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Languedoc (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2004-12-22 by ivan sache
Keywords: languedoc | albigensian crusade | cathar | cross: toulouse | cross: clechee | toulouse | velay | vivarais | fleur-de-lys (yellow) | shield (blue) |
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[Languedoc]by Pierre Gay

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Origin of the name of Languedoc

Languedoc literally means 'language of oc'. The oc languages are traditionally opposed to the oil languages, oc and oil being the ancient forms of oui (yes).
The Romance languages which were spoken in the south of France are collectively called langues d'oc or occitan, as opposed to the langues d'oil, which were spoken in the north of France. Among those languages, Francian, spoken in Ile-de-France, is the source of modern French. The linguistical border between oc and oil starts near Bordeaux, then moves to the north of Limousin and Auvergne, and eventually goes south-eastwards and reach the Italian border near Briançon.

The Occitan languages are divided into three main groups:

  • the north-Occitan group, including Limousin, Auvergnat, and Alpine Provençal;
  • the median-Occitan group, including Languedocian and Provençal sensu stricto;
  • the Gascon, spoken west of the river Garonne.

The Occitan languages were resurrected in the XIXth century by the Félibre, a cultural movement founded in 1854 by seven young Provençal poets, the most famous of them being Joseph Roumanille (1818-1891), Théodore Aubanel (1829-1886) and Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1904). The most famous modern Occitan writer is the poet Max Rouquette (born in 1908), often nominated for the Nobel Prize.

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

Geography of Languedoc

What geographs call Languedoc should be more properly called Languedoc méditerranéen. This area is the coastal stripe of land bordered by the mountain ranges of Cévennes and Corbières. It matches more or less the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon, excluding the departments of Pyrénées-Orientales (Roussillon) and Lozère (Gévaudan), the west of the departments of Aude and Hérault and the north of the department of Gard.

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

History of Languedoc

The historical Languedoc was much larger than the geographical one. It was limited by the rivers Garonne (west) and Rhône (east), and the mountain range of Massif Central (north). Languedoc was formed by the possessions of the Counts of Toulouse, which was the capital city of Languedoc.

The early ages

In 122 BP, the Roman general Domitius Ahenobarbus repelled the Arverns to the Massif Central and subjected the Volsques, and created in the conquered territory the Provincia Transalpina. In 118, Colonia Narbo Martius (now Narbonne) was the first Roman colony established out of Italy. In 27 BP, the provinces were reorganized and Narbo became the capital city of the Provincia Narbonensis, the richest province in Gaul. The province was divided in pagi (later counties), including civitae (administrative cities), vici (rural centers), and villae (estates). This system was progressively applied to the rest of Gaul and is the orgin of our pays, cités, villes and villages.

In 507, Clovis, king of the Francs, defeated the Wisigoths in Vouilé, near Poitiers, and repelled them to the Septimania, an area bordered by the river Rhône (east) and the Pyrénées mountains (west) and named after the seven (sept) cities of Carcassonne, Narbonne, Béziers, Agde, Nîmes, Maguelonne and Elne. The Sarracens seized several of these cities but Pépin le Bref eventually expelled them from Narbonne and incorporated Septimania to the Frank kingdom in 759. Septimania matched more or less the geographical Languedoc.

The county of Toulouse

The first known count of Toulouse, Fédelon (849-852), was appointed by king of Francia occidentalis Charles le Chauve. His successors progressively increased their domain: Raimond III (923-c. 950) incorporated the geographical Languedoc, and Raimond IV (1093-1105) incorporated areas located in the south of Massif Central (Rouergue, Gévaudan and pays d'Uzès). The county of Toulouse was then a powerful feudal state in which a brilliant civilisation developed around the troubadours. The counts of Toulouse were in permanent competition with their powerful neighbours, the duke of Aquitaine and later the king of England, and the count of Barcelona, and had to cope with their disobedient vassals.

The Albigensian Crusade

The golden age of the county of Toulouse ended with the Albigensian Crusade. A good source on the Crusade is the book La Chanson de la Croisade albigeoise, edited by the medievist Michel Zink (Les Belles Lettres, 1989). The Chanson was written in the beginning of the XIIIth century, therefore nearly 'live', by the poet Guillaume de Tudèle, who supported the crusaders, and was later completed by an anonymous poet who supported the Albigensians. The Occitan text has been adapted in modern French by the occitanist and poet Henri Gougaud in a very vivid way. What follows is based on the introduction to the Chanson written by Michel Zink and Georges Duby.

The main cause of the Albigensian Crusade was the introduction of the Cathar religion in Western Europe in the XIIth century. Catharism came from Bulgaria - the Cathars were called bougres, and the word bougre is still used in French to colloquially design someone, often with a positive connotation, un bon bougre - and was particularly well considered by the nobles in the county of Toulouse.
Catharism was a dualist, manicheist religion, which believed into two equal principles, Good and Evil. The Cathars condemned the matter and the flesh as the domain of Evil, and therefore rejected the Christian resurrection. Moreover, the Cathars denounced the wealth and the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church (in Ancient Greek, catharos means pure). They recognized only one sacrament, the consolamentum, received by the parfaits or bonshommes - another word still used in modern French for fellows or chaps. The parfaits had a very ascetic life, whereas the normal believers received the consolamentum only when they were about to die. The Cathars rejected baptism, marriage and the eucharisty.
The Cathars had four bishops in Albi (therefore the name of the Crusade), Carcassonne, Toulouse and Agen. A good rendition of the Cathar religion is given in Montaillou, un village occitan, by the historian E. Le Roy-Ladurie, a semi-novel based on detailed historical research in the archives of the Inquisition.

