The History of the Vaudois
This section comprises the first nine chapters plus the Preface. They are listed below. To go directly to any particular chapter click on the link to that chapter. Otherwise you can scroll down as you read chapter by chapter.
- Chapter 1 – The Vaudois
- Chapter 2 – The Provençals
- Chapter 3 – The Preaching of the Crusade
- Chapter 4 – Preparations for the Sacred War
- Chapter 5 – The Commencement of the Tragedy
- Chapter 6 – The Reign of Terror
- Chapter 7 – The Revolt
- Chapter 8 – The Final Massacre
- Chapter 9 – The Interregnum
THERE is no page of history which is at once so fascinating in the dramatic interest of its scenes, and so momentous as that which records the story of the Huguenots-none more worthy of the careful study of thoughtful men. Whether judged by its motive, its influence, or its episodes, it is equally grand. Sublimer than any epic, it depicts a struggle to renovate the individual, the church, and society at large.
Isolated phases of the history of the Huguenots have been often and vividly portrayed in our English letters: poets have celebrated many thrilling episodes; romancists have given full play to the imagination; biographers have recited the lives of many illustrious men; historians have dwelt upon numerous stirring scenes: but these are the mosaics of history–broken voices, telling half the tale.
Nearly all of the English histories which bear upon this subject, deal with particular periods—with the epoch of the Vaudois, with the age of Calvin, with the era of Coligny, with the times of Henri Quatre, and with collateral reformatory movements. This volume covers five of the most eventful centuries since Christ: it traces the story up through the ages from the first murmur of dissent from Rome to the revocation of the edict of Nantes; and the sketch of the Vaudois, those early but much neglected teachers, is especially full. The story of the sixteenth century, distinctively the era of the Reformation, is not as minute in this volume as in some others, but an effort has been made to give an authoritative and succinct detail of all essential incidents.
The materials for the compilation of such a work are vast, but ill-digested; to collect and glean them has been no slight task. Most of the standard authorities have been consulted, and in addition to these, a thousand pages of subsidiary matter, personal narratives, diaries, memoirs, from the graphic pens of contemporaneous actors in the drama, have been liberally used. It is not necessary to recapitulate their titles, these will be found scattered through the body of the book; and numerous notes have been added, where they seemed likely to enhance the interest or to elucidate the text.
The series of which this volume is one has not been written for the instruction of mere scholars; no effort is made to pour light culled from pedantic lore upon mooted and nice points of history; they are plain tales of momentous eras. They are sketched for the edification of the masses; written with attempted care and accuracy, but compiled from every available and authoritative source, and with no especial claim to originality. Whatever seemed vivid and important and interesting, wherever it rested, has been seized and grouped into this picture of ” times that tried men’s souls.”
Of course a volume which covers so broad a field must be, in some sense, a summary of events, and the problem which the historian has to solve is this: How shall an epitome be made graphic, be vivified, be made to speak-to tell its own story? How shall this summary be made to reflect an accurate likeness of the past, and appear not to be a summary? “The reproduction of contemporary documents,” remarks a writer whose pages have become classic, “is not the only business of the historian. He . must do more than exhume from the sepulchre in which they are sleeping, the relics of men and things of times past, that he may exhibit them in the light of day. Men value highly such a work, and those who perform it, for it is a necessary one; yet it is not sufficient. Dry bones do not faithfully represent the men of other days. They did not live as skeletons, but as beings full of life end activity. The historian is not simply a resurrectionist; he needs—strange but necessary ambition—a power that can restore the dead to life.
“When a historian comes across a speech of one of the actors in the great drama of human affairs, he ought to lay hold of it as a pearl; he should weave it into his tapestry in order to relieve the duller colors, and give more solidity and brilliancy. Whether the speech be met with in the writings of the actor himself, or in those of the chroniclers, is a matter of no importance; he should take it wherever he finds it. The history which exhibits men thinking, feeling, and acting as they did in their lifetime, is of far higher value than those purely intellectual compositions in which the actors are deprived of speech and even of life.”
It is a favorite sophism of the Romanist philosophers, that Protestantism is a mushroom growth, an upstart of yesterday, without antiquity or patristical authority. But epigrammatic sneers do not overthrow plain historic facts. The lineage of Christian dissent from the tenets of the papacy is as venerable and as well ascertained as that of the Roman hierarchy. This antique dissent is essentially that form of belief which is now denominated Protestantism.
“Nothing,” says Brook,” has so much obstructed the progress of Christianity in the world as the absurd and selfish doctrines, the superstitious and slavish practices, which have been blended with it by the wicked wit of man. As the religion of Jesus Christ was for many centuries almost buried under so great a mass of rubbish that it could scarcely be distinguished from the foulest paganism; so to free Christianity from these heterogeneous mixtures, and to fix it on its only foundation-faith in Christ—unclouded and unencumbered by human appendages, is the noblest work of man, and the greatest benefit to society.”
This was the effort of the Huguenots. They found the Bible silent, covered with the dust of ancient libraries, in some places secured by an iron chain—a sad image of the interdict under which it was placed in the Christian world. The Reformation was an enfranchisement; these words of Christ were its motto: “THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.” One of the chief lessons of the history of the Huguenots, is the sinfulness and the uselessness of persecution for religious opinion. It inculcates with persuasive eloquence the sacredness of conscience; it is at once an inspiration and an admonition; descanting upon the virtuous actions of the heroes of the past who fought the ” good fight” for God and liberty, it repeats the scriptural command, “Go thou and do likewise;” depicting the vicious diplomacy of the Vatican, whose motto was then, as it is now, “The end justifies the means,” and that other twin maxim, that “no. faith is to be kept with heretics,” it warns the present and the future to shun the vices of Babylonish Rome; as Seneca has hymned it:
“Consulere patria; parcere afflictis ; fera Caede abstinere ; tempus atque irae dare; Orbi quietem; saeculo pacem suo; Haec summa virtus; petitur hac coelum via.”
Liberty of thought, liberty of faith, liberty of worship—this was the aspiration of the Huguenots. It is singular what an inevitable tendency there was in the movement towards republicanism—as if the democracy of Christianity necessitated the democracy of politics. But the Christ they taught was not simply the apostle of political liberty. “The greatest and most dangerous of despotisms,” says D’Aubigné, “is that beneath which the depraved inclination of human nature, the deadly influence of the world, sin, miserably subjects the human conscience. In order to become free outwardly, men must first succeed in being free inwardly. In the human heart there is a vast country to be delivered from slavery—abysses which man cannot cross alone, heights which he cannot climb unaided, fortresses lie cannot take, armies he cannot put to flight. In order to conquer in this moral battle, man must unite with One stronger than himself—the Son of God.”
THE venerable muse of history recites many lessons which are full of tears, but upon no occasion does her voice sink into deeper pathos than when she relates the story of French Protestantism. From its inception in the gray dawn of the Christian era, down through the dismal centuries to the crowning disaster of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, it is one prolonged tragedy. The night of persecution is only illuminated by the marvelous constancy, the patient meekness, the Christian heroism, and the deep devotion of these earliest Protestants, who were called the VAUDOIS at the outset, and afterwards the HUGUENOTS.
God seems to have designed their moving story to be the convincing proof not only of the vitality of Christianity, but also of the woeful cost at which it has been planted and preserved. Such a consideration adds new grandeur to a chapter of history which is indeed intrinsically momentous, and makes it still more worthy of the attentive study of thoughtful minds.
History attests that the Sixteenth century was the epoch of the Reformation. But revolutions are not made—they grow. “First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.” The Reformation had its forerunner in the wilderness—its John the Baptist. It is not an isolated fact, a picture standing out upon the historic canvas without a background. There were preceding intellectual insurrections, which, however unhappy in their separate denouement, yet led inevitably to that triumphant movement which finally, by the aid of Faust’s type and Luther’s luminous eloquence, enfranchised Christendom.
Anterior to Luther, anterior to that Bradwardine who, in the cloister of the Oxford University, taught Wickliffe ethics, apostles were found who held tenaciously, and who zealously inculcated, both by their precepts and by their blameless lives, the essential tenets of the Reformation. And though the feudal system, which banished uniformity of laws and customs, and made each petty lord a despot in his own pocket-handkerchief territory, the obstacles to free intercourse between the nations, the prevailing ignorance, the absence of those mighty magicians, steam and the printing-press, which have conjured modern civilization into existence, and above all, the fanaticism of a priestly oligarchy, united their powerful hands to throttle the infant reform of these early teachers, we ought not for these reasons to withhold our grateful recognition of their faithful service and martyrdom; nor ought we to remain in ignorance of the momentous influence which these voices, raised in the dim twilight of Christianity, exerted upon medieval life and thought, long before Europe was animated by a murmur from the grave of Wickliffe, from the ashes of Huss, or from the vigils of Calvin.
In the fourth century, after enduring a persecution of remorseless severity with that patient, unfaltering heroism which is one of its most marked characteristics, Christianity, in the person of that Constantine who fought under the ” flaming cross ” which his heated imagination had descried in the heavens beneath the sun, with the inscription, ” In hoc signo vinces“—By this sign thou shaft conquer—ascended the Roman throne, and thenceforward, covered by the imperial purple, secured protection and controlled the government; so that the successive bishops of that feeble church which St. Paul had planted under the shadow of the throne of the Caesars, gradually arrogated to themselves the supreme authority both in spiritual and in temporal affairs. Under Constantine, and indeed so late as Charlemagne, these bishops or popes were elected by the Priests, nobles, and people of Rome, and this election could be voided by the veto of the emperor.—But the death of Charlemagne was the signal for the most determined and unscrupulous effort on the part of the Roman bishops, not only to free themselves from the imperial trammels by securing the independence of papal election, but also to usurp dominion over the western empire, and to subdue to unquestioning vassalage the entire ecclesiastical and lay bodies. Unhappily this utter departure from the primitive simplicity and humility was acquiesced in very generally, until, under Hildebrand in the eleventh century, the stupendous structure of the papal despotism gloomed upon the misty horizon, awful and irresistible.
Then for five centuries the most atrocious vices, the most unchecked wickedness, the most unbridled sacerdotal ambition, and the most meaningless ceremonies corrupted and disgraced religion. It was the saturnalia of the church. Nominal Christianity ruled Europe and some portions of the African territory which fringed the Mediterranean sea, but vital piety lay torpid; stat nominis umbra. A priest-caste anchored itself in the prejudices and superstitions of the people; an oligarchy was built up, whose right hand was usurped authority linked with spiritual pride, and whose left hand was dogmatism and bigotry fiercer than the pagan.
Then a few true hearts revolted; they yearned to reinaugurate the primitive practice of apostolic days, and this was the first dissent. But from the germ of that feeble protest has grown the full flower modern civilization and Christianity.
It was not until the eleventh century that Rome fully awoke to the danger which menaced her unity from the new “heresy,” though from the fourth century she had persecuted those isolated individuals who, through rashness or regardless zeal, had overstepped that prudence which necessitated secrecy, and ventured openly to proclaim the apostolic tenets. But now acting with her accustomed energy and greatly startled by the spread of the dissent, and by the increasing boldness of its advocates; she summoned those mailed crusaders whom she had just hurled upon the Saracen, and bade them tread out the reform under their iron heels.
The whole south of Europe was more or less infected with the dissenting tenets, but their chief seat was in southern France, that beautiful country which extends around the mouth of the Rhone, and sketches westward to the city of Toulouse, and stretches westward to the Pyrenees—a territory which comprised the old governments of Avignon, Provence, and Languedoc.
Christian liberty is indebted to a sect of eastern faction, called, from their professed imitation of St. Paul, the Paulicians, for the impulse given in these early centuries to religious inquiry. By the various chances of war, of trade, of persecution, and of missionary enterprise–for they were indefatigable proselyters–the Paulicians spread from their Asiatic cradle throughout Southern Europe with singular rapidity; and the suddenness with which they sprang into existence, their simultaneous appearance in widely separated sections, and the secrecy with which they taught, gave them an imposing air of mystery, while it magnified their power and resources in the popular estimation.
Though the Paulicians were certainly, notwithstanding their vehement disclaimers, somewhat tainted with the Manichean errors, and with the principles of Gnosticism, and though they held some doctrines which could not but render them odious to the apostolic church: as that all matter: as that all matter was intrinsically depraved and the source of moral evil; that the universe was shaped from chaos by a secondary being, by whom the Mosaic dispensation was given, and by whom the old Testament was inspired ; and that the body in which Christ appeared upon earth, and his crucifixion, were apparent, not real; yet they had not been debauched by the enormous corruptions of the Roman see, and they abhorred and incessantly inveighed against the worship of saints, the use of images, relics, pompous ceremonies, and ecclesiastical domination.
In different countries the Paulicians were known by different names. When they crossed the channel into England they were called Publicans, a probable corruption of the original designation. In Germany they were termed, from the blamelessness of their lives, Cathari, or the Pure. In France they were named Bos Homos, good men; while in Italy, and on the Alpine frontier, they were styled Paterins.*
The mission of the Paulicians appears to have been to awaken a spirit of inquiry, to accustom men to hear the haughty and fraudulent pretensions of the Roman diocese denied, and thus to prepare the way for a higher and holier ecclesiastical development. Meantime upon these bold dissenters was launched the awful malediction of the church of Rome. Nor did that merciless hierarchy content itself with simply placing them under the ban; it used every weapon which wits could suggest or which a Satanic ingenuity could devise to exterminate the heresy.
While the din of this ecclesiastical strife still resounded throughout Europe, in the middle of the twelfth century a sect which wrapped itself in the apostolic mantle, which carried in its hand the primitive taper, and which is venerated by the later Protestants, and respected even by the Romanists, reared its head and began to teach with authoritative mildness. The Vaudois commenced to propagate their tenets in the territories of the Aragonese in Southern France.
Standing midway between two mighty revolutions, the epoch of the Vaudois stretches forth a hand to both. It leans upon the period of the establishment of Christianity as its precursor, and brings forward the Reformation of the sixteenth century as its direct descendant. What then were its salient characteristics? Of what a warp and what a woof was the garment of its Christianity woven?
