Post-classical history

Chanson de la Croisade albigeoise

A chanson de geste (epic poem), in Occitan mixed with French forms, dealing with the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229).

The first part of the poem was composed by Guilhem (William) de Tudela between 1210 and 1213. From Tudela in Spanish Navarre, Guilhem was a member of the Occitan clergy. He explicitly imitated the form and music of the Canso d’Antioca, capitalizing on its prestige and clothing the invasion of Occitania with the legitimacy of the First Crusade (1096-1099). Not an active participant in events, he cites eyewitnesses, indicates the limits of his knowledge, and is factually reliable, apart from a few mistakes. He supports the persecution of heretics but is disturbed by what he sees as indiscriminate acts of repression and confiscation of lands. His measured style reflects a considered effort at objectivity.

The anonymous continuator of the poem, probably a lay cleric from Toulouse, is poetically much more exciting, while also being well informed about participants and events. Eschewing objectivity, virtually obliterating the issue of heresy, and condemning the French invasion as unjustified and treacherous, he sounds a passionate rallying cry to collective Occitan resistance under the banner of paratge, that is, a blend of values such as youth, generosity, and courtliness, with the right to one’s inherited patrimony. He probably wrote between July 1218 and June 1219 (mention of Guy deMontfort’s death in 1228 is probably an interpolation), breaking off at the moment when defenders on the walls of Toulouse await the arrival of the army of King Louis VII of France. While showing the pope in a sympathetic light, and the clergy at the Lateran Council divided on the issue of the rights of Simon of Montfort (leader of the crusade) and the young Count Raymond VII of Toulouse, he excoriates the duplicitous harshness of antagonistic clergy at Toulouse and delights in Simon’s death at the hands of a woman working a siege machine.

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