The city and county of Toulouse in southern France were home to Raymond IV of Saint-Gilles (1093-1105), one of the richest and most respected leaders of the First Crusade, yet only a century later Toulouse and its hinterland were the target of a crusade launched against the Cathar sect.
The city of Toulouse, located on a sharp bend of the river Garonne, grew exceedingly rich in the eleventh century as a port and crossing point for regional trade. Its wealth also came from pilgrims from northern France and elsewhere, who rested in the city before continuing their journeys to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Links between Toulouse and Spain were strengthened by the involvement of the Cluniac monks of Saint-Sernin in the wars against the Moorish kingdoms of Spain. Count Raymond IV participated in such campaigns. Pope Urban II visited Toulouse during his tour of southern and central France in the fall of 1095, and he consecrated the rebuilt abbey church of Saint-Sernin, which included a relic of St. James. Raymond probably met with Urban at that time and committed his support to Urban’s expedition to the Holy Land, weeks before the Council of Clermont. The First (1096-1099) and Second (1147-1149) crusades furthered the reputations of Count Raymond IV and Count Alphonse-Jordan (1112-1148) as devout milites Christi (“knights of Christ”) and conquerors of the county of Tripoli in Outremer. Their protracted absences encouraged the people of Toulouse to establish an elected consulate (Fr. consulat) to govern the courts and markets of the growing city, and the autonomy of the consulate became a significant marker of Toulousan identity after the middle of the twelfth century.
The fame linking Toulouse and the crusades suffered a reversal at the end of the twelfth century, however. The growth of the sect of the Cathars in the region was blamed on the tolerance shown by Count Raymond VI (1195-1222). After the murder of the papal legate Peter of Castelnau in the region in January 1209, a crusade was called against Raymond and the Cathars he purportedly protected. Many Toulousans initially supported the crusade, because they too envisioned Catharism as a threat to religious and social order. Yet once the crusaders came to be perceived as being more interested in conquering wealthy towns than in destroying heresy, Toulouse became the center of resistance, a shift evident in the Occitan Chanson de la Croisade albigeoise begun by William of Tudela. The leader of the crusade, Simon of Montfort, was killed outside its walls in 1218, but the crusade dragged on until the Treaty of Paris was drawn up between Count Raymond VII (1222-1249) and King Louis IX of France in 1229. The treaty required Raymond’s daughter Jeanne to marry Louis’s brother Alphonse, which brought Toulouse within the influence of the Capetian dynasty.