FRANCE during the feudal period did: not form a united monarchy. It was ruled by four independent kings; so that the north of France was Walloon, a name afterwards confined to the French Flemings, and which was then given to the language spoken by Philip Augustus; towards the west was an English France; to the east a German France; and in the south a Spanish or Aragonese France.`
Spain also was somewhat similarly divided. The Moors, an exotic race, held most of the peninsula; Castile and Aragon were still separate and often inimical kingdoms. Although Catalonia, Provence, and Languedoc had originally formed portions of the swollen and clumsy empire of Charlemagne, yet when, no longer shaped by his plastic hand, the heterogeneous mass crumbled to pieces, these territories more or less completely allied themselves to the Aragonese throne; so that it was with difficulty that even the powerful Count of Toulouse, the hereditary lord of Provence and of Forcalquier, surrounded as he was by a brilliant retinue of vassals and loyal states, could maintain his independence of the Spanish king.
These territories were then the garden of the world, bright and sunny as that Goshen of old. They were the home of the exiled arts, of poetry, of painting, of music, of sculpture. The Provencal slopes bore up an industrious and intellectual race, who, more familiar with the Greek text than with the Greek phalanx, abjured war, garnered wealth in commerce, and found culture in study. The whole Pyrenean country offered the strongest contrast to the rest of Europe, which was wrapped in a darkness to be felt and seen, like that of Egypt.
During the feudal ages, the whole intellectual horizon of northern Europe was singularly clouded. Poetry was unknown. Philosophy was proscribed, as a rebellion against religion. A barbarous jargon of provincial dialects had supplanted that sounding Latin which had preserved so many trophies of thought and taste. Commerce was unknown. A library of a hundred manuscript volumes was esteemed a magnificent endowment for the wealthiest monastery. “Not a priest south of the Thames,” in king Alfred’s phrase, “could translate Latin or Greek into his mother-tongue.” Not a philosopher could be met with in Italy, according to Tiriboschi. Europe was
“rent asunder— The rich men despots, and the poor banditti; Sloth in the mart, and schism within the temple; Brawls festering to rebellion; and weak laws Rotting away with rust in antique sheaths.”
But these dismal shadows grow fainter and fainter as we advance towards the south, until, in Languedoc, in Provence, in Catalonia, the twilight reddened and broadened into day, “Knowledge,” Said Lord Bacon, “is spread over the surface of a country in proportion to the facilities of education, to the free circulation of books, to the endowments and distinctions which literary attainments are found to produce, and above all, to the reward which they meet in the general respect and approbation of society.” The Provencals understood this law which the great Englishman so finely states. The corner-stone of their prosperity was laid in fostered letters. “From Ganges to the Icebergs” there could be found no more civilized society.
“The arts Quit for their schools, the old Hesperides, The golden Italy! while throughout the veins Of their whole empire flowed in strengthening tides Trade, the calm health of nations; and from the ashes Of the old feudal and decrepit carcass, Civilization, on her luminous wings, Soared, phoenix-like, to heaven.”
This singular people had elaborated a language of remarkable beauty from the old French patois. It was distinguished from all tile medieval dialects by its rich vocabulary, its picturesque phrases, and its flexibility.
The Provencal tongue, studied by all the genius of the age, consecrated to the innumerable songs of love and war, and to the stirring psalms of praise, appeared certain to become the most elegant of modern languages.
The various courts of the smaller princes among whom these Arcadian provinces were divided, aspired to be models of taste, politeness, and purity. Like all commercial communities, the Provencals were more addicted to the arts of peace than to the stern science of war. Their cities were numerous and flourishing, their governments were framed on the ancient democratic models, and consuls, chosen by a popular vote, possessed the privilege of forming communes, as did those Italian republics, Venice, Genoa, Florence, with which they traded.
To the south of the Provencals lay the dominions of the Spanish Moors, a remarkably refined and civilized people. They were already masters of a great portion of the east, of the country of tire Magi and the Chaldeans, whence the first light of knowledge had shone upon the world; of that fertile Egypt, the storehouse of human science; of Asia Minor, the smiling land where poetry and the fine arts had their birth; and of burning Africa, the country of impetuous eloquence and subtle intellect. Yet, pushed by a territorial greed which knows no parallel, the Moriscoes had recently, by series of victories as brilliant as the Arabian conquests of Syria and Egypt added the Spanish peninsula to their enormous eastern domain. They had even attempted to, carry the fiery creed of their prophet from the Levant by way of the Danube to the Arctic ocean upon one side, and from the rock of Gibraltar to the English channel upon the other. Confined, however, within the limits of the Pyrenees by the prowess of Charles Martel at Tours, the Moors gave up the Mahommedan principle of conquest, and sought, by planting numerous schools and by patronizing learning, to conquer Europe by the Oriental philosophy, if they could not by Mahomet’s sword; at the same time, by an admirable code of liberal laws, they strove to establish a peaceful and permanent dominion in the Spanish peninsula.
An active and profitable commercial intercourse with these polished infidels, and also with the Jews, had enlarged the capacity of the Provencals, and convinced them of the folly of the prevalent bigotry. Thus their land became the asylum of all dissenters from Rome. They respected the sacred rights of conscience at a time when the peoples to the north of the Loire not only rattled their secular chains, but when they lay lassoed at the feet of their priests, under the complete dominion of fanaticism.
At this period, the Spaniards also, afterwards the most bigoted of modern races, the unhesitating butchers of the Inquisition, the volunteer executers of the wildest caprices of the papacy, emulated the toleration of their Provencal cousins, for they still remembered the time when they had themselves been compelled to sue for religious freedom under the Moorish yoke. Indeed, a century before the Sicilian Vespers, the kings of Aragon were the declared protectors of all who were persecuted by the papal despotism. In imitation of the Castilian sovereigns, they were upon one occasion the mediators for the Vaudois at the court of Rome, and upon another, their mailed defenders in the field.
Even before the first mutter of the Vaudois dissent, the arrogant pretensions of the papal see had not imposed upon the enlightened Provencals, who despised the licentiousness of the priesthood, the credulity of the Romish believers, and the pompous ceremonies of the church.
The Troubadours, as those minstrel-poets were called who were formed in the Moorish schools of Grenada, Cordova, and Seville, and who went from castle to castle keeping aglow the embers of literature by reciting their tales and chanting their madrigals, had very early launched their satirical verses at the abuses of the papacy.
One of the most celebrated of the troubadours, Pierre Cardinal, who sang in the twelfth century, leveled this sirvente at the Roman vices:
“Indulgences and pardons, God and the devil, the priests put them all in requisition. Upon these they bestow paradise by their pardons; upon those, perdition by their excommunications. They inflict blows which cannot be parried. No one is so skilful in imposition, that they cannot impose upon him. There are no crimes for which the monks cannot give absolution. To live at ease, to buy the whitest bread, the best fish, the finest wine—this is their object the whole year round. God willing, I too would be of this same order, if I but thought that I could purchase my salvation at that price.”
It will be seen from this recital how well the Catalonians and the Provencals were prepared by their simplicity of manners, by their tolerant principles, by their studious habits, by their active intelligence, by their commercial customs, and by their preexisting prejudice against the Roman usurpations, for the reception of that mild and primitive Christianity which was about to flood their valleys with its light.
Towards the middle of the fourth century, while the newly converted emperor, Constantine, was inscribing the bastard legends of a paganized Christianity upon those banners which had before been surmounted by the hungry eagles of the early empire, and cementing the foundations of the papacy, a few sincere Italian ecclesiastics of Milan, dissatisfied with the increasing corruptions of the grandly simple faith which they so dearly loved, withdrew from Italy, and erected their Ebenezer in the beautiful, secluded, and labyrinthine valleys of Piedmont.
Here, kneeling at their primitive altars, and shut out as well from the temptations of the world as from its honors, the simple invocation, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” diffused light, liberty, and happiness around them, as it did around those first Christians, who were ever found, in mountain desert and in the open air, in dungeons and in fetters, yes, even in the awful Golgotha of the catacombs, with the same sublime prayer upon their lips. Though these inoffensive pilgrims were taunted by their enemies with the epithet, Manicheans, yet it has been conclusively shown, by unimpeachable historians, that their confession of faith, like that of their disciples, the Vaudois, was pure Protestantism, and would have obtained the approbation of Calvin or of Beza.
In 1124, three men, whose names ecclesiastical history loves to take upon its lips, Peter of Bruys, Henry, and Arnold of Brescia, and who are doubly dear on account of the martyrdom which they suffered for their sacred cause, lighted their torches at the pure altar of the Piedmontese, and carried the light of reformation from those obscure vales into the Provencal territories.
The first discovery of a congregation of this bind was at Orleans, in France, where several of the regular clergy, and numbers of the most respectable citizens were open adherents of the Piedmontese tenets. A council was immediately convened, which, after laboring in vain to reclaim the “Protestants,” had recourse to the final argument of the Roman church, and burned them all at the stake.
Some time after this event, the conversion of Peter Waldo, one of the finest names in history, and the chief promoter of the Vaudois, as the dissenters were now called, occurred.
This medieval teacher was, in 1150, a wealthy citizen-merchant of Lyons. Amid the toils and bustle of mercantile life, he had found leisure to study the belles-lettres of the epoch; he had also looked into the Scriptures.
While engaged in consultation with several other of the principal citizens, Waldo beheld one of the group stricken with sudden death. This occurrence is said to have so impressed him with a sense of human frailty and of the divine wrath, that he renounced all worldly pursuits, and ever after devoted his immense riches, as well as his rare eloquence, to the promulgation of the gospel.
He began with his own family; and then, as his fame spread, he admitted to his hearthstone and instruction a few others, until, by the year 1165, he had quitted his elegant home, and fully embarked upon an active apostolic career.
The Roman clergy, not only of Lyons, but of the whole neighborhood, set themselves to choke Waldo’s expositions of primitive Christianity, and they even opposed and prohibited his domestic instructions, but without avail; for the resolute reformer was led, by the obstacles which priestly malice threw in his path, to examine the more diligently into the opinions of the clergy, into the rites and customs of the papal régime; and then, since in his case as in that of the latter reformers examination meant emancipation from the thraldom of Rome, to oppose their antichristian usurpations the more decidedly.
That Peter Waldo was not destitute of erudition, Flacius Illyricus proves from evidence derived from the ancient writings; and perceiving, as Wickliffe did in England not many years later, and as Luther did four centuries afterwards, that since the luminous tenets of his dissent from Rome were based upon the Scriptures, it was momentously important to unlock the treasure-house of biblical knowledge to the comprehension of the Provencal people, and to prove his doctrine from the inspired pages, he translated the Latin Bible into the vernacular language of Gaul.
The irreconcilable difference between primitive Christianity, with its later manifestations, called Protestantism, and the Roman heresy—for Rome is indeed the crowned and ermined heresiarch of the ages—is in no one instance more grandly shown than in the treatment of the Bible by the respective advocates of the two systems. The priests, like the juggling augurs of pagan Rome, and like their prototypes, the mutterers of the heathen legends of Egyptian Isis and Osiris, made a mystery of their religion, carefully concealed the sources of their divinity, padlocked that Bible which the apostle commanded mankind to search, and then, having hidden the evidences of their faith, preached a bastard Christianity of forms, of images, and of human merit and omnipotence.
Protestantism, on the contrary, has nothing to hide; believes in the popularization of knowledge; is democratic in its creed; knows no caste; asks nothing but, with the ancient cynic, that inimical systems “get out of its sunlight;” makes no secret of its tenets; proclaims the worthlessness of human merit; preaches the sole reliance of the human race, “By one man’s disobedience lost,” upon the gracious mercy of “Christ crucified” for a “recovered paradise;” and teaches justification by faith alone: and since it culls these precious truths from the sacred oracles, it marches down through the centuries with faith aglow in its heart, and an open Bible in its hands. This was why Luther in Germany, Wickliffe, in England, and, earliest of all, Waldo of Languedoc, translated the gospels into their respective mother-tongues.
It is interesting to notice how singularly this venerable Vaudois creed agrees with the essential articles of that Protestantism which we of to-day bury in our heart of hearts.
These were the chief articles of their faith, as recited by competent historians, both friendly and inimical:
I. The Vaudois held the holy Scriptures to be the source of faith and religion, without regard to the authority of the fathers or to tradition; and though they principally used the New Testament, yet, as Usher proves from Reinier and others, they regarded the Old also as canonical scripture. From their greater use of the New Testament, their adversaries charged them however with despising the Old Testament.
II. They held the entire faith according to all the articles of the apostles’ creed.
III. They rejected all the eternal rites of the dominant church, excepting baptism and the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, as, for instance, temples, ventures, images, crosses, pilgrimages, the religions worship of the holy relics, and the rest of the Roman sacraments; these they considered as inventions of Satan and of the flesh, full of superstition.
IV. They rejected the papal doctrine of purgatory, with, masses, or prayers for the dead, acknowledging only two terminations of the earthly state—heaven and hell.
V. They admitted no indulgences nor confessions of sin, with any of their consequences, excepting mutual confessions of the faithful for instruction and consolation.
VI. They held the sacraments of baptism and of the eucharist to be only symbols, denying the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine, as we find in the authoritative book of the sect concerning antichrist, and as Ebrard de Bethunia accuses them in his book Antihoeresios.
VII. They held only three ecclesiastical orders: bishops, priests, and deacons; other systems they esteemed mere human figments; that monasticism, then in great vogue, was a putrid carcass, and vows the invention of men; and that the marriage of the clergy was lawful and necessary.
VIII. Finally, they denounced Rome as the whore of Babylon, denied obedience to the papal domination, and vehemently repudiated the notions that the pope had any authority over other churches, and that he had the power either of the civil or the ecclesiastical sword.
Such was the remarkably enlightened and pure Protestantism of these early teachers; such were the tenets proclaimed by Waldo and the Vaudois, in the middle of the twelfth century, upon the rich Provencal plains, and upon the listening and willing slopes of the French and Spanish Pyrenees.
