excommunication by a letter of January 1210. As Raimon of Toulouse made his way back from Rome early in 1210, he paid a visit to the Emperor Otto in northern Italy in hopes of securing support against Simon of Montfort, especially since the emperor was Raimon’s overlord for some of his more eastern territories along the Rhône valley. Nothing substantial appears to have come out of that meeting, but it did hurt the count’s relationship with King Philip when the count met the king for a second time on his way back south. The king was angry about Raimon’s visit to the emperor, as the two monarchs were bitter rivals, a rivalry that came to a head at Bouvines four years later. Once back in his own lands, Raimon even had a meeting with Montfort, and it appears that at least up to this point the two men had no reason to dislike each other. In fact they arranged a marriage alliance between Raimon VI’s son and one of Simon of Montfort’s daughters. As another guarantee of his good behavior the Count of Toulouse turned the Narbonnais Castle, the citadel of the city defenses of Toulouse and the count’s residence, over to Guy, Cistercian abbot of Vaux-de-Cernay, who had arrived in Occitania the previous autumn, and Folquet of Marseille, Bishop of Toulouse. These two men soon began a vigorous preaching campaign against heresy, money lending, and usury though the people of the south were not much interested in what they had to say. January and February 1210 was a quiescent time for the south, as the weather made campaigning nearly impossible and Montfort was so short of men he could do little anyway. In February 1210 Estève of Servian, lord of the small castrum of Servian twelve kilometers northeast of Béziers, which had been abandoned as the crusade army marched through the previous summer, formally abjured heresy and swore loyalty to the crusade. In early March Montfort gave Estève his lands back.
At the beginning of Lent that year, 10 March, Simon of Montfort received word that his wife Alice was on her way to Occitania with a large party of knights. Relieved and overjoyed, he met her at Pézenas, twenty-one kilometers northwest of Béziers, to escort her and these newly arrived troops along the main roads to Carcassonne. On their way to Carcassonne the campaign year began. Staying the night at a castrum called Capendu less than sixteen kilometers from Carcassonne, they received word that the citizens of another castrum in the Corbières mountains, Montlaur, had rebelled against their Montfortian garrison and were besieging the men inside the keep. Only six kilometers from Capendu, in terms of actual distance Montlaur was much farther due to the winding roads leading up into the mountains. Leaving Alice in the castle at Capendu, Montfort took what troops she had brought and those he already had with him and rode quickly to Montlaur, surprising the besiegers and quickly ending the siege. Given the fact that Montfort was a man of his word, when others broke their promises to him he did not take it lightly. He showed his displeasure at what he rightly regarded as treachery on the part of the people of Montlaur by hanging the men he caught for their disloyalty. Some got away however.
Montlaur was a small problem that required little effort to solve. Montfort now decided to go on the offensive by picking off other small targets which had either resisted him the previous year or had rebelled. In all these actions of 1210 Montfort used Carcassonne as a base of operations, intending to clear the territories around it first before he risked going farther afield. After a short stay in Carcassonne, the army moved west to Alzonne, which had been occupied by the crusade in August 1209 but was now deserted. From there the army continued west less than six kilometers to the small castrum of Bram, also located along the main roads west of Carcassonne. For some time Bram had functioned as a safe house for Cathar perfecti, but – more importantly for a man with a long memory for treachery like Simon of Montfort – it housed the unnamed French cleric who had given back Montréal to its rebellious lord Aimeric in November–December 1209. Bram had weak fortifications and unlike many other castra in the region was located in a flat area where geography could not assist its defense. Bram was so weak that Montfort only blockaded it for three days before having his army take the unusual step of direct assault against the town. Peter Vaux-de-Cernay explicitly mentions that the crusaders accomplished the blockade and assault of Bram without the support of any siege devices, a testament to the castrum’s vulnerability.
The aftermath of the siege of Bram greatly added to the infamy of the crusade. While one certainly cannot condone Montfort’s actions at Bram, placing why he did so in context makes his actions far more understandable. Besides the fact that he captured over one hundred prisoners who had refused to surrender, their lives possibly forfeit under contemporary customs of war, Montfort had two other scores to settle which made scapegoats of the men of Bram. The cleric caught in Bram, a man of the church supporting heretics and a Frenchman no less, represented the worst kind of treachery to Simon of Montfort. The Bishop of Carcassonne defrocked this renegade priest, and the man was tied to a horse’s tail and dragged through the streets of Carcassonne before being hanged. The other score Montfort believed he had to settle was in retaliation for the two knights blinded and mutilated by Giraud of Pépieux the previous autumn. More than willing to raise the ante, Monfort had all but one of the over one hundred prisoners blinded and their noses cut off. A single man of Bram was left with one eye in order to lead the rest to Cabaret, a clear message to those who would defy the crusade. This army of the disfigured and disabled would spread terror amongst his enemies as they worked their way west.
Though most modern authors do not condemn what Montfort did at Bram, it has become perhaps the second most infamous story next to the storming of Béziers. We should be cynical about Peter Vaux-de-Cernay’s claim that Montfort disliked doing things like this; for example, he willingly confirmed the death sentence on a repentant heretic at Castres in September 1209, justifying that if the man was sincere the fire would atone for his past misconduct, and if he had converted simply to avoid the flames the fire would be suitable punishment. A more flexible man might have used Bram as an opportunity to show his magnanimity or good faith, but Montfort was not such a man. He lived by a strict code in which loyalty was important above all else. Those who showed it were treated well by him; those who betrayed it could expect retaliation. While we might ask, as Zoé Oldenbourg did, why Montfort did not conform to standards more akin to ours by taking the moral high road and sparing the men of Bram, the fact remains that the chief crusader had to use any example he could to offset his weak position, something even Oldenbourg admits. Before indicting him as a war criminal in a modern court we should be aware that both sides bore responsibility for the continued pattern of mutilations and executions of prisoners during the Occitan War. As an additional justification for the mutilations at Bram, Peter Vaux-de-Cernay says that southerners habitually dismembered captured crusaders.
Though the arrival of reinforcements led by Alice of Montfort allowed the crusader army to capture Montlaur and Bram, the weather was still too cold and the army still too small to mount any major offensives or sieges. During the rest of March and until Easter (18 April) 1210, the crusading army conducted successful raids against crops and grapevines in the foothills of the Black Mountains north of Carcassonne, particularly near Cabaret and farther east around Minerve. These raids effectively isolated Minerve, a key Cathar refuge. By Easter the crusade had secured all the important sites near Minerve except for the fortress of Ventajou. Around Easter the army extended its operations south of Carcassonne in the Corbières mountains against targets that threatened the highway between Carcassonne and Béziers. This time the army blockaded another small mountain castrum called Alaric, only about eleven kilometers southeast of Carcassonne. Snow still covered the ground and the cold weather greatly hampered operations, but the crusading army continued the blockade for two weeks before the garrison attempted to flee during the night. Many of the garrison were caught and killed during the subsequent chase.