The popularity of the Cathars scared pope Innocent III (1198-1216), who called for a Crusade in January 1208. Count of Toulouse Raimond VI (1194-1222) was excommunicated and forced to make amends to legate Pierre de Castelnau. On 14 January 1209, Castelnau was murdered on the bridge over the river Rhône, near Saint-Gilles-du-Gard. Raimond was accusated to have been behind the murder and crusaders from France, the Anglo-Normand kingdom and the German Empire, gathered in the Rhône valley. Raimond joined the crusade to prove his innocence.
In July 1209, the Crusaders, led by legate Arnaud Amauri, abbot of Cîteaux, besieged Béziers, which belonged to Raimond Roger Trencavel, viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne, and Raimond VI's nephew. The city was jointly defended by Cathars and Roman Catholics who had refused to leave. Béziers was seized on 22 July 1209 and all its inhabitants, including women and children, were slaughtered. This was the first case of Christians slaughtering other Christians in the history. The motto Tuez les tous, Dieu reconnaîtra les siens (Kill them all, God shall sort them) has remained associated with this event. Trencavel fled to Carcassonne, which was besieged and seized by the crusaders. The viscount was captured by treachery and jailed in his castle, where he died on 10 November 1206, most probably poisoned.
Legate Amauri appointed himself bishop of Narbonne and appointed Simon de Montfort, already count of Leicester, viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne. The crusaders carried on the conquest and slaughtered the Cathars. In Minerve (June 1210), 150 parfaits were burned at the stake. In 1211, the castle of Lavaur was seized and lady Giraude was thrown into a well and stoned, whereas her brother and 80 knights were hanged.

In 1211, Raimond VI, once again excommunicated, felt the heat and called for help his brother-in-law, king of Aragon Pedro II. The powerful Aragonese army was defeated by the crusaders in Muret in September 1211 and the king was killed during the battle. However, Montfort did not seize Toulouse.
In 1215, the fourth Council of Latran sentenced Raimond VI to exile and granted Montfort the duchy of Narbonne and the county of Toulouse. Raimond VI's son, Raimond VII, was granted the rest of his father's domain. which he would receive when reaching his majority.

In 1216, both Raimonds landed in Marseilles and attempted to reconquer their county. They seized Beaucaire, an important border city located on the river Rhône. Montfort could not took back Beaucaire and besieged Toulouse. However, Raimond VI was able to enter Toulouse in spite of the siege and galvanized its defenders into action. On 25 June 1218, Montfort was killed by a big stone thrown by a machine served by the ladies of Toulouse and the siege was abandoned. At the end of the year, the son of the king of France, later king Louis VIII, led a punitive expedition against the city of Marmande and slaughtered all its inhabitants. Next year, he besieged again Toulouse, to no avail. Raimond VI died in 1222 and was succeded by Raimond VII.

In 1229, during Blanche de Castilie's regency, the conference of Meaux and the treaty of Paris confirmed Raimond's rights but forced him to recognize the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and the king of France.

The treaty of Paris created the University of Toulouse in order to reestablish the Christian religion in Languedoc and to help the Inquisition, in the hands of the Dominicans. However, there was a last burst of Catharism between 1230 and 1240. In 1242, a group of Inquisitors was murdered in Avignonet by Cathars from the castle of Montségur. In spring 1243, Montségur was besieged and the siege ended on 16 March 1244, when 215 Cathars prefered to be burned at the stake than recant. Quéribus, the last Cathar castle, was seized in 1255, which ended the Crusade.

The incorporation to France

In 1237 Alphonse de Poitiers, St. Louis' brother, married Jeanne, Raimond VII's daughter. They died in 1271 without a heir, and the county of Toulouse was eventually incorporated to the royal domain. The Italian writer Dante Alighieri called Languedoc 'the great Provençal dowry'. In 1258, the treaty of Corbeil had already given to the king of France the geographical Languedoc, whose ports were necessary to St. Louis to prepare his crusades to Holy Land. Languedoc was then one of the largest and richest province of the kingdom.

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

Description of the flag of Languedoc

The banner of arms of Languedoc is:

De gueules à la croix cléchée et pommetée de douze pièces d'or (GASO)

In English:

Gules a cross of Toulouse or (Brian Timms)

This banner was the banner of the counts of Toulouse, and is still used as the municipal flag of Toulouse. Hypotheses on the origin of the cross of Toulouse are presented on that page.

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

Pays of Velay

The pays of Velay was named after the Gaul tribe of Vellaves, whose capital city was Revessco, now Saint-Paulien, a small city of c. 1,000 inhabitants. Velay was part of Auvergne, then incorporated to the County of Toulouse. King of France Louis VIII le Lion (1223-1226) incorporated it to the kingdom of France, and Velay was part of Languedoc. However, Velay was allowed to keep its States (Etats).

Ivan Sache, 6 January 2004

Velay has for coat of arms a red field bordered in white with two hands: one with a yellow bishop's crozier and the other with a white sword.

Velay corresponds to a part of the department of Haute-Loire. The coat of arms of Velay was proposed as coat of arms of the department.

Jaume Ollé & Pascal Vagnat, 4 January 1999

Pays of Vivarais

[Vivarais]by Jaume Ollé

The pays of Vivarais has for coat of arms a blue field with fleur-de-lys and a yellow border including eight plain blue small shields.

Vivarais corresponds to a large part to the department of Ardèche. The coat of arms of Vivarais has been proposed as coat of arms of the department and it seems that it has been adopted. A sticker with this coat of arm exists and might be seen some rare times on cars.

Jaume Ollé & Pascal Vagnat, 4 January 1999