Is it strange that when an abused and neglected populace, disgusted by the palpable avarice, despotism, and mummery of the Roman see, beheld a brotherhood of Christians enthusiastic in their religion, blameless in their lives, humble in. their demeanor, honest in their dealings, and disclaiming all tyranny over the consciences of men, propagating their tenets by the eloquence of their actions, many were won to embrace the salvation so sweetly taught, and that all generous souls were stirred at least to admire, if not to sympathize with a religion dear to God, but which Rome’s unhallowed bulls denominated ” heresy?”
The PREACHING of the CRUSADE
At length Rome began to move. Innocent III, who in 1198 ascended the pontifical throne in the vigor of his life, was the first who appeared to be fully impressed with the importance of crushing remorselessly that independent and inquiring spirit which was rapidly assuming the character of a universal revolt from the Roman communion.
His predecessors, engaged in a tedious and perilous struggle with the secular power, with the two Henrys, and with Frederick Barbarossa, thought their entire force not too great to defend them against the emperors; and in those times they had themselves accepted the name of the paterins, or sufferers.
But Innocent III, one of the haughtiest and most flagitious of the pontiffs, whose genius aspired to govern the universe, was as incapable of temporizing as he was of feeling pity. At the same time that he destroyed the political balance of Italy and Germany; that he menaced by turns the kings of Spain, France, and England; that he affected the tone of a master to the sovereigns of Bohemia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Norway, and Armenia; in a word, that he directed or repressed at his will the crusaders who were occupied in overturning the Greek empire, and in establishing the Latin rule and the Roman theology at Constantinople—Innocent III, as if he had no other occupation, searched for, attacked, and punished all opinions different from his own, all independence of mind, every exercise of the faculty of thinking in the august domain of religion.
Though it was in the countries where the Provencal language was spoken, and especially in Languedoc, that the Vaudois reformation counted the majority of its disciples, yet it had also spread into other portions of Christendom, into Italy, into Flanders, into Germany, and into Spain.
Innocent III, both from character and policy, judged that the church ought to keep no faith with heretics. He thought that if it did not annihilate them, if it did not, in his phrase, “exterminate the whole pestilential race,” and strike Christendom with horror, their example would be speedily followed, and that the fermentation of mind would be productive of a consuming conflagration throughout the Roman world.
Instead therefore of making converts, he charged his satellites to burn the chiefs of the Vaudois, to disperse their flocks, to confiscate their property, and to consign to perdition every soul who ventured to think otherwise than as he directed.
At first the wily priest required those provinces where the Reformation had made but small progress to set the example of persecution, thus feeling his way gradually towards a wider cruelty. In this way many leaders of the reformed church perished in the flames at Nevers, in 1198, and in the succeeding years.
Innocent next requested Otho IV, his imperial puppet, who danced as his master pulled the strings, to grant him an edict for the destruction of the Italian Vaudois, who were also calledGazari.
The Roman vulture then paused a moment and plumed his wings for a higher flight. Innocent determined that the lovely Provencal territory should be delivered over in the midst of its growing prosperity to the fury of countless hordes of armed fanatics, its cities razed, its population butchered, its commerce destroyed, its arts thrown back into barbarism, and its dialect degraded from the rank of a poetic language to the condition of a vulgar jargon.
There were a number of lords and high barons in Southern France who had themselves adopted the reformed opinions, and who, instead of persecuting, protected the Vaudois. Others saw in them only enlightened and industrious vassals, whom they could not destroy without affecting prejudicially their own revenues and military strength. But when did Rome permit her cherished plans to be baffled by the intervention of human rights or weighty obstacles? Innocent instantly armed a present interest and a brutal avarice against the calculating economy of the barons. He abandoned to them the confiscated property of all heretics, exhorting them to take possession of it, after banishing or murdering those whom they had plundered. At the same time this flagitious pontiff anathematized all who refused to seize upon the estates thus confiscated by his usurped power, and placed their dominions under an interdict.
In 1198, Innocent had dispatched two legates, monks of Citeaux, brother Guy and brother Regnier, into Languedoc, and the other heretical districts; but rather, as it should seem, for the purpose of exploring and menacing than actually to commence the contest. These legates were armed with full power, and it was enjoined upon the faithful to execute scrupulously their orders. Regnier having fallen sick, Innocent joined with him Pierre de Castelnovo, whose zeal, more furious than that of any of his predecessors, is worthy of those sentiments which the very name of the Inquisition inspires.
Presently afterwards a more numerous commission, the advance of the martial array, invaded the aunts of heresy, and brought the subtleties of the schools to the support of intimidation. This body received great additional efficiency from the accession of a young Spanish monk named Dominic, the founder of the most bigoted and servile of ecclesiastical orders, and who was afterwards canonized as a reward for his diabolical cruelty in the ensuing Vaudois crusades. These itinerant spiritual missionaries were generally known by the title of Inquisitors, a name not indeed honorable or innocent even in its origin, but riot then associated with horror and infamy.
These inquisitors were at the outset empowered by the pope to discover, to convert, or to arraign before the ecclesiastical courts all guilty or suspected of heresy. But this was the limit of their mission. They did not at first constitute an independent, irresponsible tribunal, nor were they clothed with any judicial power. The process was still carried on according to the practice then prevailing, before the bishop of the diocese, and the secular arm was invited when necessary to enforce the sentence.
But this form of procedure was not found to be sufficiently rapid or arbitrary to satisfy the eagerness of the pope and his missionaries. The work of extirpation was sometimes retarded by the compunctions of a merciful prelate, sometimes by the reluctance of the barons or an unpopular sentence. In order to remove these impediments to the free course of destruction, there was no recourse but to institute in the infected provinces, with the direct cooperation of the ruling powers, a separate, independent tribunal for the trial of heresy. This was rendered more easy by the spread of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. As they were the faithful, unquestioning myrmidons of the Roman see, more devoted in their allegiance than either the secular or the regular clergy, they were invested with the separate jurisdiction. Such was the origin in the gloomy and heated brain of a fanatic pope of that ghastly court of inquisition, whose mere remembrance causes civilization to shudder.
Innocent’s Languedocian inquisitors speedily offended all classes of society by their arrogance. Some bishops they accused of simony, others of negligence in the fulfillment of their duties. Under such pretences they deposed the archbishop of Narbonne, and the bishops of Toulouse and Viviers. Indeed they branded most of the regular clergy as heretics, and at the same time tormented the count of Toulouse and all the lords of the country by accusations continually renewed. Thus they deprived themselves of the means of kindling so many fires as they could have desired. However, to gain a little popularity, they took the utmost pains to confound the heretics with the routiers, or hireling soldiers, afterwards so celebrated throughout Europe as the “Free Lances.”
The companies of these, generally composed in great measure of strangers, were still known in the south by the name of Catalans, as they were in the north by that of Brabancons. The routiers were lawless banditti, who pillaged the churches and the priests for purposes of plunder, but having no connection with the Vaudois, nor indeed taking any interest in theological paradoxes and doctrinal disputations. This ruse of the legates did not meet with much success. The result was, that the Catalans also were offended at the denunciations leveled at them, and in their turn they avenged themselves by plundering the ecclesiastics with heartier zest.
At the commencement of the thirteenth century, Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, was the sovereign of Languedoc and Provence, though his rule seems to have been shared to some degree by his nephew Raymond Roger, viscount of Alby, Beziers, Carcassonne, and Limoux, in Rasiz. Although Raymond of Toulouse, of whose history before the crusade little is known, had won some fame as a soldier, he was possessed of but little strength of intellect or vigor of purpose. He had succeeded to his father, Raymond V, in 1194, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, and had already, at the head of the routiers, of whom he had made himself captain, made war upon many of his neighbors.
He had disputed with some of the barons of Baux, and with the lords of Languedoc and Provence, his own vassals. This was apparently the reason why he had sought the alliance of Peter II of Aragon, while his ancestors had constantly endeavored to repress the encroaching ambition of that house. Raymond VI married his fourth wife, Eleanor, sister of the Aragonese king, in the year 1200; and five years later he promised his son, afterwards Raymond VII, to Sancha, the infant daughter of this same sovereign.
The Viscount of Alby, Count Raymond’s nephew, was made of sterner stuff. Now in his twenty-fifth year, generous, lofty, and enthusiastic, this prince was not of a temper to submit tamely to insult, nor would he stand quietly by and see his states mercilessly tarried. He had like his uncle succeeded to his father in 1194, and during his minority his dominions had been governed by guardians inclined to the Vaudois doctrines.
In the spring of 1207 these two princes were upon the borders of the Rhone, busied in quelling an insurrection of the barons of Baux, when the papal legate, Pierre de Castelnovo, ordered them to furl their banners and declare peace with the insurgents.
The legate had first visited the barons and obtained from them a promise that, if Count Raymond would acquiesce in their pretensions, they would employ their united forces in the extermination of heresy—in Castelnovo’s mind, “a consummation devoutly to be wished.” After agreeing with them upon the form of the treaty, the legate returned to the count of Toulouse, and required him to sign it.
But Raymond was nowise inclined to purchase, by the renunciation of his rights, the entrance into his states of a hostile army who were to pillage and kill those of his subjects whom the priests should indicate. He therefore refused his signature. Pierre de Castelnovo, in his wrath, excommunicated him, laid his country under an interdict, and wrote a hot letter to the pope, to obtain the pontifical confirmation of his sentence.
Audacious as was the conduct of his legate, Innocent III meant to uphold him. He sought for an opportunity to commence hostilities. He was desirous to adjourn the contest from the arena of argument, where his success was worse than dubious, to the arbitrament of arms. Tired of the subtleties of the schools, he invoked the subtleties of war. He was persuaded that, after the progress which it had made in public opinion, the heresy could only be destroyed by the swords of his crusaders. Accordingly he made no effort to medicine the wound, but, like a bungling surgeon, he applied an irritant.
On the 29th of May, 1207, he wrote personally to Count Raymond a letter confirming the interdiction, and beginning thus: “If we could open your heart, we should find, and would point out to you, the detestable abominations that you have committed; but as it is harder than the rock, it is in vain to strike it with the words of salvation; we cannot penetrate it. Pestilential man, what pride has seized your heart, and what is your folly, to refuse peace with your neighbors, and to brave the divine laws by protecting the enemies of the faith? If you do not fear eternal flames, ought you not to dread the temporal chastisements which you have merited by your so many crimes?”
So insulting a letter addressed to a sovereign prince must have been revolting to his pride. Nevertheless, the monk Pierre de Vaux Cernai informs us that “the wars which the barons of Baux, and others of the faithful, carried on against him through the industry of that man of God, Pierre de Castelnovo, together with the excommunication which he published in every place against the count, compelled him, at last, to accept the original terms of peace, and to engage himself by oath to their observance; but as often as he swore to observe them, so often he perjured himself.”
The legate soon judged that the count did not proceed with adequate zeal. He sought Raymond, reproached him to his face with his tolerance, which he termed baseness, treated him as perjured, and again let fall upon him the bolt of excommunication. This violent scene occurred in January, 1208, at St. Gilles, where Count Raymond had granted De Castelnovo an interview.
The count of Toulouse was naturally very much provoked at the insolence of this upstart churchman, and he uttered some vague threats. The legate, disregarding his words, quitted the Provencal court without a reconciliation, and came to sleep, on the night of the 14th of January, 1208, in a little inn on the banks of the Rhone, which river he intended to cross on the, morrow.
Meantime one of the count’s gentlemen chanced to meet him there, or perhaps had followed him. In the morning this gentleman entered into a dispute with Castelnovo respecting heresy and its punishment. The legate had never spared the most insulting epithets to the advocates of toleration; and at length, the noble, already heated by the Roman’s insolence to his sovereign, now feeling himself personally insulted, drew his poignard, and striking Castelnovo in the side, killed him.
This unhappy event furnished Innocent with the desired pretext for instant war. Although Raymond VI had by no means so direct a part in Castelnovo’s death as Henry II of England had in Thomas à Becket’s, his punishment was far more terrible; for Innocent III. was more haughty and implacable than Alexander III.
Neither knowing nor desiring any better preachers of his creed than war, murder, fire, and incest, the excited pontiff began to preach a crusade against the Vaudois. In the commencement of 1208, Innocent addressed a bull to all the counts, barons, knights, and yeomen of southern Gaul, in which he affirmed that it was Satan who had instigated his prime minister, Raymond of Toulouse, against the sacred person of his legate. He laid under an interdict all places which should afford a refuge to the slayer of De Castelnovo; and demanded. that the count of Toulouse should be publicly anathematized in all the churches. This furious bull closed with this remarkable declaration:
“As, following the canonical sanctions of the holy fathers, we must not observe faith towards those who do not keep faith towards God, or who are separated from the communion of the faithful, we discharge, by apostolic authority, all those who believe themselves bound towards this count by any oath either of alliance or of fidelity. We permit any man to pursue his person, to occupy and to retain his territories.”
From this it should seem that the famous Jesuit phrase, “No faith is to be kept with heretics,” though often attributed, with similar enormities, to Ignatius Loyola, is of far older origin. The fanatic Spaniard merely stole the atrocious sentiment from the decretals of Pope Innocent III, when he incorporated it in the constitution of his protean propaganda.
Having now reduced these dissenting Christians of Southern France to the same level, in a religious estimation with the Turk and the Saracen, Innocent next let loose an infuriated multitude of fanatics against them; and the word “crusade,” which had hitherto signified only religious madness, was extended to the more deliberate atrocity of sectarian persecution.
PREPARATIONS for the “SACRED WAR”
Innocent III had in November, 1207, exhorted Philip Augustus, the duke of Burgundy, the counts of Bar, of Nevers, of Drew, and others of the old crusaders who had fleshed their swords on the plains of Palestine, and gathered barren laurels on the Syrian shore, to marshal their hosts against the Vaudois.
But early in 1208 the flames of his hatred were fanned into increased fury by the bloody catastrophe of Castelnovo’s death. The pontiff fulminated a series of epistles from the Vatican, which summoned all the faithful to the holocaust in Languedoc.