Meanwhile a number of southern lords, among them Peire-Roger of Cabaret, Raimon of Termes, and Aimeric of Montréal, though all now technically vassals of Simon of Montfort, took advantage of the King of Aragon’s presence in the region by asking him to become their direct overlord. All three of these lords had previously been lukewarm vassals of the Trencavel viscounts, but they clearly did not want to do homage to Simon of Montfort, partly because two of them had already suffered at his hands. Having the king as their protector but far away in Aragon seemed to be the optimum situation for keeping their own independence. In fact, appealing to King Pere might convince the monarch of Aragon to drive Montfort out of their territory entirely. Neither side apparently had any serious intention of making a settlement. The original meeting place was to be Montréal, but so impatient were these southern lords that they or their representatives met the king on the road and made their offer to become his vassals. Pere countered with his own proposal and the cost was steep. The king demanded that the castrum of Cabaret be turned over to him, and that all nobles interested in having him as direct lord agree to hand over their fortifications to the king if asked to do so. The barons demurred, requesting that the king enter Montréal before they agreed. He refused. Any possibility for agreement evaporated and no formal parley between Pere II and the southern lords ever occurred. Pere’s refusal to treat with the southern lords in the former Trencavel viscounty kept the door open to possible future relations between himself and Simon of Montfort.
At the same time as the southern lords converged on Montréal and King Pere approached the town, Simon of Montfort decided to perform some show of strength, even though with his small army he did not dare risk attacking the southern nobles in Montréal directly. He opted instead to besiege a small castle called Bellegarde, less than thirteen kilometers to the southwest of Montréal. While Montfort besieged this castle, which no one troubled to rescue, Pere II sent a note to him asking for a truce between Pere’s vassal, the Count of Foix, and Montfort, to last until Easter 1211. Montfort readily agreed to this, partly because it freed him from having to worry about threats to the southern borders of his territories from the aggressive Count of Foix. Bellegarde fell to the crusaders soon after, with the consequence that other castles and castra in the area were abandoned or capitulated. The beginning of May saw the truce between the chief crusader and the Count of Foix evaporate as Montfort and his men operated farther away from a secure base of operations south of Carcassonne. Passing through Pamiers, recently the site of a fruitless meeting between Pere II and Raimon VI, Montfort broke the truce by unexpectedly riding up to the city and castle of Foix with his men. Catching the defenders by surprise, at the head of his small band of raiders Montfort almost managed to get inside the fortress even though taking the castrum was not really his original intention. With the gates of the castle literally shut in his face he hastily retreated, though not before one of his companion knights was hit by rocks thrown from the considerable heights of the castle walls. Since what men he had with him amounted to no more than a large raiding party, he did not bother to besiege such a strong fortification so deep in enemy country. Instead the raiders spent several days in the vicinity of Foix destroying grain in the fields, grapevines, and fruit trees before heading back to Carcassonne.
The peace between the Count of Foix and Simon of Montfort was the high-water mark for the year as far as the military conduct of the crusade was concerned. Though they took some time to reach him, in response to the letter he had earlier sent the pope Montfort received two letters from the pontiff promising full support. On 11 November Innocent wrote of his pleasure on hearing of Montfort’s leadership, and notified the chief crusader that he would be sending letters to various crowned heads of Europe, including the King of Aragon, asking for their help, which he later did. In a second letter dated the next day, Innocent confirmed Montfort as Viscount of Carcassonne and Béziers partially because the judgment of God and the acclamation of the army had already given the viscounty to him. Through conquest, God’s verdict, the strong approval of the crusade army and the pope’s backing, Montfort now lacked only the support of the feudal suzerain of the Trencavel lands, Pere II of Aragon.
Initially it appeared that November would bring secular confirmation. On 10 November Raimon-Roger Trencavel died in the dungeons of Carcassonne, removing a large impediment to Montfort’s gaining title to the viscounty. In late November King Pere traveled north again and agreed to meet with Simon of Montfort to negotiate accepting Montfort’s homage, thus giving the authority of secular custom to what the chief crusader had already gained. The two men chose to meet on neutral ground in Narbonne, but by 24 November had traveled together to King Pere’s city of Montpellier. While in Montpellier Montfort received the dowry lands of Raimon-Roger’s widow, Agnes of Montpellier, consisting of the towns of Pénzenas and Tourbes, in exchange for an annuity. Though the king and chief crusader talked for some fifteen days in Montpellier, the king ultimately refused to accept Montfort’s homage for the Trencavel viscounty. Montfort therefore left empty-handed amid reports of defections among his lordships.
Taking advantage of the fact that Montfort now had no more than a miniscule army, knights and lords throughout the region began to withdraw their allegiance to him. A particularly revealing incident demonstrating some of the obstacles Montfort faced in holding on that first fall and winter was the capture of Bouchard of Marly by southerners. Bouchard of Marly was one of Montfort’s loyal lieutenants and cousin to Simon’s wife Alice. Together with another knight, Gaubert d’Essigny, Bouchard of Marly went to Cabaret with a party of fifty men in November 1209. The crusading army had briefly flirted with taking this mountain-top fortress a few months before, but abandoned the effort almost immediately after seeing how hard it would be. As the newly invested lord of Saissac, about seventeen kilometers west of Cabaret, Bouchard had a vested interest in pacifying areas eastward. He therefore went into the region around Cabaret to raid. As his party of fifty drew close to the area they were surrounded and ambushed by men of the garrison, consisting of ninety horse and foot (‘‘que a caval que a petz’’) and fourteen archers (‘‘arquiers’’). Even though they were taken by surprise, for a time Bouchard’s men defended themselves without panicking before many were killed, including Gaubert d’Essigny. The rest managed to get away except for Bouchard of Marly, who remained in dreary captivity for sixteen months at Cabaret.
The man who engineered the ambush was Peire-Roger, lord of Cabaret. Peire-Roger was one of the petty mountain lords of the region whose ostensible loyalty had been to the Trencavel viscounts, and he had served the viscount in at least part of the siege of Carcassonne. Since Simon of Montfort was now viscount, Peire-Roger theoretically owed loyalty to him, though the southerner had never formally given it. Yet he had never obeyed the Trencavels either, basically doing as he pleased. In 1209 Cabaret actually contained three castles called Quertinheux, Surdespine and Cabaret, ranged in a line across a desolate mountain ridge more than 300 meters above sea level. The fact that Peire-Roger believed he made himself safest by building and maintaining castles in this bleak location suggests he was more worried by his enemies than his enemies were by him. On the one hand Cabaret guarded a road, but it was a road easily bypassed around the mountains. On the other hand Cabaret was only fourteen kilometers from Carcassonne, close enough for Peire-Roger’s men to be a potential nuisance, as they proved on several occasions after 1209. The unproductive land surrounding Cabaret could not have furnished Peire-Roger a lavish lifestyle. The castles themselves are so remote and high up from the main road that almost everything edible in them would had to have been carried in by single-file mule teams or on the backs of human porters. Poor but proud, and quite dangerous under certain conditions, Peire-Roger was essentially a gentrified robber-bandit, sympathetic to Catharism but most interested in self-preservation. He struck targets of opportunity, but his goal was to remain independent of any higher authority, not simply that of the crusade. Still, he and Cabaret well represented the kind of men and sites Simon of Montfort was going to have to deal with in order to subdue the country. For the moment Montfort and the crusade could do nothing, so Peire-Roger continued to live as he always had.
