ALBIGENSES, a sect opposed to the Church of Rome, which derives its name from Albiga (the modern noticed above), either because its doctrines were expressly condemned at a council held there, or, more probably, because its adherents were to be found in great numbers in that town and its neighbourhood. The Albigenses were kindred in origin and more or less similar in doctrine to the sects known in Italy as Paterins, in Germany as Catharists, and in France as Bulgarians, but they are not to be entirely identified with any of these. Still less ought they to be confounded, as has frequently been the ease, with the Waldenses, who first appear at a later period in history, and are materially different in their doctrinal views. The descent of the Albigenses may be traced with tolerable distinctness from the Paulicians, a sect that sprang into existence in the Eastern Church during the 6th century. (See PauLiciAxs.) The Paulicians were Gnostics, and were accused by their enemies and persecutors of holding l'Slanichan doctrines, which, it is said, they vehemently disowned. Their creed, whatever it was precisely, spread gradually westward through Europe. In the 9th century it found many adherents in Bulgaria, and 300 years later it was maintained and defended, though not without important modifications, by the Albigenses in the south of France. The attempt to discover the precise doctrinal opinions held by the Albigenses is attended with a double difficulty. No formal creed or definite doctrinal statement framed by themselves exists, and in default of this it is impossible to depend on the representations of their views given by their opponents in the Church of Rome, who did not scruple to exaggerate and distort the opinions held by those whom they had branded as heretics. It is probably impossible now to determine accurately what is true and what is false in these representations. It seems almost certain, however, that the bond which united the Albigenses was not so much a positive fully-developed religious faith as a determined opposition to the Church of Rome. They inherited indeed, as has been already said, certain doctrines of eastern origin, such as the Manichxan dualism, docetism in relation to the person of Christ, and a theory of metempsychosis. They seem, like the Manichees, to have disowned the authority of the Old Testament; and the division of their adherents into perfecti and credences is similar to the Manichman distinction between electi and auditores. The statement that they rejected marriage, often made by Roman Catholics, has probably no other foundation in fact than that they denied that marriage was a sacrament; and many other statements as to their doctrine and practice must be received at least with suspicion as coming from prejudiced and implacable opponents. The history of the Albigenses may be said to be written in blood. At first the church was content to condemn their errors at various councils (1165, 1176, 1178, 1179), but as their practical opposition to Rome became stronger, more decided measures were taken. Innocent III. had scarcely ascended the papal throne when he sent legates to Toulouse (1198) to endeavour to suppress the sect. Two Cistercians, Guy and Regnier, were first commissioned, and in 1199 they were joined by Peter of Castelnau and others, who were known throughout the district as inquisitors. Raymond VI., count of Toulouse, took the part of his Albigensian subjects, though not himself belonging to the sect, and for this he was excommunicated in 1207. A year later the pope found a pretext for resorting to the most extreme measures in the assassination of his legate Peter of Castelnau, Jan. 15, 1208. A crusade against the Albigenses was at once ordered, and Raymond, who had meanwhile submitted and done penance, was forced to take the field against his own subjects. The bloody war of extermination which followed has scarcely a parallel in history. As town after town was taken, the inhabitants were put to the sword without distinction of age or sex, and the numerous ecclesiastics who were in the army especially distinguished themselves by a bloodthirsty ferocity. At the taking of Beziers (July 22, 1209), the Abbot Arnold, being asked how the heretics were to be distinguished from the faithful, made the infamous reply, " Slay all; God will know his own." The war was carried on under the command of Simon de Montfort with undiminished cruelty for a number of years. Raymond's nephew, Viscount Raymond Roger, who had espoused the cause of the Albigenses, was taken prisoner at Carcassone, and the sect became fewer in numbers year by year. The establishment of an Inquisition at Languedoc in 1229 accelerated the exterminating process, and a few years later the sect was all but extinct.
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