Galono, cardinal deacon of San Maria dello Portico, was dispatched into France by the crafty pontiff with these letters. He did not receive much consideration from Philip Augustus, who was now more occupied by his rivalry with the English king and with Otho of Germany than with obtaining the barren honor of heading another crusade in a sacred war. But notwithstanding the king’s polite indifference, the monks of Citeaux, who had received full powers from Rome, began to preach the crusade among the nobility and the yeomen of France with a perseverance and enthusiasm which had not been surpassed by Fouldques de Neuilly, or by the fanatical eloquence of Peter the Hermit.
Innocent III offered to those who should take the cross against the Vaudois the utmost extent of indulgence which his predecessors had ever granted to those who fought for the deliverance of the Holy Land and the sepulchre of Christ. As soon as these new crusaders had assumed the sacred sign of the cross—which, to distinguish themselves from those of the East, they wore on the breast, instead of upon the shoulder—they were instantly placed under the protection of the holy see, freed from the payment of the interest of their debts, and exempted from the jurisdiction of all the tribunals; while the war which they were to wage at their doors, almost without danger or expense, was to expiate all the vices of a whole life—was warranted, by the impious usurper of the apostolic name at Rome, to efface the crimes of threescore years and ten from the heavenly records.
The belief in the efficacy of these indulgences, which in the sunlight of the nineteenth century we can scarcely comprehend, was then in its full flush. The barons of the feudal ages never doubted that, while fighting in the Holy Land, they had the full assurance of paradise.
But those distant expeditions had been attended with so many disasters; so many hundreds of thousands had perished on the scorching sands of Asia, succumbing either to the heat or to the Saracenic scimitars, or else had fallen by the way from hunger, misery, sickness, “and the thousand ills that flesh is heir to,” that the boldest and most knightly hearts now wanted courage to essay the fight.
It was then with transports of joy that the faithful received these indulgences. War was their passion. The discipline of the holy wars was much less severe than that of the political, while the fruits of victory were much more alluring. In them they might without remorse, since no faith was to be kept with heretics, and without restraint from their officers, pillage and appropriate all the property, violate the women, and massacre the men of the interdicted territories.
The crusaders of the East well knew that the distance was so great as to afford them but small chance of bringing home the booty gained by their swords. But now, instead of riches which were to be sought at a distance amid great perils, and which must be torn from the resolute grasp of barbarians whose language they could not understand, the French knights were exhorted, nay, commanded, by an authoritative voice from the shekinah at Rome, to reap the bloody harvest of a neighboring field, to appropriate the spoils of a house which they might hope to carry to their own, while captives were abandoned to their desires who spoke the same language with themselves.
Never therefore had the cross been assumed amid greater enthusiasm or with a more unanimous consent. The first to engage in this atrocious harry, which was baptized with the name of a sacred war, were Eudes III, duke of Burgundy, Simon de Montfort, count of Leicester—a bloody monster who glooms yet upon the historic horizon, pilloried to the scornful horror of the ages—and the counts of Nevers, of St. Paul, of Auxerre, of Genéve, and of Foréz.
Meantime, though the crusaders were not ready to march in 1208, the din of their immense preparations resounded through Europe, and filled Languedoc with terror. Count Raymond, learning that Arnold, abbot of Citeaux, leader of the crusade, had, been appointed by the pope his legate in those provinces from which he designed to eradicate heresy, and that Arnold had convened a council of the chiefs of the sacred war at Aubenaz, in the Yivarais,
“To advise how war may best upheld More by her two main nerves, iron and gold, In all her equipage,”
repaired thither in company with his nephew, to see if haply the storm might be averted.
The legate received them with great haughtiness; and though they both protested that they were personally strangers to the heresy, that they were innocent of the death of Pierre de Castelnovo, and that they ought not to be judged and condemned unheard, yet the insolent prelate upbraided them with stinging emphasis, declared that he could do nothing for them, and informing them that if they wished to obtain any mitigation of the measures adopted against them, they must apply to the pope, he motioned them from the council-chamber.
Then the differing characters of uncle and nephew were fully developed. Count Raymond, overwhelmed with terror, declared himself ready to submit to any terms, even to be himself the executer of the unhallowed violence of the ecclesiastics upon his best subjects, whose sole offence was their heroic devotion to primitive Christianity. The craven noble even stooped so low as to affirm his readiness to make war upon his own family, if thereby he might obtain the pontifical absolution.
Not so the heroic nephew, noblest of a noble band of martyrs. Perceiving from the legate’s language that nothing was to be expected from negotiation, and determined never peacefully to admit the crusaders into his states to ravage his clients, he boldly urged upon his uncle to place strong garrisons in the larger towns, to prepare valiantly for the defence of their country, and to take the initiative by at once commencing the campaign before the invading host could don its mail or draw its sword.
But the two relatives were unable to agree upon their policy, and they separated with reproaches and menaces.
Raymond VI, after assembling his most faithful servants at Arles, engaged the archbishop of Auch, the abbot of Condom, the prior of the Hospitallers of St. Gilles, and Bernard, lord of Rabasteens in Bigorre, to proceed to Rouen, in order to offer his complete submission to Innocent III, and to receive his indulgence.
The frightened count at the same time applied to his cousin, Philip Augustus king of France, and to Otho of Germany, for their protection. Philip at the outset received him with fair words, but afterwards refused him all assistance, on the pretext of his solicitations to his rival Otho. The German emperor did not deign even to notice his prayer.
The ambassadors of Raymond to the pontiff were, on the contrary, received with apparent cordiality. But it was required of them that their master should make common cause with the crusaders; that he should personally assist them in exterminating his subjects and in desolating his own territories; and that he should surrender seven of his best castles in the heart of his dominions, as a pledge of his fidelity. Upon these conditions, Innocent bade Raymond hope that he might eventually absolve him for the heinous crime of respecting the rights of conscience, and attempting to protect his subjects from slaughter.
But notwithstanding Raymond’s servile submission and his own fair words, the implacable pontiff was far from having forgiven him in the bottom of his heart. His assurances of favor were, vox et preterea nihil—went no lower than his throat. For while he was amusing the count’s ambassadors with pacific declarations and paternal mandates, he wrote this realexposé of his sentiments to the bishops of Riez and Cansevans and to the abbot of Citeaux: “We counsel you, with the apostle Paul, to employ guile with regard to this same count; for in this case it ought to be called prudence. We attack separately those who are separated from our unity. Leave then the count of Toulouse for a time, employing towards him a wise dissimulation, that thus the other heretics may be more easily defeated, and that afterwards we may crush him when he shall be left alone.”
Such was the equivocating morality, such the perfidious policy of a pontiff who claimed to sit as God, in the temple of God.
“We cannot but remark,” says Sismondi, “that whenever ambitious and perfidious priests had any disgraceful orders to communicate, they never failed to pervert for this purpose some passage of the holy Scriptures. One would say that they had only studied the Bible to make sacrilegious applications of it.”
Meantime the gallant young viscount of Alby, undeceived by the cunning politics of the Roman count, able
“To unfold The drift of hollow states, hard to be spelled,”
preserving his honor and his governmental oath untarnished, retired to his states, labored like a Hercules to put them in a defensive condition, and at length, having done all that enthusiasm and devotion could do to protect his territories and to save the “lives, the fortunes, and the sacred honor” of a people in whose faith he did not share; the noble prince threw himself into the city of Beziers with a body of his armed retainers, and announced his purpose to hold it to the last for “Christ and liberty.”
In the spring of 1209, the swarms of fanatics whom the harangues of the monks of Citeaux and the pope’s indulgence letters had persuaded to devote themselves to the sacred war, began to move.
Different historians have variously estimated the numbers of these crusaders. They have been computed to have been three, and even five hundred thousand strong. But a very competent authority reckons but fifty thousand in this first campaign.
This calculation, however, did not include the ignorant and infuriated multitude which, following each preacher, armed with scythes and clubs, and sweeping through the country with a more desolating tread than the crusaders themselves, though in no condition to combat the chivalrous knights of Languedoc, undertook at least to murder the women and children of the heretics.
Several places had been assigned for the rendezvous of these demoniac hosts. Arnold Amalric, abbot of Citeaux, legate of the pope, and chief director of the crusade, collected the greater number of combatants, principally those who had taken arms in the kingdom of Arles, and who were vassals of Otho IV, at Lyons: the archbishop of Bordeaux had assembled a second body in the Agenois; these were the subjects of the king of England: the bishop of Puy commanded a third body in the Valai, who were the subjects of Philip Augustus.
When Count Raymond learned that these terrible bands were about to be let loose, the naked sword in one hand and the blazing torch in the other, upon his beautiful states and those of his nephew, he represented to the pope that the legate Arnold, who conducted them, was his personal enemy. “It would be unjust,” said he, “to profit by my submission, to deliver me up to the mercy of a man who would listen only to his resentment against me.”
Then occurred another notable instance of the profound duplicity of the sovereign pontiff. In order, in appearance, to take from the count of Toulouse this motive for complaint, Innocent III named a new legate, his secretary Milon. But far from endeavoring to alleviate the woes of the Provencals by this means, or to restrain the hatred of the abbot of Citeaux, we are assured by the monkish historian Vaux Cernai, that the only aim was to deceive the Count. He adds exultingly, “For the lord pope expressly said to this new legate, ‘Let the abbot of Citeaux do every thing, and be only his organ; for in fact, the count of Toulouse has suspicions concerning him, while he does not suspect thee.’ “
The nearer the crusaders approached, the more the count of Toulouse gave himself up to terror. On the one hand, he endeavored to gain the affections of his subjects by granting new privileges to some, and pardoning the offences of others who had incurred his resentment; on the other hand, he consented to purchase his absolution by the most humiliating concessions. He consigned to the pontifical notary seven of his finest castles. He permitted the consuls of his best cities to engage themselves to abandon him if he should depart from the conditions imposed upon him. He submitted beforehand to any sentence which the legate should be pleased to pronounce upon fifteen unproved accusations laid against him by the inquisitors; and to crown all, he suffered himself, on the 18th of June, 1209, to be conducted into the church of St. Gilles with a cord about his neck; and there he received the discipline before the altar upon his naked shoulders. He was then, upon promising to become the guide of the invaders, allowed to take the cross against his own subjects, and against that gallant nephew who stood tranquilly awaiting the assault.
THE COMMENCEMENT of the TRAGEDY
The jubilant host of the crusaders, in the summer of 1209, wound slowly down into the smiling valley of the Rhone, through the friendly cities of Lyons, Valence, Montelimart, and Avignon, afterwards so celebrated as the seat of one of the two pontiffs between whom the immaculate and seamless robe of Roman unity was divided. The entrapped count of Toulouse repaired to Valence to meet these ferocious forces; from which city he conducted them to Montpellier, where they rested for several days.
The viscount of Alby, though hopeless of success, still determined to make one more effort to still the tempest conjured up against his innocent subjects by the cruel necromancy of the arch-juggler at Rome. To this end he went to Montpellier, and seeking the legate, told him, according to the ancient chronicle of Toulouse, that “he had done the church no wrong; that he but walked in the well-defined footsteps of his ancestors in granting toleration in his states; that as for himself lie was a servant of the church, wishing to live and die so.”
But the legate was imperturbable. Taking his cue from the master-priest of the holy see, he told young Raymond Roger that what he had to do was to defend himself as best he might, for he should show him no mercy.
The viscount quitted the ancient walls of Montpellier sad but resolute. He had done his utmost—stepped to the verge of honor to avert the impending avalanche by diplomacy. Now nothing remained but to draw the sword and fling away the scabbard.
He immediately summoned to him all his vassals, friends, and allies; laid before them the representations which he had made to the legate; informed them of the manner in which he had been received; and upon calling on them for advice, found the whole body of his retainers as resolutely determined to defend their hearth-stones as he was himself.
Nor were all those who took arms with him heretics. Let it be written for the honor of human nature, that even in that sullen and ferocious age, there were not wanting gallant spirits ready and eager to die for the toleration of a creed in whose tenets they did not share.
The knightly gentlemen of those days resided in castles which were more or less strongly fortified, while their vassals lived in little cots scattered over the estates at various distances from the fortilace. Languedoc was spotted with these chateaus; and now upon the approach of the crusaders, the yeomen rushed in vast numbers to the protection of these fortified walls; while the nobles, provisioning their larders for a siege, shut themselves up in their keeps with that nonchalance which is the offspring of long habit and danger often braved.
Some castles, as Servian and Puy-la-rouque, were abandoned ere the Roman banditti reached them. Others, among which the old historians mention Caussadi and St. Antonia, where it was not supposed that any heretics lurked, ransomed themselves by heavy contributions. Still others nobly met a sterner fate. Villeum was burned. Chasseneuil, after a vigorous defense, capitulated. The garrison, who were routiers, or “free lances,” obtained permission to retire with what they could carry; but the inhabitants, who were Vaudois, were abandoned to the mercy of the legate. The ghastly carnival now began. The town was fired; men, women, and children were precipitated into the hungry flames, amid the acclamations of their fiendish conquerors, and night only closed the frightful orgies.
From this sad opening scene even the pages of the monkish historians of the foray are blotted with pitying tears. The crusaders, rendered still more ferocious by this taste of blood, pressed fiercely on towards the viscount’s capital, Beziers, leaving, as was charged upon that Attila of old, no blade of grass nor any living thing behind them.”
In July, 1209, they arrived under the walls of Beziers, and formally summoned it to surrender. Raymond Roger had chiefly calculated upon the defence of his two great cities, Beziers and Carcassonne. He had divided between them his most valiant knights, and the routiers who were attached to his fortune. He had at first thrown himself into Beziers; but after assuring himself that the city was provided with every thing in his power to bestow, he quitted its walls for those of Carcassonne, a town built upon a rock, partly surrounded by a river, the Aude, and whose suburbs were environed by walls and ditches.