While the lord of Cabaret had never given homage to Simon of Montfort and was therefore not guilty of treason, other southern lords who had earlier sworn homage or pledges of loyalty to Montfort now began to withdraw them. Montfort abhorred disloyalty and never forgot those who broke their word to him. After returning to Carcassonne from Montpellier in late November or early December, Montfort learned that two of his knights, Amaury and William of Poissy, were besieged by ‘‘traitors’’ (traditores) and captured in a ‘‘tower’’ (turrem castri) somewhere north of the Aude around Carcassonne. Though the chief crusader desperately tried to reach them in time, autumn floods prevented him from crossing the Aude and rescuing them. As Montfort moved close to Narbonne, he received word that Giraud of Pépieux, lord of a small castrum twenty-six kilometers northeast of Carcassonne who had previously pledged loyalty to Montfort, had broken his word and rebelled. Giraud did so partially because at some earlier point a Frenchman of the crusading army had killed his uncle. Though the Frenchman who committed the murder is not named, apparently he was a fairly prominent knight or noble. Nonetheless, as proof of his willingness to mete out justice fairly, Montfort had this Frenchman buried alive. This was not enough for Giraud of Pépieux, who continued to nurse a grudge. Instead of uttering public defiance and renunciation of loyalty more in accordance with northern feudal custom, he secretly engineered a surprise attack.
To what degree feudalism existed in Occitania has always been a topic of debate among scholars. One might legitimately argue that southern lords like Giraud of Pépieux were not used to the practices of the north and therefore reacted according to their own customs, and perhaps should not have been found culpable when they broke their word. True enough perhaps, but Simon of Montfort responded in the familiar ways of northern France. He envisioned his lordship in a northern French context and saw acts such as Giraud’s as treachery, particularly when they had not been preceded by public declaration or renunciation of loyalty. Each side, then, operated on a different set of assumptions, and it should be no surprise that these misunderstandings only made the punishment of real or imagined transgressions that much more brutal.
Along with some other disloyal knights Giraud of Pépieux traveled to the castrum of Puisserguier about fourteen kilometers west of Béziers. Somehow he managed to trick the Montfortian garrison of two knights and fifty sergeants into admitting him and his men, where he then overwhelmed and imprisoned them. Under oath he promised to spare their lives and allow them to keep their possessions when he and his men left. Montfort soon learned what had happened, and as he was close by he responded quickly to the news. He rushed to Puisserguier, bringing Aimery of Narbonne and the Narbonnais civic militia with him. As soon as they arrived, however, Aimery and his townsmen inexplicably refused to lay the place under siege and abandoned Montfort and his tiny field army. Since it was late in the day and Montfort now had few men with him, instead of blockading the place as he intended, for safety’s sake he took quarters for the night in the nearby town of Capestang, less than five kilometers away to the south.
The fortifications of Puisserguier were not very strong, and the place, located on fairly level ground, was easy to surround. Perhaps not knowing that Montfort had lost the services of the Narbonnais militia, and believing that he would certainly besiege Puisserguier the next morning, Giraud of Pépieux took advantage of this reprieve to flee during the night. The captured garrison posed a problem for him, however. Dragging the prisoners along would only slow him down, especially since he had starved them for the past three days. Equally he was not anxious to allow more than fifty prisoners to go free. Rather than murder them face-to-face, Giraud of Pépieux had the captured sergeants placed in the dry ditch surrounding the fortifications. He and his men then proceeded to stone the prisoners as well as throwing straw and combustibles down to burn them alive. Leaving the sergeants for dead, he then fled to the Cathar stronghold of Minerve, taking with him only his own men and the two knights who commanded the garrison, for whom he planned another fate. The next morning Montfort arrived before Puisserguier only to see the place abandoned, though at least some, perhaps all, of the sergeants had survived their ordeal in the ditch. In a rage Montfort had the citadel of Puisserguier destroyed and proceeded to lay waste Giraud of Pépieux’s lands. The aftermath of the story had ominous overtones briefly worth discussing here. Once safe at Minerve, Giraud had the two captured knights mutilated, their eyes gouged out, and their ears, lips, and noses cut off.
They were then set free to find Montfort in the cold, late autumn weather. One died, but the other eventually made it to Carcassonne.161 Montfort was not an inherently cruel man, but he certainly believed in an-eye-for-an-eye plus raising the ante. He would remember Giraud of Pépieux’s treachery and the mutilation of the knights, and exact payment for it both in the near future and even years later.
The treacheries, seizures, and assassinations against crusaders or crusade sympathizers continued throughout this whole period. An abbot of the Cistercian house of Eaunes, traveling back with three companions from a meeting of the papal legates at Saint-Gilles, was stabbed to death along with a lay brother just outside the city of Carcassonne. The perpetrators let one monk go because they knew him, but when he reached safety he reported that the killers were led by Guilhem of Roquefort, local lord and brother of none other than the Bishop of Carcassonne, Bernard-Raimon. Montfort received word that two important castra in the Albi region, Castres and Lombers, which had granted their loyalty to him only the previous September, now withdrew it and imprisoned the garrisons of sergeants and knights Montfort had left there. At some point the Count of Foix also broke the peace he had agreed with Montfort and took back Preixan. One night he and his men also attempted to take back Fanjeaux, though the garrison managed to repel the attack. Montfort had left a French cleric in charge of the garrison of Montréal, less than eighteen kilometers away from Carcassonne. This unnamed clerk turned Montréal back over to its original lord, Aimeric of Montréal. Aimeric had deserted Montréal during the siege of Carcassonne to come to Montfort’s camp and pledge his loyalty to the crusade, but reneged a few days after leaving. Montfort forgot neither the French clerk nor Aimeric of Montréal, and eventually settled scores with both. Further defections and assassinations took place so that by Christmas 1209 Montfort had lost more than forty castles and castra. He was left with Béziers, Carcassonne, Fanjeaux, Saissac, Limoux, Pamiers, Saverdun, Albi, and the small castrum of Ambialet.
By the end of the year the crusade had accomplished little, although it had already cost many lives on both sides. It had put the inhabitants of Occitania on their guard, yet they had recovered much of their territory. While Béziers, Carcassonne, and Albi constituted the critical population centers of the Trencavel viscounty and remained in crusader hands, these castra could rebel at any time. Hostile lords and towns surrounded all three places. Though Cathars from Béziers to Lombers had lost their lives to the crusade already, the religious movement itself had yet to suffer permanent damage. Thus by Christmas 1209 the military campaign to exterminate Catharism and win control over the region had only just begun.
Though the legates and army had chosen a leader of high resolve, unimpeachable faith, and unquestioned integrity, the struggle to carry out the mission of the crusade had only begun. By late August, many in the army decided they had met the requirements for an indulgence and were anxious to return north before colder weather set in. Nobles and ordinary crusaders began to leave the army in a steady stream. Montfort and the Abbot of Cîteaux begged the Duke of Burgundy and the Count of Nevers to stay, pointing out to them that three strongly defended, hostile castra close by – Minerve, Termes, and Cabaret – remained unsubdued. While the Duke of Burgundy readily agreed to stay, particularly because of his friendship with Montfort, the Count of Nevers could not be persuaded, partly because he could not stand the Duke of Burgundy. With the Count of Nevers went the vast majority of the crusaders. The stream of men leaving the army soon became a flood. This created a crisis, because gains so easily won by a huge army in optimum campaigning conditions could just as easily be lost by a much smaller army as the seasons changed. The captured cities now held by Montfort represented no more than a few islands in the midst of a sea of hostile population centers and nobles with local power bases still quite capable of defending themselves. While the crusade army could successfully besiege cities in open country, it had not been tested against fortresses up in the mountains, which would provide far more frustration and danger relative to their strategic or financial importance. In particular the castra of Cabaret, Termes, and Minerve could not be easily taken in any but the summer months, when the narrow paths leading to the fortresses would be free of snow and mud, and a sure supply of food could be secured to sustain a blockade and siege. The conditional loyalty of southern nobles and captured towns would eventually prove as problematic to Montfort and the crusade as manpower, supplies, and the weather. As the crusading army became smaller, surrendered populations were more likely to withdraw their loyalty and rebel. This is in fact what many of them did in the coming months.
