Post-classical history

Peter of Castelnau (d. 1208)

Cistercian monk and papal legate whose murder led to the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229).

Peter came from Castelnau-le-Nez near Montpellier in Languedoc and was first a canon and then archdeacon of Maguelonne. Although trained in law, he entered the Cistercian monastery of Fontfroide in 1202. In 1203 and 1204 Pope Innocent III gave Peter and other Cistercian monks broad authority as papal legates to act against heretics and their supporters in southern France. The legates experienced little success.

In April 1207 Peter excommunicated Count Raymond VI of Toulouse for various reasons, including protecting heretics. Peter was murdered near Saint-Gilles on 14 or 15 January 1208. Although it was never established that Raymond was responsible, Peter’s death led Innocent to initiate a crusade against the heretics of southern France and their supporters.

Peter is revered as “blessed” in the Roman Catholic Church and his feast day is celebrated in several churches of southern France.

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