The citizens of Beziers felt themselves intimidated, when they knew that their young lord had left them for the stronger protection of Carcassonne, and their inquietude was redoubled when they beheld the three grand divisions of the Roman army, under the legate, the archbishop of Bourdeaux, and the bishop of Puy, arrive and unite before their city.
Just before the crusaders reached Beziers, they had been visited by the bishop of that city, Reginald de Montpeyroux, who delivered to the legate a list of those in the city who were accounted Vaudois, and whom he desired to see thrown into the flames. He then returned to Beziers, assembled the inhabitants in the cathedral of St. Nicaise, and after representing to them with vivid eloquence the vast numbers of the crusaders, and the impossibility of resisting their onset, exhorted them not to draw down upon themselves, their wives, and their children the wrath of heaven and of the church by protecting their Vaudois fellow-townsmen, but to yield them up to the avengers of the faith.
“Tell the legate,” replied the citizens, “that our city is good and strong, that our dear Lord God will not fail to succor us in great necessities, and that rather than commit the baseness demanded of us, we will eat our own children.”
But though equal in courage and infinitely superior in generosity and Christian purpose to their savage foes, the unhappy citizens of Beziers were not equal to them in military shill or in the discipline of trained arms.
While the crusaders were occupied in tracing their camp, the citizens made a sortie, hoping thus to take their enemies by surprise. But instantly the united battalions of the besiegers precipitated themselves upon the disconcerted trainbands of the city, and forcing them to retire, pursued them so hotly that both parties entered the open gates together, and Beziers was captured before the crusaders had even formed their plan of attack.
Then the bloody orgies of Chasseneuil were reenacted on a broader theatre. Arnold Amalric, abbot of Citeaux, upon learning that he had triumphed almost without a struggle, and determined not to be baulked of the expected feast of blood, upon being asked by some of his companions in arms how the Romanist citizens were to be distinguished from the Vaudois, made that famous reply, worthy of Nero or Caligula: “KILL THEM ALL; GOD WILL WELL SHOW HIS OWN!”
The fixed population of Beziers did not perhaps exceed fifteen thousand persons; but all the inhabitants of the country, of the open villages, of the plains, and of the castles which had not been judged capable of safe defense, had taken refuge in Beziers, which was regarded as exceedingly strong. Even those who had remained to guard the strong chateaus, had, for the most part, sent their wives, their children, and their helpless ones to the city.
At the moment when the crusaders became masters of the gates, the whole multitude thronged to the churches. The great cathedral of Nicaise contained the larger number. The canons, clothed in their choral habits, surrounded the altar and sounded the bells, as if to express their prayers to their furious assailants. But these supplications of brass were as little heeded as were those of the human voice. Still the bells ceased not to sound until, of that immense multitude, not one remained. alive. The massacre spread equally to the other churches; seven thousand dead bodies were counted in that of Magdalene alone. Thus even the benefit of sanctuary, respected at that period for the vilest malefactors, was not awarded to the Vaudois.
An old Provencal historian has, by the simplicity of his language, augmented the terrors of this scene: “They entered the city of Beziers, where they murdered more people than was ever before known in the world; for they spared neither young nor old, nor infants at the breast. They killed and murdered them all, which being seen by the said people of the city, they that were able did retreat into the great church of St. Nazarius, both men and women. The chaplains thereof, when they had so retreated, caused the bells to be rung until everybody was dead. But neither the sound of the bells, nor the chaplains in their priestly habits, nor the clerks, could hinder them from being put to the sword. One only escaped, for all the rest were slain and died. Nothing so pitiable was ever heard of or done before.”
When the crusaders had completely pillaged it, and massacred every living creature, the city was fired in every part at once, and reduced to a vast funeral pile.
Historians differ as to the number of victims sacrificed on this awful occasion to the greed of the insatiable demon of persecution. The abbot of Citeaux, feeling some shame for the butchery which he had ordered, in the account which he transmitted to Innocent III, reduces the number to fifteen thousand. Other and more reliable contemporary chroniclers reckon it at from forty to sixty thousand.
Having “supped full of horrors” at Beziers, yet without being satiated, the crusaders pressed on through a deserted country—for the inhabitants preferred taking refuge in caves, woods, mountains, to waiting for such enemies within the enclosure of walls which might serve as a prison—towards Carcassonne. They reached this Vaudois citadel on the 1st of August, 1209, and pitching their tents, invested it in due form.
Although the generous heart of Raymond Roger had been terribly wrung by the massacre of his loyal subjects of Beziers, and by the destruction of his capital, he “bated no jot of heart or hope;” while the brave inhabitants of Carcassonne renewed their oath of allegiance to him, and of fidelity to each other.
Carcassonne was accounted almost impregnable. Built upon one side of the river Aude, in whose waters it bathed upon the right, it had been strongly fortified by the skill of the young viscount upon the more exposed angles. It was besides defended by a numerous and devoted garrison.
The attack commenced upon one of the suburbs without the city walls. Here the combat raged fiercely for two hours, during which time Raymond Roger on one side, and Simon de Montfort upon the other, gave evidence of extraordinary personal prowess. Eventually the suburb was taken by mere stress of numbers. The besieged retreated into the second suburb, which the assailants pressed on to attack. For eight days the viscount defended this redoubt with success, but on the ninth day he evacuated it, and, having fired it, retired slowly and sullenly into the city, clanging the ponderous gates in the faces of the outwitted foe.
Meantime Raymond Roger had found means to communicate with his uncle, Don Pedro II, king of Aragon. The Aragonese sovereign had witnessed the oppression and outrage inflicted upon his relative with chagrin. He therefore quitted his kingdom, and hastening to the camp of the crusaders endeavored to negotiate a peace.
Having obtained permission of the legate to visit his nephew, the king entered Carcassonne to confer with the viscount. “My dear uncle,” said the frank young soldier, “if you wish to arrange for me any honorable adjustment, I freely leave with you its form and manner, and I will ratify it without hesitation; for I see clearly that we cannot long maintain ourselves here, owing to the multitude of countrymen, women, and children who have taken refuge with us. We cannot reckon them, but they die alas, in great numbers every day. But were there only myself and my soldiers here, I swear to you that I would rather die of that ghastly famine which now stares us in the face than surrender to this same cruel legate.”
The king of Aragon very injudiciously related this discourse to the wily legate, who, thus familiar with the precise condition of the viscount, was thereby enabled to offer, with some assurance of success, propositions much less generous than he would otherwise have ventured to make; for be it remembered, it was no part of this atrocious monk’s purpose to accommodate affairs. He wished to glut the vengeance of a cruel faith. Still he did not dare absolutely to repel such a mediator as the king of Aragon. But knowing well the high and chivalric character of the viscount, he achieved his object by proposing terms which it wood be impossible for a gallant and knightly spirit to accept.
“Tell your nephew, sire,” said the abbot of Citeaux, “that he himself, with any twelve others whom he may choose, may freely quit the city. But the remainder of the citizens and soldiers must be abandoned to our good pleasure.” The king carried the message. “Now, out upon the priestly catiff,” was the noble reply, “rather than submit to these disgraceful terms, I would suffer myself to be flayed alive. No, he shall not have the meanest of my people at his mercy; for it is on my account that they are now in danger.”
The chivalric king approved the generous purpose of his nephew, and turning towards the assembled citizens and knights of Carcassonne, he informed them of the legate’s conditions, and added, “You now know what you have to expect; mind and defend yourselves well, for he who acts the part of a brave man always finds good mercy at last.”
Don Pedro of Aragon with his retinue had scarcely quitted the city ere the impatient crusaders hurled themselves upon its walls, but in vain; the gallant viscount fought as nobly as he talked. Streams of boiling water, blazing oil, immense stones, projectiles of every kind then known to the cruel skill of war—all were put in requisition; and at length, maimed, bleeding, and balked, the crusaders fell back within the entrenchments of their camp.
The greater part of the crusaders had taken the cross but for forty days. The time now approached for their service to end. General and sullen discontent reigned in the pontifical camp. The soldiers had been promised the intervention of a miracle in their favor. Yet after two prolonged and bloody assaults, they still stood without the walls of Carcassonne, while…
“Many a corpse lay ghastly pale beneath the setting sun.”
The legate remarking these symptoms of demoralization, and true to the perfidious maxims of the church whose livery he wore, now determined to have recourse to stratagem, if haply he might accomplish by his arts what had been denied his sword.
Accordingly he renewed the negotiations. The viscount, ignorant of what was passing in the camp of the crusaders, and profoundly anxious for an honorable accommodation, received the legate’s messenger with the utmost cordiality. Fully conscious of the rectitude of his own intentions and proceedings, he could not but believe that, when the injustice of which his country had been the victim should be known, it would excite the commiseration of the great barons and ecclesiastics arrayed against him, and stay the devastation. Filled with this Quixotic idea, and as incapable of suspecting deliberate treachery in others as he was of himself performing a perfidious deed, young Raymond offered to accompany the envoy to the camp of the crusaders, for the purpose of having a personal interview with the chiefs of the sacred war, provided his personal safety and return should be solemnly guaranteed.
The envoy flew to acquaint the legate with this offer. Arnold Amalric rubbed his hands gleefully when he heard this recital, and though he deliberately perjured himself by doing so, for he had instantly decided upon the confiding viscount’s arrest, he yet sent the desired safe-conduct, to which he attached the seal of Rome.
The viscount soon made his appearance, accompanied by three hundred of his choicest chivalry. Repairing to the legate’s tent, where the chiefs of the crusade were assembled, he nobly and powerfully vindicated his conduct and the policy of his ancestors, and again affirmed, that though the fast friend of religious toleration, he was still a true servant of the Roman church.
Then Rome gave another proof of the pitiless, unhallowed, and abandoned wickedness of her politics. Not only the legate, but the great lords who accompanied him, were penetrated with the diabolical maxim of Innocent III: “To keep faith with heretics is an offence against the faith.” Accordingly watching for a propitious moment, the crusaders threw themselves upon the surprised and insignificant retinue of the Provencal prince, all of whom, after a brief struggle, were disarmed, and together with their young lord consigned to the care of Simon de Montfort.
THE REIGN of TERROR
The crusaders thought that the flagitious perfidy exhibited by their chiefs towards the beloved prince of Alby would strike terror, like a dagger, into the hearts of the inhabitants of Carcassonne. It did indeed chill them with horror, but it also withdrew the entire population from the clutches of these bloodhounds of the Roman church.
There was an immense cavern, dark, freezing, and awful, which yawned in the bowels of the earth, and stretched away from the river-gate of Carcassonne three leagues, to the towers of Cabardes. To the protection of this gloomy sanctuary—for to their despair it was indeed a temple—the citizens rushed; and on, on, through the ooze of the dreadful cavern, which in happier times the boldest had shrunk from approaching, esteeming it haunted by hobgoblins, they tramped, willing to face the spirits of the yawning depth, if only they might escape the fiends who raged before their city walls.
Meantime, when the curtain of the night was lifted, and the light of day began to dazzle in the grey eastern horizon, the crusaders were astonished at not beholding the accustomed Vaudois sentries pacing the city walls. “Conscience does make cowards of us all,” and remembering their own treachery of the day before, they feared that some stupendous mischief underlay the silence and desertion; for those of them who had grown greyest in the wars had never before seen a large population melt into nothing in a night.
At length however they entered Carcassonne, and the legate took possession of the spoil in the name of the church, excommunicating those of the crusaders who should have appropriated any part of it. But it long remained a mystery what had become of the teeming population which had vanished under cover of that August night.
The abbot of Citeaux thought himself obliged to dissemble the villainy to which he had had recourse, and which had succeeded so badly. Accordingly on the 15th of August, 1209, the day of the occupation of the city, he issued a proclamation, in which he unblushingly announced that he had signed a capitulation by which he had permitted all the citizens to quit Carcassonne with their lives only. And then, deeming it essential to the honor of the holy church that all the heretics should not escape him, he caused a number of Vaudois whom he had picked up upon his march, together with the knights who had accompanied the viscount of Alby and Beziers to his camp, to be collected in a group four hundred and fifty large. Then this wanton butcher selected out of that number fifty to be hanged, and the remaining four hundred were burned alive, to propitiate the malignant fury of his vengeful church.
All was now esteemed to have been accomplished. The count of Toulouse had submitted to the most degrading conditions ever before offered to or accepted by a sovereign prince. The beautiful and virgin Provencal plains had been rudely violated and soaked in blood. The gallant viscount of Alby and Beziers was a hopeless prisoner in the iron grasp of Montfort. The other Provencal nobles had published in their jurisdictions laws against the Vaudois even more severe, if that were possible, than Rome demanded.
The French lords who, to gain the indulgence of the church, had marched to the crusade, thought that they had done enough to effect the salvation of their souls; and weary of blood and ashamed of the violation of their plighted faith, they chafed to return to their castles.
All seemed satisfied, save the monks—save Dominic Guzman, and Francis d’Assise his companion in infamy, the founder of the despicable order of St. Francis, and at their head the abbot of Citeaux. The Vaudois were frozen with terror, but these fanatics thirsted for their blood. The heretics, leaving their homes to the pillage of the avaricious and to the incendiary torch of the marauder, had hidden in the mountains, and were outwardly silent; but these bigots knew that inwardly they prayed to that dear Jesus who for them had been nailed upon the tree, that the torch of primitive Christianity still smoked, if it did not blaze, and this thought would not let them rest.
The Vaudois were not exterminated. Their opinions would still secretly circulate. Resentment for outrages already suffered would alienate them yet more irreconcilably from the Roman communion. Their suffering would attach them still more devotedly to the tenets of their dissent, and the reformation would break out afresh. “To turn back the march of civilization, to obliterate the traces of a mighty progress of the human mind, to efface the foot-prints of the primitive and pure apostolic faith, it was not sufficient to sacrifice, as an example, hecatombs of victims; the nation must be destroyed. All who had participated in this grand development of evangelical knowledge, of Christian thought, of luminous science, must perish. None must be spared, save the most boorish rustics, whose intelligence was scarcely superior to the beasts whose labor they shared.”