By taking the job of chief crusader Simon of Montfort inherited a nightmare that haunted him until his death less than nine years later. He had no secular sponsor to provide steady logistical and personnel support. The papacy could only provide undependable revenue from occasional crusading taxes and the moral suasion of crusade preachers for recruitment. To his credit, Montfort quickly recognized the immensity of his task. In the only known letter written by him to the pope, sent sometime in the first few months after he took command of the crusade, Montfort not only introduces himself and the position from which he will command the crusade, as Viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne, but also outlines for the pontiff the problems he faces and asks for support. He informs the pope that he has become leader of the crusade by selection by the other crusaders and that he will remain in the south until the heresy is exterminated. (On that last point he was as good as his word.) In an almost plaintive tone, he says he has been left with only a few knights to assist him. Because of the danger in which the crusaders find themselves, Montfort not only has to pay men to serve him but has to pay double the normal wages in order to keep them. His plaint reached a sympathetic audience, and Innocent III in turn attempted to assist the crusade in any way he could.
Though Montfort’s army soon dwindled to practically nothing, it was the hard kernel which remained that provided the subordinate leadership, experience, and expertise necessary to continue the war. William of Tudela mentions by name or title at least fourteen knights, lords or nobles who remained with Montfort that first fall and winter of the crusade. These men were even farther down on the social scale than Montfort, being younger sons or hard-scrabble lords who stood to gain by remaining in the south. Montfort came to be fanatically loyal to his close followers, something they reciprocated. These veterans formed the core of all subsequent field armies which crusaded in the south and served as the castellans who defended fortifications against hostile townspeople. In addition to this inner circle, Montfort had some paid troops. If we include the men who comprised the garrisons of various places, he may technically have had an army of several hundred in the fall of 1209, though we have no numbers from which to tabulate or estimate a total. Clearly it was a small number, since so many southern lords were tempted to rebel by the late fall of 1209.
The time line of events between late August and late November 1209 is very unclear. We are largely dependent on Peter Vaux-de-Cernay’s account. Montfort continued to campaign throughout the fall, but none of the sources mentions any dates until November. Planning his next moves, Montfort sent some of his lieutenants to command garrisons in strategic places within his newly-won dominions. To Béziers went William of Contres and to Limoux went Lambert of Crécy, who later took the town’s name as his own. Though the Count of Toulouse and his namesake city had escaped the wrath of the crusade, apparently doubts remained about both his culpability and whether the people of Toulouse had made their peace with the crusade. Raimon VI would eventually go to Rome to resolve any problems. The crusade leadership sent messengers to Toulouse to work out a peace with the townspeople, but the Toulousans preferred to settle their grievances with the pope directly. Soon a delegation from the city went to Rome to plead its case.
Before any more of the army left for home, Montfort decided to perambulate his western domains since most of them had not actually been visited by the crusade. He intended a show of force to cement the loyalty of these places before they would even contemplate rebellion. Though this is not stated by the sources, it seems likely that Montfort moved west deliberately to put the Count of Toulouse on notice that the chief crusader would be an aggressive lord on the border between them. As a professed crusader himself, Raimon VI had already used the legality of the crusade to settle personal scores in various places by destroying several castra in the border region. Leaving Carcassonne sixteen kilometers to the northwest, the crusader army occupied Alzonne, then moved a further fourteen kilometers southwest to Fanjeaux. Earlier, when the crusaders had been besieging Carcassonne, Fanjeaux had been abandoned and perhaps burned by its own population. Curiously, the men who, on behalf of the crusaders, occupied both Fanjeaux and the castrum of Montre´al, nine kilometers away, appear to have been Aragonese routiers led by one Peter of Aragon, who methodically stripped the castrum of Fanjeaux of all the moveable wealth he could find. Perhaps doubtful of these routiers’ loyalty and ultimate allegiance, Montfort moved into Fanjeaux and installed a new garrison. Many other towns and fortifications in the area were abandoned by their inhabitants as the crusade moved close by.
While the chief crusader was at Fanjeaux a delegation from the large castrum of Castres, some forty-six kilometers north of Carcassonne, submitted to him. Castres was one of the most prominent towns in the Albi region, and making an appearance there was important, partly because this region’s loyalty had been neither tested nor assured. Montfort traveled to Castres with only a token force, leaving the army under the command of the Duke of Burgundy, who began moving back towards Carcassonne. From Fanjeaux the journey to Castres would be about fifty-two kilometers if one skirted the Black Mountain range falling in between. While Montfort stayed at Castres, a delegation from Lombers, twenty-three kilometers further north of Castres on the way to Albi, met Montfort at Castres and asked him to make an appearance in their town. For some reason he declined the request and quickly returned to the main army. Perhaps he was afraid the army would soon fall apart as more and more men departed for home. At any rate Montfort traveled back towards Carcassonne where he met up with the army again.
Upon Montfort’s arrival back to the main crusader army the Duke of Burgundy suggested the army move towards Cabaret to harass its defenders or perhaps seize it. Cabaret was fourteen kilometers north of Carcassonne, high in the Black Mountains, so-called because of their dark color when seen from a distance. Now known as Lastours, Cabaret is an incredibly remote and desolate location. Perhaps the crusaders did not realize just how formidable Cabaret was until they moved the remainder of the army into the mountains, because even though they got within ‘‘half a league’’ of the fortifications they soon abandoned their attempts to take it. By this time the Duke of Burgundy had more than earned his indulgence, and he finally departed for the north, along with most of what was left of the army. According to Peter Vaux-de-Cernay, Montfort had no more than thirty knights left in the army. These knights had to control a region twice the size of Rhode Island.
Montfort now moved south into the border zone between the Trencavel lands and those of the Count of Foix. He did so as a demonstration of what even a small crusader army could do. The Count of Foix was overlord of various places just to the southwest of Carcassonne and was suspected of protecting heretics. By attacking the Count of Foix’s territory beyond the Trencavel lands, Simon of Montfort exceeded his mandate, though he probably justified it on the grounds that he was acting against a protector of heretics. In doing so however, he gained one of the most stalwart and formidable enemies the crusade ever had. Montfort captured several places belonging to the Count of Foix, including Mirepoix. He then took the allegiance of the people of Pamiers and occupied Saverdun. Leaving the Foix region and returning to Fanjeaux, Montfort and the army moved north again into the Albi region. He actually got as far as Lombers this time, taking the allegiance of the reluctant knights defending it. From there Montfort traveled to Albi, which constituted the northernmost zone of the Trencavel viscounty. Technically Albi belonged to the King of Aragon, to whom the Trencavels did homage for it, but even the latter’s authority was weak, as the Bishop of Albi had long been the de facto lord of the castrum. Still, upon entrance of the chief crusader into the city, the Bishop of Albi acknowledged Montfort as overlord and did homage for Albi. For the moment Montfort was lord of the viscounty with the exception of a few hold-outs to the Count of Toulouse.