Such was the flagitious rationale of the Roman see—such the avowed policy of the abbot of Citeaux, and his twin jackals, Dominic and Francis d’Assise.
At the conclusion of the first crusade, just before the great lords separated, the legate assembled a council, and desired them to award the states of Raymond Roger, forfeit to the church, to some lord who would engage to extirpate the remnant of the Vaudois. The conquered territories were first offered to Eudes III, duke of Burgundy; but he refused them, saying that “he had plenty of domains and lordships without taking that, to disinherit this unhappy viscount; and that it appeared to him that they had done him evil enough, without despoiling him of his ancestral states.”
This refusal, couched in such words, touched the honor of all the barons; and the counts of Nevers and of St. Paul, to each of whom the proffer was made, held the same language. Then the sovereignties were offered to Simon de Montfort, the most greedy and ferocious of the vengeful band. This infamous noble, then lord of but a single castle, Montfort Amaury, situated some ten leagues from Paris, though he was of an illustrious house, said to have been descended from king Robert by a natural son, after some feigned reluctance, finally accepted the bloody and usurped gift, thus by his ambition raising himself to the rank of the grand feudatories.
De Montfort had held the rightful sovereign of the states of which he had just taken possession a close prisoner in his donjon-keep ever since his capture. It now became necessary to sweep this obstacle completely from his path; for even in chains the young viscount haunted him, presaging evil to himself and to his house. Raymond Roger was a rare character. His neighbors loved him. His people idolized him, and prayed for him daily. The Vaudois especially enshrined him in their heart of hearts. Possibly his powerful and kingly relative of Aragon would be disposed to throw his royal ermine over his hapless nephew’s defenseless form. Clearly it was Montfort’s policy to get rid of his prisoner, too strong even in irons. With this ferocious and sullen fanatic, to decide was to act. Accordingly Montfort gave the necessary order for his death, at the same time spreading a report that the viscount had died of dysentery. But the fraud was too transparent. The public voice and conscience openly accused De Montfort of having poisoned his princely captive; and even Innocent III acknowledged that the viscount perished by violence.
Thus, in the flower of his age, ended the mortal career of Raymond Roger, viscount Alby and Beziers; chivalric as any Paladin of them all; a knight, like Bayard, sans peur et sansréproche, worthy to be a martyr in the grandest of all causes; a heroic soldier in the “good fight” which Bunyan has described; another victim added to the swollen catalogue of Roman intolerance and depravity. History takes his name from the Roman rubric of heretical malefactors, and placing it among her jewels, writes proudly, RAYMOND ROGER, THE DEFENDER OF THE VAUDOIS.
Upon the conclusion of the campaign of 1209, Count Raymond of Toulouse, having submitted in every thing to the pontifical requisition, though himself sure of reconciliation with the church; but he was surrounded by men whose interest it was to prolong his punishment, if not to perpetuate it. The bishop of Toulouse, a recreant troubadour, Foulquét de Marseille, who had in other days gained some fame by his amatory verses, but who, disgusted with the world, had retired to a cloister, where he had fostered the passions of fanaticism and persecution, was Count Raymond’s open foe. The two jackal inquisitors, Dominic and Francis, hated him because he had once tolerated the Vaudois. The abbot of Citeaux was his declared enemy; while Simon de Montfort, looking from his usurped viscountal palace at Carcassonne across upon Raymond’s contiguous territories, thought how goodly his heritage would be if only the countship of Toulouse could be added to it. He was urged on therefore by the double motive of religious fanaticism and political ambition. These worthies, working tirelessly and secretly, defeated every measure which Raymond of Toulouse could elaborate for the procuration of his pardon. In the early part of 1210, the count had visited Rome, and in an interview with Innocent, had learned that the consideration of his case had been confided to an ecclesiastical council about to be convened at St. Gilles.
Raymond hastened home to meet the council. Meantime the abbot of Citeaux had harangued its members, and so prejudiced them against the count, that, without granting him an opportunity to clear himself of the charges laid against him, the council again fulminated an excommunication against him in the name of the church.
Simon de Montfort, with a powerful army—for though most of the great barons had retired, many, influenced either by that fanaticism which led them to take the cross, by the hope of securing a permanent establishment in a conquered country, or by the promise of plunder and adventure, still adhered to the banner of the crusade which the new viscount carried—had now the desired pretext for entering and ravaging Count Raymond’s dominions. At the same time crowds of monks headed by Guy and Arnold Amalric of Citeaux, issued from their convents, and recommenced preaching the crusade. Gathering about them troops of ferocious and superstitious warriors, they proclaimed that there was no vice so deeply rooted, no crime so black, that a gala campaign of forty days in the south of France would not obliterate. Paradise with all its glories was opened to them, without the necessity of the slightest reformation of their conduct.
Accustomed to confide their consciences to their priests, to listen to the voice of Rome as to the thunders of the dread God of Sinai, never to submit what appertained to the faith to the arbitrament of reason, these besotted crowds really regarded those beloved children of God’s right hand, the Vaudois, as a nest of heretics who bred contagion.
So the roads were once more blocked with the advancing enthusiasts. Alice of Montmorency, De Montfort’s wife, assumed the control of the forces raised by the exhortations of the monks.
At the commencement of Lent, 1210, her husband came to meet her at Pezenas. He no sooner found himself at the head of a large and well-appointed army, than he gave full sway to his evil passions.
A few lords still ventured to defend either the independence of their jurisdiction, or that of their conscience. De Montfort now essayed to crush this opposition by new judicial massacres. His fresh horde of fanatics swept through the country with desolating fury. The feudal state of independence had multiplied the isolated fortresses which served at once for residences and strong-holds. The smallest provinces were covered with citadels. These castles then received De Montfort’s first attention. Many of them were abandoned on his approach. Others which ventured to resist, were razed, while their heroic defenders were either hanged upon gibbets, or roasted alive for the honor of the mother church. The castle of Brom being captured by the crusaders on the third day of the siege, De Montfort selected a hundred of its wretched inhabitants, Vaudois who had been denounced by the priestly spies who sped before the men-at-arms to procure lists of heretics, and having torn out their eyes and cut off their noses, sent them in this state, under the guidance of a one-eyed man, to the neighboring Vaudois castle of Cabaret, to announce to that garrison the fate which awaited them.
When De Montfort found the citadels deserted, not being able to reach human beings, he wreaked his vengeance upon the twining vines, the olive trees, and the blooming gardens which lent rare beauty to the landscape, and made Provence the queen of nations, the idyl of territories.
The pen of history falters when it follows this rude butcher upon his devastating marauds, nor is it necessary to detail with absolute minuteness the harrowing scenes of this frightful war, which yet possesses strange interest.
The siege of the castle of Minerva was one of the most remarkable of the war, and is detailed at length by the ancient chroniclers. This citadel was built upon a steep and almost inaccessible rock, surrounded by precipices, and was regarded as one of the most impregnable strong-holds in the Gauls. It belonged to Guiraud de Minerva, a Vaudois nobleman, and one of the best knights in Southern France. The crusaders brought against it their finest men-at-arms, De Montfort and the abbot of Citeaux being present in person.
The Vaudois defended themselves for seven weeks with a valor which escorted the admiration even of De Montfort. But when, on account of the heat of summer—it was under the fierce sun of July—the water in their wells and cisterns failed, they demanded a capitulation. Terms were finally agreed upon; but when they were read in the council of war, one article, which provided that those Vaudois who were converted to the Roman faith might quit the castle alive, was violently opposed. “Robert de Mauvoisin,” says the monk Vaux Cernai, “a nobleman entirely devoted to the papal see, cried that ‘the pilgrims would never submit to this; since it was not to convert heretics, or to show mercy to them, but to kill them, that they had taken the cross.’ The abbot Arnold, better acquainted with the obstinate devotion of the heretics, replied, ‘Fear not, for I believe that very few will be converted.’ “
Shortly after, the crusaders entered the castle chanting the Te Deum, and preceded by the cross and by the standards of Montfort.
God’s children had assembled in two Vaudois churches, the men in one, the women in the other, and while the fanatical bands of Rome began to sing the Te Denm, they calmly responded by chanting one of their simple hymns of praise, pausing between each sob of the music to encourage each other by a mute caress, or to seek new strength in fervent prayer. Not one flinched; not one made the slightest effort to escape the awful doom which each knew awaited him. The honor of becoming a martyr for the holy cause of that sweet Jesus who was himself a man of sorrow, gave unwonted dignity to the rudest carriage. It was the ecstasy of religious faith, one of the grandest sermons to which that brutal band of heated zealots, smeared with martyr-blood, ever listened.
The abbot, Guy de Vaux Cernai, to fulfill the articles of capitulation, came to these Vaudois, and began to preach the Roman faith to them. He was instantly interrupted. “Sir priest,” was the unanimous cry, “we want not your exhortations. We have renounced the church of Rome; we have become the children of a purer light; we draw our consolation from a higher source, even from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for evermore, Amen. Your labor is vain; desist. For neither life nor death can make us renounce that precious Bible whose truths we have embraced.”
The abbot, surprised and strangely moved, nest visited the assembly of Vaudois women. He found them as resolute, and still more enthusiastic in their declarations.
The ferocious De Montfort, in his turn, visited the Vaudois. Already he had piled up enormous masses of dry wood. The executioners, in their black gowns, stood ready. The impatient soldiery clamored hoarsely for the féte to begin. “Be converted to the Roman faith,” said the ruthless crusader, “or ascend this pile.” None were shaken. The wood was fired; the whole square was enveloped in a tremendous conflagration. The greedy tongues of the lurid flame licked the crackling wood as if hungry and impatient for their human prey. The Vaudois were conducted to their funeral pyre, but no violence was necessary to compel them to enter the blazing, torturing fire; they voluntarily precipitated themselves into it, their sweet Provencal hymns quivering upon their lips, or else repeating that grandest of the beatitudes: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say alt manner of evil against you. falsely, for my safe. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” High above the fierce crackling of the flames, high above the hoarse roar of the fanatic multitude, rose the pathetic wail of the Vaudois supplication, until God came to their deliverance, and through the open and thrice welcome door of death their unfettered souls winged their way to that borne where “the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest.”
The capture of Minerva was quickly followed by the siege of Termes, a strong castle upon the borders of Roussilon, which was commanded by its lord, a valiant captain named Raymond of Termes. This gallant soldier made a grand defense for “Christ and liberty.” The patience of the crusaders was sorely tried, and De Montfort beheld his army terribly thinned by sickness and the Vaudois sword. He made a fresh appeal to the fanaticism of the French provinces, each of which, in response, dispatched in its turn a numerous contingent to his camp. Meantime, after four weary months of incessant combat, gaunt famine stared the Vaudois in the face, and thirst parched their throats. An attempt was made to escape from the castle into the surrounding mountains.
The Vaudois did indeed pass the first line of De Montfort’s intrenchments, and dispersing in the shadowy recesses of the country, shaped their flight towards Catalonia. But soon their escape became known in the camp of the crusaders. The knights mounted in hot haste and scoured the roads; the men-at-arms, impressing peasants to guide them, searched the innermost recesses of the mountains. Each one exhorted the other not to let those who had cost the host so much sweat and blood escape their vengeance.
The unhappy Vaudois, encumbered by aged men, by women, by children, were speedily overtaken and remorselessly slaughtered where they stood. A few were conducted alive to the presence of Simon de Montfort, among the number the gallant Raymond of Termes. These, with the exception of their lord, were publicly burned alive for the edification of the crusaders. But De Montfort reserved Raymond of Termes for a more hapless lot. He confined him at the bottom of a tower in Carcassonne, in a damp dungeon whose walls were coated with ice, where, with exquisite cruelty, he suffered him to languish for many years, a prototype of the wretched prisoners of the Inquisition, or perhaps of that mysterious “iron mask,” whose lineage is enshrouded with such gloomy interest in French history.
The miserable inhabitants of this unhappiest of countries found no asylum which could protect them. Neither woodland dell nor mountain cavern could screen them from the keen sight of the hunters of the Romish Babylon. Provence shivered in mute sympathy with the agony of her children. The pagan cruelty of the most monstrous of the Roman emperors was white when set against the blackness of De Montfort’s infamy. Torquemada himself might have learned from him new lessons in the cruel skill of torture. Horror was heaped upon horror, until the benumbed and decimated Vaudois began to creep with languid footsteps across the borders of a territory surrendered to the ravage of demoniacs into happier lands.
At length even the timid patience of Count Raymond of Toulouse was exhausted. He had surrendered every thing, promised every thing, submitted to every thing, in his efforts to court a reconciliation with the church. But cozened and maltreated by the perfidious minions of the pontifical see, he was now goaded to desperation, and like the hunted stag, turned at bay. Well would it have been for his knightly fame and for his Christian honor if, instead of faltering so long, he had at the outset united with his nephew in the defense of their mutual states.
He now formed a close alliance with the counts of Comiges and of Foix, with Gaston, viscount of Béarn, Savary de Mauléon, seneschal of Aquitaine, and the other lords of those provinces who were accused of heresy or of tolerance, and whose interests were united with his own.
Count Raymond also negotiated a treaty of offense and defense with Don Pedro of Aragon; and gathering his forces well in hand, dashed with gallant purpose against the invaders of his country.
De Montfort also was at the head of a fine army, inured to danger, well disciplined, and accustomed to victory.
He first advanced to Lavaur, a strong castle five leagues distant from Toulouse. This stronghold, afterwards raised to the rank of an episcopal see, was then the property of a widow named Guiraude, whom her brother Aimery de Montreal had recently joined, with eighty other knights like himself despoiled by the crusaders of their fiefs. Aimery, Guiraude, and most of their defenders, were all open believers in the Vaudois creed. They had opened an asylum to those of the reformed who were persecuted in the various adjacent villages; so that their fortress, which was kept well stored and well manned, and which was surrounded with strong walls and girded with deep ditches, was esteemed one of the principal seats of the heresy.