Moving south yet again he fortified Limoux, which his lieutenant Lambert had occupied previously, seized some other unnamed castra, hanged some of their inhabitants as an example to the rest, and besieged the castrum of Preixan, another possession of the Count of Foix but only nine kilometers south of Carcassonne. Temporarily worn out by the blows he had suffered in quick succession, the Count of Foix came to Montfort’s camp before Preixan to make peace. According to the terms Raimon-Roger of Foix agreed to support the church, surrender his rights in Preixan to Montfort, and offer his youngest son as a hostage. Though the chief crusader had cowed a possible enemy and seemingly removed a potential trouble spot close to Carcassonne, the peace between Simon of Montfort and Raimon-Roger of Foix appears to have lasted little longer than it took for the ink to dry on the parchment.
Cathars being expelled from Carcassonne in 1209
The march from Lyon and the sack of Béziers had taken its toll on the crusaders, and because so much appears to have been destroyed in the sack the crusaders were no better off logistically for having done it. They were tired, justifiably or not. The crusading army camped not in the city, perhaps uninhabitable for the moment, but in the meadows outside it. There they remained for three days before marching on to the next large castrum controlled by Raimon-Roger Trencavel.88 The crusaders moved to the southwest until they hit the Aude river, which would lead them to Carcassonne. In doing so they crossed close by the territories of Aimery III, Viscount of Narbonne. In fact, they came within at most six kilometers of the city of Narbonne itself. Narbonne was the seat of the senior churchman in this part of Occitania, the Archbishop of Narbonne. Neither Aimery nor his lands was an intended target for the crusade as Raimon VI had been, but Archbishop Berengar’s failure to act vigorously against heresy prior to 1209 meant the crusade might be redirected to take this city just as it had been diverted against Be´ziers. By now the inhabitants, the viscount, and the archbishop were well aware of what happened to the people of Be´ziers, for many who had escaped that carnage had fled to Narbonne. Rather than face the possible ire of the crusade, Aimery quickly took himself off a possible target list by swearing to fairly harsh peace terms. He agreed to open all fortified places to crusaders and support the crusade both militarily and financially. As well, the viscount and archbishop agreed to turn over to the legates all heretics who had fled Be´ziers, and to suppress heresy more vigorously in the castrum of Narbonne. Aimery honored his pledge to aid the crusade by providing lackluster military service later in 1209 and assisting in the siege of Minerve in 1210, but in general the viscount and the Narbonnais maintained a low profile during most years of the Occitan War. Along the way the crusade marched through or near perhaps dozens of other towns and castra, some of whose inhabitants submitted to the crusade while many more simply fled. In their hurry to do so, they very often abandoned strong fortifications and large stocks of food to which the crusaders helped themselves, perhaps accounting for the relative abundance of supplies they enjoyed during the siege of Carcassonne.
The crusading army marched a distance of about forty-seven kilometers from the Aude above Narbonne and arrived at Carcassonne by Saturday, 1 August 1209.92 As the seat of the Trencavel viscounts Carcassonne was considered at that time to be the heart of Cathar resistance. The city of Carcassonne was smaller in population than either Béziers or Narbonne, with a population of less than 9,500, the number estimated from data of the early fourteenth century before the Black Death. Most likely it was even smaller in the early thirteenth century, although its population was larger than usual as people fleeing the crusader army came there for refuge. Carcassonne’s fortifications still exist, though they were substantially modified in the later thirteenth century by an additional set of curtain walls and the site was greatly restored in the nineteenth century. Today ‘‘La Cite´’’ is considered one of the finest extant examples of a complete medieval defensive structure and ranks as one of the biggest tourist draws in the Midi-Pyrénées.
In 1209 ‘‘La Cite´’’ was perched on an outcrop located some distance east of the Aude, surrounded by a single set of walls and ditches as well as three suburbs, only two of which, the Bourg and the Castellar, had a perfunctory set of walls and ditches around them. Overall the outcrop upon which the castrum sat did not lend much to its defenses. Contrary to the seeming strength of its fortifications as related by William of Tudela, Carcassonne was a far easier target than Béziers for blockade and siege, particularly along its river side. Still, since the city had ample warning of what this crusader army was capable of, it was probably more competently defended than Béziers had been. Viscount Raimon-Roger had already lost one of his main cities and did not intend to give this one up without a spirited defense. Initially the twenty-four-year-old viscount gathered together 400 of his knights and mounted sergeants to sortie out and attack the crusade army in the open. Prudent counsel from one of the viscount’s vassals, the old mountain lord Peire-Roger of Cabaret, now in Carcassonne to lend his assistance, convinced Raimon-Roger Trencavel to stay within the castrum rather than squandering his resources in a fruitless attack against overwhelming numbers.
From the time the crusading army arrived before Carcassonne, it surrounded the city and its suburbs, making it impossible for the defenders to reinforce themselves. Through the evening of 1 August and the next day the army rested and planned its attack. Perhaps hoping for the same success they had enjoyed at Béziers, on the morning of 3 August the crusaders assaulted the Saint Vincent suburb to the west of the castrum without support from siege engines. This suburb was the least protected, but it covered the most strategic side of the main fortifications, between the city and the river. After a fight led by Simon of Montfort, the crusaders captured the ditches of the suburb. Saint Vincent was soon abandoned by its defenders and burned by the crusaders, who then occupied the ground next to the castrum. This assault had only taken about two hours. Thus by 3 August they had cut off Carcassonne completely from its water supply. Since assaults had worked so well on two occasions, on 4 August the crusaders attacked the northern suburb, the Bourg. Because the Bourg had both ditches and walls, and the southerners had readied themselves against a possible assault, this attempt stalled in the fosses under a heavy bombardment of stones thrown from the heights. The crusaders retreated but not before Simon of Montfort, accompanied by a single squire, performed another act of courage by going back under the hailstorm of rocks into the ditch to rescue a fellow knight trapped there with a broken leg. Now that the crusaders saw that direct assault would not work on a prepared and determined enemy, they began to construct siege machines. As the sources report, among the types of machines constructed during the siege of Carcassonne were mangonels, catapults, and petraries, all standard thirteenth-century siege weapons in use in western Europe since the Roman era. These machines threw stones of various weights to destroy walls, buildings and human beings. At Carcassonne the crusaders made good use of machines to batter the walls of suburb and castrum.
During the next few days, as the crusader bombardment weakened the walls of the Bourg, the crusaders constructed another siege weapon, a wagon covered in oxhides called a ‘‘cat.’’ Now engineers concealed inside the cat began to sap the foundational walls of the suburb. The defenders destroyed the cat by throwing down incendiaries, logs, and stones, but by the time this was accomplished the sappers had burrowed far enough into the walls to move into the hole they had dug and continue digging into the foundation, untouchable now by missiles thrown down from above. The next day, 8 August, the wall over the hole fell in, allowing the crusaders to mount another assault, taking the Bourg while its defenders withdrew into the city. Complacency immediately set in however, as the crusaders placed only a few men in the Bourg and went back to their tents. The defenders of Carcassonne sortied back into the suburb, killed its few defenders and burned the suburb before retreating back into the city, thus denying the crusaders their homes and property.
During the time of the Bourg’s bombardment another event occurred which almost altered the course of the crusade and certainly set the stage for further conflict. Sometime between 4 and 6 August the King of Aragon, Pere II, arrived with 100 horsemen and attempted to mediate between the crusaders and his vassal Raimon-Roger. Pere was the natural leader to perform this sort of function, because of his extensive family ties in Occitania and his suzerainty over Carcassonne. Thirty-five years old in 1209, Pere II was charismatic, affable, devout in his fashion, but a man inclined to overindulgence in both wine and women. He was an extremely effective crusader-soldier in his own right, a fact borne out three years later when he helped engineer the decisive Spanish victory over the Almohads at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. In the long term, since he had direct ties to Occitania and was anxious to hold on and expand his overlordship in the region, Pere and the royal house of Aragon represented an alternative authority to Occitania’s theoretical place in the regnum Francorum.
Since he arrived with what amounted to no more than an escort, Pere had no intention of offering military aid to his vassal in Carcassonne, as doing so would have deliberately defied the crusade. The sight of the huge crusader army surrounding the city and its suburbs must have been quite a shock to the Aragonese monarch. Nevertheless the crusaders greeted him warmly and he dined with the Count of Toulouse in the crusader camp. After the meal Pere entered Carcassonne with only three men to talk to Raimon-Roger Trencavel. The viscount and people of Carcassonne were overjoyed at the king’s arrival, thinking he was there to deliver the castrum from the crusade. Pere knew from the size of the crusader host and the determination of its leadership that he could not prevent the crusaders from taking the city. Even after hearing Raimon-Roger discuss the mass killing at Béziers, Pere admonished the viscount for his weak efforts against the Cathars and urged him to treat with the crusaders immediately. The king offered to get what terms he could for the viscount. After arriving back at the crusader camp, Pere discussed Raimon-Roger’s position with the secular lords and the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury. Showing the inflexibility with which he commonly treated everyone, Arnaud-Amaury told Pere that the crusaders would allow Raimon-Roger to leave the city with eleven men of the viscount’s choice, but that the city would have to surrender all its people and goods. In essence the terms were a slap in the face and angered the king. He already knew what his vassal’s reaction was going to be: no noble anxious to retain his honor could agree to desert a combat zone with a few of his cronies. Nevertheless the king rode into Carcassonne again to reveal the terms to Raimon-Roger, who reacted in typical fashion. The viscount knew that if he accepted them he would be branded a coward for deserting his people. He told the king he would fight on. Pere, realizing he could do nothing more to save the city, left for Spain in great distress and annoyance.
Though Carcassonne was reputed to be a powerful structure that could have held out indefinitely in normal circumstances, this was not a normal circumstance. In light of what had happened at Béziers, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of refugees had swarmed into the city with their personal goods and livestock. This greatly strained the water supply, and with the capture and occupation of Saint Vincent’s suburb cutting the city off from the river on 3 August, the defenders and refugees were reduced to relying on wells and cisterns. These fast dried up under the heavy demands placed upon them and the hot August sun. The stench of close-packed people and the bodies of those who had succumbed to heat, dysentery, or direct combat, coupled with the rotting skins of cattle slaughtered for their meat but also for their hides to protect against fire, made conditions in Carcassonne unbearable. Though those besieging a fortification usually suffered as much or more than those inside it in pre-modern western warfare, the siege of Carcassonne was an exception. Both our major sources mention that, contrary to the usual siege conditions, provisions were actually plentiful in the crusader army. Prior to the siege those in Carcassonne had destroyed grain mills in its vicinity to deny them to the crusaders, but there was a plentiful supply of salt for seasoning and trading for flour. William of Tudela remarks that bread was so cheap that one could buy thirty loaves for a penny, and Peter Vaux-de-Cernay supports this too, saying the besiegers had a plentiful supply of bread. By any standards this was a rare situation, no doubt facilitated by the empty towns and villages whose storehouses were open to the crusaders to take what they wanted.
Thus with every passing day the situation for the Carcassonnais and the refugees in the city grew more desperate, while the crusaders suffered few adverse effects from conditions in their camp. After the departure of Pere of Aragon, the crusaders made plans for a direct assault on the castrum, though they were concerned lest another Béziers occur and Carcassonne be lost to the crusade as a base of operations. Basically both sides hoped that the city would surrender quickly, the crusader leadership being anxious to capture the city intact, Raimon-Roger Trencavel to ease the suffering of his population. One of the leaders of the crusade, perhaps a relative of Raimon-Roger, suggested a parley with the viscount to discuss the possibility of terms. Raimon-Roger accepted the offer of a safe-conduct and, escorted by a hundred of his knights, entered the crusader camp. In spite of the safe-conduct, after walking to the Count of Nevers’s tent where the discussions were to be held, the viscount placed himself and nine of his companions in crusader custody. Why he did this is not explained by our poet. Was it to secure favorable terms for the inhabitants? Did he offer himself up as a sacrificial lamb? Did he expect to be released after the town had surrendered? We simply do not know.
All of our major sources are consistent on the harsh and humiliating terms of the surrender. The citizens of Carcassonne (and the refugees presumably) were to be expelled from the city in their shirts and breeches, i.e., with minimal clothes on their backs and without any moveable property. The city of Carcassonne and all its contents were forfeited to the crusade, to be reserved for the military head of the crusade when one was chosen. Viscount Raimon-Roger Trencavel was imprisoned, with no length of sentence determined. The people of Carcassonne left for whatever safe havens they could find, some going to Toulouse while others fled across the Pyrenees to Spain.
By LAURENCE W. MARVIN
The twenty-four-year-old Viscount of Béziers knew by the time the crusader army left Montpellier on 20 July that his city was the first military objective of the crusade. By the morning of 21 July, before the army’s arrival, the viscount had arrived in Béziers to discuss what to do with its inhabitants. At a gathering of citizens he exhorted the people of the city to defend themselves against the crusaders and promised them quick reinforcement. After delivering this pep talk he rode on to Carcassonne to prepare the defenses there. Our two main chroniclers interpret Raimon- Roger’s quick exit from Béziers differently. William of Tudela suggests the viscount’s personal leadership was necessary at Carcassonne, and this certainly sounds plausible. Evidently Raimon-Roger believed, as did everyone on either side, that the citizens of Béziers did not need his actual presence in order to resist the crusade. Peter Vaux-de-Cernay believes Raimon-Roger fled his duties out of fear of the approaching army. Based on Raimon-Roger’s solid conduct later that summer defending Carcassonne the former source is probably more accurate here. The viscount’s advance warning of the army was evidently sufficient to allow those who wished to flee the city to do so, because the Jews of Béziers left with their viscount and traveled to Carcassonne and points west. The Jews apparently believed that they would be especially vulnerable to the depredations of a crusade, based on crusader conduct dating back to the First Crusade.