The defence of Lavaur was long and stubborn. But at length the fanaticism, the numbers, and the pernicious skill of the crusaders triumphed; the city was taken by assault, and De Montfort, beholding his too ardent soldiers already busied in the work of indiscriminate massacre, besought them rather to make prisoners, that the priests of the living God might not be deprived of their promised joys. “Very soon”—we here quote from the narrative of the monk of Yaux Cernai, himself an eyewitness of the scene—”they dragged out of the castle Aimery de Montreal and other knights to the number of eighty. The noble count of Montfort immediately ordered these to be hanged; but as Aimery, the stoutest of them, was strung up, the gallows fell, for in their haste the executioners had not well fixed it in the ground. The count, seeing that this would cause great delay, ordered the rest to be massacred; and the pilgrims receiving the command with the greatest avidity, very soon slew them on the spot. The lady of the castle, who was a sister of Aimery and an execrable heretic, was, by the count’s order, thrown alive into a pit, which was slowly filled up with stones. Afterwards our pilgrims collected the innumerable heretics who had fled to this citadel, and burned them alive with the utmost joy.
Such is the gloating recital of an unblushing monk who was at once the witness and the panegyrist of these freezing horrors.
The crusaders quitted the rains of Lavaur to hasten forward to the siege of Toulouse, Count Raymond’s capital.
“This city,” says Sismondi, “was far from having been completely converted to the reformation of the Vaudois; the Romanists still composed the greater number of the inhabitants, though the Vaudois were numerous and counted their disciples among the most enlightened citizens. The magistrates, when asked why they did not drive out the heretics, replied, ‘We cannot; we have been brought up among them, we have relations among them, and we daily witness the goodness of their lives.’ The Romanism of Toulouse was therefore very different from that of Northern France. The proverbial imprecation, ‘I would rather be a priest, than have done such a thing,’ was as common in Roman as in Vaudois mouths. Indeed the Romanism of Toulouse was so unnaturally liberal, owing. to the leaven of the Reformation, as quite to justify the indignant affirmation of the most ancient historian of the crusade, that Toulouse ought rather to be called Tota dolosa.”
Still the bishop Fouquét had imbued a number of the most ignorant citizens with his own fanaticism. These formed themselves into a society called The White Company, five thousand of whom had joined De Montfort beneath the walls of Lavaur. This society had erected a tribunal by its own authority, before which it dragged those who were accused by its spies of being Vaudois. The partisans of the Reformation, reinforced by the friends of toleration, formed a counter association called The Black Company, whose object it was to resist and punish the lawless outrages of the fanatics. These two troops met often in the streets, armed, and with ensigns displayed; and many towns, which belonged to one side or the other, were alternately besieged. “Thus,” says William Puy Laurens, a contemporaneous chronicler, “did our Lord, by the ministry of his servant the bishop, instead of a bad peace, excite among them a good war.”
But while Fouquét was striving to kindle a war among his flock, Count Raymond was busied in restoring peace among his subjects. He succeeded so well that, when De Montfort appeared before the city and summoned it to surrender, the united voice of the city spoke in the tone of the consul, who said that Toulouse refused either to renounce its fidelity to its count, notwithstanding his excommunication, or to deliver up to punishment those of its citizens who were suspected of cherishing the Vaudois tenets.
Fouquét, bitterly angered at this refusal, instantly called in his priests, assembled them in a body at the cathedral, excommunicated all the Toulousians, and then quitted the city barefoot at the head of his monks, who carried the holy sacrament in the procession and chanted litanies as they marched.
However, Toulouse did not suffer the fate to which its charitable bishop had deserted it. Onthe contrary, Count Raymond, assisted by the counts of Foix and of Comiges, so pressed De Montfort, that he was not only compelled to raise the siege of Toulouse, but to retreat in his turn before the victorious Provencal squadrons to the shelter of one of his strong-holds, Castelnaudory.
But De Montfort’s cry for aid soon brought another swarm of fanatics to his assistance. Count Raymond was repulsed. The country which, in his hour of misfortune, had vented its hate against him by rising in universal insurrection and spewing forth his garrisons, was again furiously harried; while Count Raymond retired into Aragon to recruit his forces and to form a junction with his royal ally and kinsman.
Marked by these and similar vicissitudes, several years passed sadly by. In the autumn of 1213 the disastrous battle of Murét was fought, in which king Pedro of Aragon, who had generously advanced to reinstate his brother in his dignities, lost his life, and Count Raymond’s star, with that of religious toleration, seemed for ever sunk below the angry horizon.
The ferocious activity of De Montfort was not decreased by the victory of Murét, or by the voluntary exile of Count Raymond in the Aragonese territories. Entering upon that unhappy nobleman’s vacant countship, he ravaged it for the third time from corner to corner, and himself assuming the reins of government, with the congenial Fouquét as his adviser, gave full sway to his bigotry and insatiable ambition.
In 1216, Pope Innocent III died. His pontificate had been one of the most stormy and arbitrary in the papal annals. Possessed of remarkable executive talent, and of an ambition as far reaching as that of Lucifer, no one of the popes, excepting perhaps Hildebrand, had done so much to consolidate the Roman despotism. He was merciless in the execution of his ecclesiastical projects, steeled against the presumptuous wretch who ventured to reject his creed, impious in his profanation of God’s name and of the cross of Christ, and his memory is burdened with the inception of the Inquisition, with the incorporation of the most perfidious maxims into the canons of his church, and with the curses of those innocent children of the Most High, the Vaudois, whom his stentorian voice, echoing over Europe, first taught the nations to persecute.
Meantime Count Raymond was not idle. Secretly informed of all that was passing in Provence, he learned with joy that the barbarous and iron rule of Simon de Montfort was felt to be intolerable by the most tolerant people on the face of the globe. The inhabitants of Toulouse dispatched an embassy to invite him to return to them, and pledging themselves to support him with the heartiest and most loving zeal.
Encouraged by these attestations of attachment, the count raised an army in Aragon and Catalonia, at the head of which, after some reverses, he finally marched, in 1217, into Provence, entering once more his ancient capital amid the joyous acclamations of the populace.
De Montfort’s mingled fanaticism and ambition made him equal to the occasion. Instantly dispatching Fouquét, bishop of Toulouse, with James de Vitry, the historian of the last combats of the Holy Land, into France, to preach a new crusade, he summoned his brother Guy de Montfort and his son Amaury to his side, and hastening towards Toulouse, hoped to attack it before the citizens could rebuild their leveled walls, and while, haunted by the memory of former chastisements, they yet hesitated between affection and fear.
Appearing before the capital early in September, the crusaders at once made a vigorous assault. They were as vigorously hurled back into the surrounding ditches; while Simon’s brother Guy, together with his nephew the count of Bigorre, fell dangerously wounded.
De Montfort then commenced a regular siege, at the same time sending his wife Alice of Montmorency to the court of Philip Augustus, to solicit his aid. Meantime the siege proved tedious. Prolonged through the winter, it dragged ineffectually into the ensuing spring and summer. Daily darting from their citadels, the Toulousians stung their besiegers with constantly increasing venom.
At length, on the 25th of June, 1218, Count Raymond made a sally, and pushing resolutely towards one of De Montfort’s most destructive engines, called a “cat,” because with its ponderous paw it beat breaches in the wall, captured it.
The butcher of the Vaudois was at mass when the news of the sortie was brought to him. Instantly arming himself, he headed his men-at-arms, and charged fiercely to the rescue of his favorite engine. He was successful. The Vaudois were repulsed. But while De Montfort stood with his battalion before the unwieldy paw of his strange machine, an enormous stone, cast with Titanic power and with vengeful certainty from a catapulta upon the city walls, struck the redoubted monster full upon the head, and hurled him maimed and lifeless to the ground, while his countenance was still distorted with a grin of sardonic satisfaction on account of his latest and last success.
Amaury de Montfort, the dead fanatic’s son and heir, collected his scattered and affrighted soldiers, and receiving their homage and oath of fidelity as his father’s successor .in the usurped courtship of Toulouse, for a little longer persisted in the siege of the jubilant city.
But in vain. In the latter days of July, 1218, he retired with his shattered cohorts into Carcassonne, where De Montfort was buried with great pomp.
THE FINAL MASSACRE
For a few brief years Provence enjoyed comparative repose. Its singular fertility, which the Vandal hoof of war was unable to tread out, soon made Languedoc begin once more to smile. After De Montfort’s death, the demon of fanaticism fled with a shriek. Count Raymond, old and broken, delegated his government to his son Raymond VII, already rendered illustrious by high exploits, and who, possessed of a more experienced constancy and of a loftier character, seemed destined for a happier reign.
Rome, torn by internecine broils, and ruled by the irresolute scepter of Honorius III, who had succeeded the grasping Innocent, appeared to relax its vigilance. Northern Europe, engaged in preparing for another crusade against the Saracens, was for a moment oblivious of Provence, where her knights considered that they had drowned the Vaudois church in the blood of its martyrs. Philip Augustus, busied in the west in wrenching English France from the craven grasp of king John, was inclined to temporize with the Provencals. The Vaudois nobles had united and driven out Amaury de Montfort from the viscounty of Alby and Beziers, installing the son and heir of the murdered prince, Raymond Roger, in his rightful states. The horizon was lit up with a deceptive brilliancy—too soon, alas, followed by the devastating storm—and the Vaudois church, rising from the sea of gore, enjoyed an apparent resurrection, and with unshaken constancy relumed the lamp of the ancient faith.
After the extinction of a fire, some sparks will still lie concealed under the ashes. These, fanned by the gale, may kindle a new flame, which, after devouring all the combustible matter within its reach, will in its turn be quenched. So the momentary toleration in Provence recalled the preachers of the crusades, re-attracted the attention of Europe, reawoke the napping fanaticism of the faithful, and launched a new horde of brutal enthusiasts upon the Vaudois, so that those of them who had escaped the first massacre were mostly involved in the searching destruction of the second.
In 1222, while the gathering tempest soughed ominously in the scowling heavens, but before the fell fury of the storm burst, Raymond VI died suddenly at Toulouse. Though this prince had shown neither distinguished talents nor force of character; though he had been early induced to assent to what he disapproved, and to inscribe his name among those who came to ravish his country, and who cherished the secret purpose of depriving him of his heritage; though he had submitted with patient feebleness to all the ecclesiastical censures, to all the personal outrages which the legates, the pope, and the council of the Lateran could heap upon him, yet he died regretted and loved by his Vaudois subjects, who did not forget that he had incurred all this contumely by his indulgence towards them; that he had abhorred the bloodshed and racking tortures inflicted upon his states by the crusaders; and that, spite of the persuasion with which the crusaders had succeeded in inspiring him, that his religious duty as well as his temporal interest demanded these persecutions, he had always done his utmost to check the barbarous zeal of the executioners.
His administration had been gentle. Public liberty in the cities, commerce, manufactures, science, poetry—all had made rapid progress under his fostering care. But he was accused of feeling compassion for heretics. For this reason he was not only persecuted through life, but the spiteful vengeance of Rome followed him even for ages after death. His son could never obtain the honors of sepulture for his body. His coffin was deposited near the burial-ground of St. John of Toulouse, waiting the permission of the holy see for its interment. It was still there in the middle of the fourteenth century; but as it was only of wood, and as no one took care for its preservation, it was broken, and his bones were dispersed in the sixteenth century. The skull alone of the hapless count was long preserved in the chateau of the Hospitallers of St. John of Toulouse, to which order Raymond VI had once belonged.
In the year following the death of the count of Toulouse, 1223, Philip Augustus breathed his last. One of the ablest kings since the weighty scepter of Charlemagne swayed Europe, he aspired to consolidate an empire as vast as that of his great predecessor. He did indeed add materially to the grandeur of medieval France, leaving to his successor an enlarged kingdom whose resources were carefully husbanded.
The ferocious bishop Fouquét, who was at Rheims on the accession of Louis VIII, better known in history as Saint Louis, eagerly seized that opportunity to enlist the superstitious young king in a new crusade against the Vaudois. Louis listened approvingly to the seductive eloquence of the renegade troubadour, ordered the sacred war to be preached throughout France, persuaded Honorius III to kindle the zeal of Europe at large, and then, arming with avidity, swept like a vulture to the banquet of blood.
Then the cruelties of De Montfort’s régime were reenacted. The crusaders had returned with seven other devils worse than the first. Hell was once more in full chorus, while all good Romanists joined in the tune. Monks marched from city to city preaching ferocity, and then facilitating by perfidy the execution of their counsels. The fanatics pillaged towns and villages and castles; outraged women, and even little girls; and then forming in circles around the blazing stakes at which the Vaudois were burning, with an impious affectation of devotion, chanted in unison the hymn Veni Creator, while the wail of their tortured victims ascended to the pitying heavens.
No human calculation can ascertain with any precision the dissipation of wealth, or the wanton destruction of innocent life, which were the consequences of these crusades against a people whose only crime was that their lives bloomed with the beatitudes. Scarcely a peasant but reckoned some member of his family cut short in the flower of his days by fanatical violence; not one but had repeatedly seen his property ravaged and his household insulted by the crusaders. More than three quarters of the knights and landed proprietors of the proscribed territories had been despoiled of their fiefs.
Yet the sanguinary fury of fanaticism was not glutted. In 1229, the council of Toulouse established the Inquisition in Provence as a permanent institution. The military power was reinforced by the subtlety of the monks. A code of procedure, framed for the express purpose of entrapping overcautious heretics into unsafe admissions, was publicly circulated among the inquisitors.
The Vaudois supported their doctrines by the authority of the holy Scriptures—the most unlearned among them could repeat large portions of the Bible by heart. Therefore the first indication of heresy was considered to be the citation either of the epistles or of the gospels; the second was any exhortation against the vices of the day, or any assertion of the necessity of a change, of spirit in order to be saved; and the third was to show any compassion to the prisoners of the Inquisition.
The Council of Toulouse decided that the reading of the sacred Scriptures should not be permitted. “We prohibit,” says the fourth canon of that memorable council, “the laity from having the books of the Old and New Testaments, unless it be, at the most, that any one wishes to have, from devotion, a Psalter, a breviary, or the hours of the blessed Mary; but we forbid them, even then, to have these translated into the vulgar tongue.”