By the time the crusader army reached Béziers on the evening of 21 July few residents had opted to flee. Renaud of Montpeyroux, Bishop of Béziers, had accompanied the northern army on part of its journey and now entered his episcopal city in a last effort to convince his flock to give up before blood was spilled. At a large public gathering, probably in the cathedral church of Saint Nazaire, the bishop strongly urged the citizens of Béziers to make their peace with the crusade, even if it meant some despoliation of their goods. He urged them to hand over all heretics to the crusade and even had a list of Cathars to help facilitate their removal. Failing that, he encouraged loyal Catholics to flee the city in order to avoid being lumped in with the heretics. His words did not meet with a favorable reception. Well aware of the army’s size, since they could see it before them, and fully warned by their own bishop, why did the citizens of Béziers not comply with the demands of the crusade? First, there was the obvious reluctance to hand neighbors, friends, and relatives over to a crusading army that would certainly not treat them well. Secondly, there was the common though unexpressed belief that the odds were with them because it was hard for an army to take a city quickly, particularly one of Béziers’s size and geographic location atop high hills above the Orb river. The Bitterois had had time to strengthen the city’s defensive works, as related in an anecdote by Peter Vaux-de- Cernay. Indeed the citizens assumed they could still hold out even after a month of sieging. Third, the townspeople were sure that the huge size of the crusading army would actually be its downfall, believing it could last no more than two weeks. Any substantial pre-modern western army would quickly outstrip its food supply, and this, along with the fact that the undisciplined nature of any army of this polyglot composition and large size meant it would dissolve as quickly as it formed, was something the people of Béziers counted on. Finally there were the tactical and geographical difficulties inherent in besieging a city, particularly one like Béziers, a town of between 10,000 and 14,500 people. William of Tudela’s account and the legates’ letter reported how strong and well defended it was.
The army encamped on the left side of the Orb at least 220 meters from the walls. The siting of the crusader camp, down below the heights where the cathedral church stood and deceptively far away across the river, lulled the people of Béziers into a false sense of security. The Orb cannot be forded anywhere close by, so the crusaders had to cross a single bridge which would have been under close surveillance by the citizens. To get into the castrum required climbing a steep hill, on top of which perched the cathedral church. The advantage clearly lay with the people of Béziers even though they were outnumbered by the crusade army.
Even though the storm and sack of Béziers is an infamous incident it is not well served by the sources. The only eyewitness account was left by the papal legates Milo and Arnaud-Amaury, but their exuberance reduces their accuracy. Our main chroniclers all left unsatisfactory accounts, though there is fairly wide agreement among modern scholars as to the sequence of events. The day after the arrival of the crusade army, trouble began almost immediately between the crusaders and the Biterrois. Behind their high walls and strong defenses, the citizens of Béziers badgered the crusader army camped across the river with jeers, sorties, and arrow fire. In a scuffle on the single bridge over the Orb, a crusader was hacked to death and thrown over the bridge. The main brunt of the citizens’ harassment fell on the thousands of pilgrims and camp followers of both sexes who had encamped closest to the bridge and walls. The sources consistently use the same type of words to describe these camp followers: ribaldi, arlotz, vulgi, and gartz. Figuring out what they mean by those terms is not easy. Peter Vaux-de-Cernay says they were ‘‘sergeants (servientes) of the army, who in the popular language were called ‘ribalds.’’’ Clearly this referred to the less affluent crusader infantry, but Peter Vaux-de-Cernay usually uses pelegrini or crucesignati to describe crusader-pilgrims. Several modern historians have taken the sources’ use of the word servientes to imply that these men were the hangers-on or servants of other soldiers, knights, nobles, or prelates. Others such as Michel Roquebert have suggested that these ribalds were routiers or mercenaries, an interesting theory of some merit. It seems unlikely, however, that the thousands of soldiers on this first campaign were routiers, because of their lack of discipline and the absence of obvious financial incentive. Contrary to what Roquebert suggests, our main sources liberally use words like routier when they mean ‘‘mercenary,’’ so the fact that they do not do so here indicates something different. The enthusiasm this campaign created for those from all walks of life who joined for an indulgence suggests the ‘‘ribalds’’ were simply the poor crusader-pilgrims of the army.
A group of ribaldi grew incensed under the goading fire and harassment from the city, crossed the bridge and river, and attacked the walls and gates of Béziers. William of Tudela says they had a ‘‘king’’ or leader who mobilized them, and the existence of a leader of some kind partially explains why Roquebert thinks these may have been routiers. But the troubadour goes on to say that they grabbed clubs because they had nothing else, which suggests they were poor crusader-pilgrims, not organized mercenaries. They moved so quickly that before the militia of Béziers could respond, the ribaldi had crossed the bridge and were well on their way to battering in the gates. The nobility and knights of the crusading army held back or remained unaware of what was going on until the attack was well underway. According to the legates’ letter, at the time of the ribaldi attack, the leaders of the crusade were discussing how to get the loyal Catholics out of the city, presumably before a blockade and proper siege had begun. By the time the better-equipped crusaders realized what had happened and armed themselves, the ribaldi had penetrated the castrum. The citizens of Béziers abandoned their positions and fled to protect their families, assembling in the churches, the most defensible buildings within the city. During the frenetic capture of the city the crusade leadership could not control events, as even many knights now scrambled to get their share of loot. Within two or three hours, according to the legates’ letter, the city was firmly in crusader hands but not under any coherent leadership, and division of the spoils led to further loss of life. In the course of restoring order, the barons of the crusade began to collect the plunder and kick the garz out of the houses they had seized. Incensed, the ribaldi set the castrum on fire in retaliation for the loss of their too-easily won possessions and to ensure that if they did not get to keep what they had seized, no one would.
From this point the story tends to get inflammatory. Most famous of all is the story that supposedly at the height of the fighting, as the crusaders forced their way into the town, someone asked the legate Arnaud-Amaury how they would separate the good Christians from the heretics. His apocryphal words, ‘‘Kill them, God knows who are his,’’ reported by a Cistercian monk with a fanciful imagination, have become a byword for religious intolerance, placing what happened at Be´ziers on the top rung of pre-modern atrocities. Though Arnaud-Amaury was not above executing heretics, in 1210 this inflexible and unyielding man gave Cathars who surrendered a fair chance to abjure their heresy and so avoid execution, which heaps more doubt on the credibility of Caesarius’ report. The speed and spontaneity of the attack indicates that the legate may not have actually known what was going on until it was over.
What has proven equally controversial is the scale of the massacre inside the city. The sources all agree that a mass killing took place, but modern commentators have had trouble analyzing the sources to come up with a realistic number for those who died. One prominent scholar has simply opted for the complete annihilation of the city. The number killed in the sack reported by the legates, ‘‘almost 20,000’’ (‘‘fere viginti millia hominum’’), is by any stretch of the imagination more than the entire population of Béziers, since the city probably had fewer than the 14,500 inhabitants reported in the first reliable population figures for it more than a century after 1209. Peter Vaux-de-Cernay estimated that 7,000 people died in one church alone, La Madeleine. The structure of La Madeleine is still largely extant, and many observers including myself have concluded that the church is simply not large enough to accommodate that many people, even terror-stricken people packed in like cordwood.
Fire may have caused the death of thousands. Both William of Tudela and Peter Vaux-de-Cernay reported that the crusaders, or more specifically the ribaldi, set fire to the city. Based on other pre-modern fires, however, such as those in Constantinople in 1203–4 and in London in 1666, conflagrations rarely caused many deaths relative to the total population. In these fires, which took place in cities with populations of 200,000 or more, no more than a few hundred died. For example, in the second fire of Constantinople on 19 and 20 August 1203, when the inhabitants did not have warning and large sections of the city were destroyed, fewer than 200 people were killed as a direct result of fire.
There is also the unsavory possibility that hundreds or thousands died as the result of deliberate murder while they ran for their lives, but how many died after the city fell cannot be known. As bad as the destruction was in the city, clearly most of Béziers’s population and buildings survived, since the castrum continued to function as a major population center. Less than a month after the sack, the new Viscount of Béziers, Simon of Montfort, gave the Cistercians a house (domus) which had belonged to a Cathar, suggesting that at least some private residences escaped destruction. The swiftness of Béziers’s fall, with virtually no blockade or siege, was extremely unusual in medieval warfare and this makes what happened there seem worse for some reason. In other words, had the crusaders blockaded Béziers for weeks, then stormed the city, one might chalk up what happened after it fell as the result of pent-up frustration. The fact that many innocent Christians died with the papal legates in military command at the time makes the whole crusade seem hypocritical. We must bear in mind however, that the legates did not have much control over what occurred and that the conditions that allowed such success at Béziers would never be repeated during the Occitan War.
Of more immediate relevance is this: Béziers introduced the people of Occitania to the high stakes they faced. These included inevitable punishment, if not execution, for recalcitrant Cathars, changes in religious practices for those afraid to die for their beliefs, and political domination from the outside even for those who had always remained faithful to the church. It raised fear among the inhabitants that the northerners were better fighters than they, and it suggested they could be more brutal. What happened at Béziers greatly fostered the military reputation of northerners and helped sustain much smaller crusading armies through many troubles at least until 1216. Since Béziers gave the northerners false hope that perhaps God was on their side after all, it ensured a steady stream of crusader pilgrims for years after.
INTERLUDE IN THE AGENAIS, SPRING–SUMMER 1209
Though we have no firm dates for when it happened and only one source discusses it, in the spring of 1209 a separate crusader army formed in the western part of Occitania and conducted its own independent crusade for a brief time in the summer. Unlike the main army assembling in Lyon, this independent army formed over 400 kilometers west of Lyon near the Agenais region. Besides beginning from a different place, one of the main differences between this smaller army and the larger one at Lyon is that the former was primarily led by and composed of southerners from Occitania or its borders rather than from those outside it. Its secular leadership included five nobles or lords: Guy, Count of Auvergne; Raimon, Viscount of Turenne; Bertrand, lord of Cardaillac; Bertrand, lord of Gourdon; and Ratier of Castelnau-de-Montratier, the last named an eventual enemy of the crusade. The ecclesiastical representation included four prelates: William, Archbishop of Bordeaux; John of Veira, Bishop of Limoges; William, Bishop of Cahors; and Arnaud, Bishop of Agen. As Taylor emphasizes, this crusade was probably instigated by the Bishop of Agen, fiercely anti-heretic but also at odds with the Count of Toulouse over lordship rights in the Agenais. Most of the men who served in it, however, came from the Quercy region, not the Agenais. This army occupied the undefended town of Puylaroque, then destroyed Gontaud, a small town about thirty-eight kilometers northwest of Agen. Next the army moved about eight kilometers southeast to sack the town of Tonneins. None of these towns appear to have had heretics in them, so they may have been taken for less lofty, secular reasons, such as to settle old political or economic scores.
The next target chosen was Casseneuil, controlled by the Bishop of Agen’s own brother Hugh, lord of the town. Casseneuil lay twenty-six kilometers to the east of Tonneins, and was a recognized center of Cathar activity. In 1214 Casseneuil bore the brunt of the crusade until it fell in the last great crusader military victory. In 1209, however, the siege of Casseneuil was destined for a quick, negotiated settlement. The castrum of Casseneuil was surrounded on three sides by rivers and probably had a large ditch on its southeastern side, making it a difficult target for an inexperienced army. Casseneuil’s garrison was composed of Gascon routiers: archers, knights, and ‘‘javelin men’’ (dardasiers) led by Sequin de Balenx. The last group with their spears or javelins caused problems in the ranks of those besieging the town. From the start the crusade army made little headway against the town. In addition to a lack of military progress, the Count of Auvergne and the Archbishop of Bordeaux squabbled over secular affairs, the count apparently worried about the crusaders despoiling property he owned in the area.
Though Casseneuil appeared to be in no danger of falling to this divided army, William of Tudela explicitly mentions that it would have eventually surrendered to the crusaders had not continued problems between the Count of Auvergne and Archbishop of Bordeaux caused the count to end the siege by offering terms to the garrison. What those terms were is not spelled out directly. The count appears to have agreed to spare both town and garrison in exchange for handing over known Cathars. The poet mentions the burning of many male and female heretics, executed for heresy because they refused to recant. Thus the cycle of atrocities of the Occitan War has its beginnings at Casseneuil, not Béziers. The fact that an army was now besieging towns and dispensing harsh justice scared some so much that even one hundred kilometers east of Casseneuil, the people of Villemur on the Tarn burned their own town and fled. At this point we hear no more of this western crusade, perhaps because it dispersed. The Quercy and Agenais regions would not play an active military role in the Occitan War again until 1212.
THE MARCH OF THE CRUSADER ARMY, JUNE TO 21 JULY 1209
By 24 June the bulk of the crusader army had formed in the city of Lyon. Up until that point the leaders intended to invade the heretically infected western lands of the Count of Toulouse, since he was the main noble villain identified by the church as harboring heretics. That changed when the count became a crucesignatus himself on 22 June. He immediately made use of his new status and met the crusader army as it left the city of Valence, ninety-one kilometers south of Lyon along the Rhöne valley. At a meeting with the crusade leadership, Raimon VI managed to convince them of his sincerity, promising to obey the church and the orders of the crusaders and to turn over some castra as a gesture of good faith. He even offered himself or his twelve-year-old son as hostage for the good behavior of his people. His cousin Peter, Count of Auxerre, was among the crusaders, and in general it seems that at least the secular leaders of the crusade bore little ill will towards the Count of Toulouse. Since the leaders and rank and file of the army were still determined to punish someone for heresy, Raimon convinced the crusade leadership to invade his nephew’s lands in the viscounty of Béziers, Carcassonne, and Albi. Though Raimon VI was Raimon-Roger Trencavel’s maternal uncle, the Raimondine and Trencavel houses had been at odds for most of the past century. Convincing the crusade to attack his nephew must have relieved and delighted Raimon VI, since he had deflected a huge army bent on destruction from his own lands to those of one of his greatest rivals. It was a shrewd move that had tremendous consequences in both the short and long term.
From Valence the crusader army continued marching down the Rhöne valley for the next several weeks, but eventually had to leave the logistical convenience of the river to proceed westward. By about 20 July the army reached Montpellier, approximately 203 kilometers from Valence. At some point during this time the substantial castrum of Béziers became the intended target for the crusade, since it was the closest city suspected of heresy or harboring heretics that belonged to Raimon-Roger Trencavel. Raimon VI now acted as guide, and once the crusaders entered the lands of his nephew he even courteously rode ahead of the army to secure good campsites for it, conveniently not costing himself a grain of wheat. Though some southern nobles abandoned their holdings along the line of march, there does not appear to have been a widespread exodus, and indeed some local lords came to the crusader camp to pay homage. As the crusaders marched further westward on 21 July, they moved through the surrendered castrum of Servian, a small fortified town twelve kilometers northeast of Béziers, and took possession of some of that small castrum’s even smaller dependencies. By the evening of 21 July 1209 the army arrived at the western banks of the Orb river beside the city of Béziers.