Another article read thus: “We command that whosoever shall be accused of the Vaudois heresy, or be noted with suspicion, shall be deprived in sickness of the assistance of a physician. Likewise, when a sick person shall have received the holy communion of his priest, it is our will that he be watched with the greatest care to the day of death or convalescence, that no heretic, nor any one suspected of heresy, may have access to such a one.
A little later, when executions became less frequent because it was more difficult to procure Vaudois for their autos da fé, it was decreed, that the scent of the human hounds might be rendered keener by a bribe, that the confiscated property of a heretic should be shared between the spy who denounced and the judge who condemned him.
The philosophy of Rome in these measures is evident. The reform had arisen from the first advancement in literature, and from the application of judicious reason to religious instruction. By thickening the darkness, by striking the developing mind and conscience of Christendom with a blight, this fermentation could be arrested, and mankind would bow once more in blind submission to their hereditary belief. “I can never admit,” wrote Pasquier to the Dominican president, Brulart, “that the material arms of De Montfort would have overcome the Vaudois without the holy exhortations and the inquisitorial compulsions of St. Dominic and St. Francis.”
The Vaudois met their fate with the meek heroism of the earliest Christians. Very few renounced their faith. Blood never ceased to flow, nor the flames to devour their victims in these provinces, now completely abandoned to the dark fanaticism of the inquisitors. Tranquility was never restored, persecution was never suspended, even by the death of its victims. The Provencals lived in a protracted agony.
Still the war raged. The French king had another motive besides the extirpation of heresy for its prosecution. The struggle had a political phase. The French court desired to round the empire into symmetrical form by adding to it these provinces, which bathed their feet in the blue waters of the Mediterranean. As this object was not definitively accomplished until the year 1243, the “sacred war” continued to devastate those fields which should have been covered by the richest harvests of the south, those cities which had been animated by commerce, industry, and intelligence, and to butcher that noble population whose devotion to their faith is the grandest legacy which the history of that time has bequeathed to posterity.
Beneath the accumulated tortures to which they were subjected the Vaudois melted slowly away. Their opinions ceased to influence society. The Provencal faith was no longer molded on the primitive apostolic model. By the middle of the thirteenth century the Vaudois had apparently disappeared. Terror was still extreme, suspicion universal. Though the teaching of the proscribed doctrine had seemingly ceased, yet the sight of a book caused a shudder, and ignorance was a salutary guarantee of safety.
The Vaudois died as grandly as they lived. No refinement of torture could rack from their suffering lips a disavowal of their belief. Often they scorned to stoop even to concealment. Entering voluntarily the lurid fires of the Inquisition, they showed how martyrs could die for “Christ and liberty.” Gaining strength from the devotional rapture of St. Paul, they earned a right to repeat with him,
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39
The crime against the Vaudois was not the separate wickedness of a single nation. It was a mosaic of infamy, the legitimate, inevitable offspring of an ecclesiasticism which had employed every art to pervert the understanding and to corrupt the heart.
The Italian, Innocent III, first gave the signal for this outrage upon human nature; and he also bestowed the recompense. He continually sharpened the swords of the murderers, blunted in slaughter. When the fanaticism of Europe drooped, weary in its madness, he aroused it once more to raving fury by his clamorous appeals.
The two Spaniards, the bishop of Ozma and St. Dominic, the founders of the Inquisition, first taught the perfidious art of seeking out in the villages those whom the priests were afterwards to tie to their stakes. The Germans, invited by their monks, flocked from the extremities of Austria to glut their faith in massacre. And the English Matthew Paris renders zealous testimony to the activity of his countrymen in the same abandoned cause, and to their triumphant joy at the miracle—for so he called the treachery of Beziers—which had avenged the Lord.
But the crime from which individual nationalities are to be absolved, is to be laid upon the conscience of Europe at large, and especially upon the pernicious counsels of the Roman church, which incited it, and juggled mankind into believing that the elect could be saved by a baptism of innocent and Christian blood.
Thus the reformation, of which the church had so much need, the light which was to illuminate the mind, to restore to morals their purity, to reason its empire, and to religion its pristine flavor and omnipotence, was repelled for three whole centuries, and even much longer with regard to those Italian and Spanish provinces which spoke the Romanesque languages.
The Vaudois taught too soon. Spreading their pure instructions through all the countries of the western empire in the superstitious infancy of Europe; called to combat with an established and arrogant ecclesiasticism—while the intellect of the Slavonic, the Latin, the Anglo-Saxon, and the Germanic nations was not yet sufficiently awake to perceive the light, but saw men as trees walking—they had no fulcrum upon which to rest their lever. Their truth was throttled by the mailed hand of Rome.
As in the impious days of the crucifixion, “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour,” so now, when Christ was crucified again in the person of his gospel, an awful darkness intervened. A frightful interregnum yawned through three hundred years.
The Vatican smiled happily. It flattered itself that it had for ever fettered the human mind, that it had for ever choked the wail of outraged conscience, that it had for ever crushed the insurrection of the soul. The Vatican was mistaken. The interregnum meant postponement, not conquest. For two hundred years the fires had been kindled, yet still at intervals Romanists abandoned the faith of their fathers to embrace that which must lead them to the flames. In vain did the Inquisition essay to compel the unfetterable mind to submission, and to establish an invariable rule of faith. It saw in the midst of the darkness which it had created some luminous points loom up on the horizon. It saw those sparks which it thought that it had for ever quenched, but scattered by its folly, to light the universe once more. It had no sooner conquered, than it was obliged to renew the combat.
The Vaudois were not exterminated, they were only dispersed. Proscribed, far from their country, now no more theirs, alas, they wandered from the shores of the Mediterranean to the borders of the frozen sea, from the Carpathian mountains to the Orkney islands. Many also found their way into those obscure Piedmontese valleys which had been the cradle of their reform.
Finding an asylum in the cottages of the peasants or poor artisans, whose labors they shared in profound secrecy, they taught their hosts to read the gospel in common, to pray in their native tongue without the ministry of priests, while they themselves continued to praise God and to submit gratefully to the chastisements which his hand had inflicted as the means of their sanctification.
The sufferings which they had endured for their sake made them cherish their tenets with the most reverential awe, and hand them down from generation to generation unaltered, uncorrupted, embalmed in the traditions of the Languedocian massacre. Unable under the jealous eye of Rome to enjoy the eternal consolations of religion, they were shut up still more to internal communion. They ceased to care for the visible world. They placed their hands in God’s, and sobbed their griefs away upon His heart who is the great Consoler. They believed that heaven was the substantial world, that its joys were the real joys, even for the body and the sense, and that there was no delight except as it flowed from God into heaven, and as it descended from heaven into time.
Though robed in rags, they esteemed themselves clothed more richly than the earth is when she makes herself gay with flowers for her summer bridegroom; more richly than the firmament is when it wraps round itself the jeweled mantle of the stars, puts constellations beneath its feet and sunlight galaxies upon its head. For the joy of God is woven into garments more splendid than those which wrap the flaming spheres.
The truths of salvation which Christ had taught, which he had embalmed for ever by his sacred sufferings, by the bloody sweat, and by the death on Calvary, were to them august beyond all pictured magnificence, radiant beyond all starry and all solar splendors, sweeter than the embodied essences of all odors which the spring pours in her jeweled cup before God, more musical than the harmonies that swell in grand cathedrals, that echo from lilt and vale in summer woods, that come borne in soft sweetness in the happy talk of lovers, in the song of storied saints, in voices of rapture pulsing by moonlight over time’s dim sea. Before the supernal vision of God’s judgment they could only kneel in speechless adoration; if they tried to sing, the hymn wailed out but brokenly through the imperfect human instrument.
After their dispersion, the Vaudois seemed to vanish from the sullen history of the time. Seeking safety in obscurity, they no longer, to the superficial observer, appeared to impress their creed upon the human mind. Yet a deeper view discloses that they were the scatterers of God’s seed in the furrows of these centuries, that they carried the unflickering taper of the gospel from which the later reformers were enabled to light their torches. They were the bridge which spanned the black abyss which yawned between the overthrow of the Vaudois church in Languedoc and the birth of Luther.
Though it is not clear that any of the Provencal Christians established themselves in England, it can hardly be doubted that Wickliffe acquired his first evangelical conceptions from their preachers. Wickliffe was a profound politician before he became a luminous teacher of divinity. A favorite at the court of St. James, he was dispatched in early life by Edward III on several diplomatic missions to the popes at Rome and Avignon. Traveling therefore through the south of France at a time when the Vaudois were hunted and burned with patient vindictiveness, his acute and inquiring mind could not but occupy itself with investigating the grounds of their dissent. A little later, Wickliffe held and publicly taught precisely the same tenets which he had seen men roasted alive for holding in Provence.
It may therefore be legitimately concluded that the Vaudois convinced the great Englishman that the church of Rome itself was wallowing in heresy.
Many of the Vaudois took refuge in Germany and in Bohemia, where Peter Waldo, their most celebrated teacher, had found an asylum when driven by priestly spite from his native Lyons, from Dauphiny, from Picardy, from Saxony; and where he had died surrounded by the Bohemian mountaineers, the ancestors of Huss and Jerome. Thus it was that God inoculated Bohemia with the truths of primitive Christianity. When Wickliffe’s writings became known, the Bohemian Vaudois rallied, and resumed existence as an independent evangelical church.
An interesting historical episode proves that there were still some Vaudois remaining in Southern France in the middle of the fifteenth century. It is recorded that the Vaudois of the towns of Cabriéres and Merindole, upon being menaced by the inquisitors—always busy, always ubiquitous through these sad years—dispatched deputies to Louis XII to plead their cause before that able and just king. Although the priests strove to prevent it, they secured an audience. The Vaudois ambassadors declared that they received and taught the plenary inspiration of the holy Scriptures, the apostles’ creed, the decalogue, and the Christian sacraments; but that they did not acknowledge the authority of the pope, nor adopt the antichristian dogmas of the Romish Babylon. Louis, surprised at the intelligence, moderation, and Christian appearance of the deputies, sent an envoy to inquire on the spot if their assertions were indeed correct. The commissioner, on his return, reported “that in those parts baptism was administered; that the articles of faith and the ten commandments were taught; that the Sabbath was solemnly observed; that the word of God was intelligently expounded, while portions of it were familiar to the most unlettered rustics; and that as to the fornications and poisonings of which they were accused, no instance of either could be found.” “Wonderful!” ejaculated Louis, “these people are much better Christians than myself and all the rest of my orthodox subjects; let them remain undisturbed.” And this fiat of the king was respected scrupulously throughout his life.
For some generations the Piedmontese Vaudois, although known to exist, were suffered to remain in despised security. But this may have been owing to the fact that the latter part of the thirteenth century and the commencement of the fourteenth were occupied with the fierce struggles between the rival factions in Italy of the Guelphs and Ghibelines. It is also possible that the preaching of another crusade in the East, Europe’s last mighty effort to wring the Holy Sepulchre from the Saracen, left their persecution to abate.
But the Vaudois barely sufficed to keep aglow the sinking embers of the gospel in these dismal ages. Huss with his Bohemians, Wickliffe with his Lollards, were in too fearful a minority to inaugurate any thing but feeble local reforms, trodden down, with those who launched them, as soon as the Roman sentinels descried them from the Vatican. They were powerless to reshape the character of their epoch; their opinions did not mold society at large They could only wait and suffer and pray, floating down the centuries faith personified.
As proverbially it is darkest just before the morning smiles, so now the gloom wrapped the universe, thick, impenetrable, ominous. Then came those days never to be remembered without a blush, the age of dwarfish virtues and gigantic vices; the epoch of unreasoning superstition and unbridled wrong; the paradise of bigots. Swarms of licentious priests swept through Europe, sparing neither man in their wrath nor woman in their lust. The misshapen carcass of nominal Christianity lay huge and drunken across Christendom. Grown lazy with wicked prosperity, Rome was almost too indolent to persecute.
Decked out in her gaudy rags, gay with silk and velvet and satin, the gilded and painted strumpet of the papacy thought only of fêtes, of feasts, of dances, of pantomimes; the very services of the altar were turned into a carouse. The church traded, like a Jewish huckster, in the relics of saints, and bartered her usurped rights for gold with which to fill her coffers,emptied in debauchery. Pontiffs, like Alexander VI, bloated with wine, with murder, with adultery, with incest, sat as God, in the temple of God, with horrible profanity cursing the saints, and bestowing the apostolic benediction upon sinners with drunken gravity. Indecent orgies were daily held in the Vatican, which were openly attended by the pontifical mistresses. Europe was surrendered to the domination of demons, while pandemonium held wild jubilee.
“Thus all did turn degenerate, all depraved, Justice and temperance, truth and faith forgot.”
But God had long been preparing the way to a glorious reformation by a baptism of suffering. This reformation was to be the result of two distinct forces, the revival of learning and the resurrection of the gospel. The latter was the great motor power, but the former was necessary as a means. The ignorance of Europe had enabled Rome to stifle the cry of the Vaudois preachers. There was no public opinion to which they could appeal. There existed but two classes in society, lawless despots and breadless serfs.
The invention of printing insured the triumph of nascent Protestantism. By emancipating Europe from the thraldom of ignorance, it secured its deliverance from the harder slavery of Roman ecclesiasticism. Faust, under God, dug Christendom out of medieval Jesuitism. Henceforth truth could not be throttled. Its voice animated ten thousand never-weary witnesses. It spoke trumpet-toned and everlasting through the press.
Then came Luther. He set before mankind…
“The paths of righteousness, how much more safe And full of peace, denouncing wrath to come On their impenitence.”
Thus Vaudoisism and learning, the study of the classics, of Greek, of Hebrew, the dawn of an eager and discriminating intelligence through the cultivation of letters, were the two laboratories of reform. A few earnest souls had discovered the light in lowly valleys; mankind were soon to discern it upon the lofty mountain tops.
END OF SECTION I