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Languedoc (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2016-11-13 by ivan sache
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Flag of Languedoc - Image by Pierre Gay, 24 April 2003

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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 that 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 Île-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 19th 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 (1908-2005).

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

Geography of Languedoc

What geographers call Languedoc should be more properly called Languedoc méditerranéen, the coastal stripe of land bordered by the mountain ranges of Cévennes and Corbières. It matches more or less Region 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, the capital of Languedoc.

The early ages

In 122 BP, the Roman general Domitius Ahenobarbus repelled the Arverni to the Massif Central, creating in the conquered territory the Provincia Transalpina. In 118, Colonia Narbo Martius (Narbonne) was the first Roman colony established out of Italy. In 27 BP, the provinces were reorganized and Narbo became the capital of the Provincia Narbonensis, the richest province in Gaul.

In 507, Clovis, King of the Francs, defeated the Visigoths in Vouilé, near Poitiers, and repelled them to Septimania, an area bordered by river Rhône (east) and the Pyrenees mountains (west), named after the seven (sept) towns of Carcassonne, Narbonne, Béziers, Agde, Nîmes, Maguelonne and Elne. The Sarracens seized several of these towns but Pippin the Short eventually expelled them from Narbonne and incorporated Septimania to the Frankish Kingdom in 759. Septimania matched more or less geographical Languedoc.

The County of Toulouse

The first known Count of Toulouse, Fédelon (849-852), was appointed by King of Francia occidentalis Charles the Bold. 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 a powerful feudal state in which a brilliant civilisation developed around the troubadours. The Counts of Toulouse were in permanent competition with their mighty 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 13th 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 12th 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 increasing 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 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 town 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 of 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 Dame 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 Peter 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 could not seize Toulouse.
In 1215, the fourth Council of Latran sentenced Raimond VI to exile and granted the Duchy of Narbonne and the County of Toulouse to Montfort. 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, the two Raimonds landed in Marseilles in an attempt to reconquer their county. They seized Beaucaire, an important border town located on the 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 town of Marmande and slaughtered all its inhabitants. The next year, he besieged again Toulouse, to no avail. Raimond VI died in 1222 and was succeeded by Raimond VII.

In 1229, during Blanche of Castile'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 of the King of France.
The Treaty of Paris created the University of Toulouse to reestablish the Christian religion in Languedoc and to support the Inquisition. The last burst of Catharism broke out 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 being 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, Alfonso of Poitiers, St. Louis' brother, married Joan, Raimond VII's daughter. When they died in 1271 without a heir, 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 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 provinces of the kingdom.

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

Flag of Languedoc

The flag of Languedoc is a banner of the arms De gueules à la croix cléchée et pommetée de douze pièces d'or (Gules a Cross of Toulouse or), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941), as "very certainly [...] one of the most ancient French coats of arms".

Originally the banner of the Counts of Toulouse, the flag is also used as the municipal flag of Toulouse.

Ivan Sache, 24 April 2003

Flag of "Languedoc" in the Book of All Kingdoms

[Languedoc flag in the

"Languedoc" flag shown in the "Book of All Kingdoms" - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 8 January 2010

The "Book of All Kingdoms" [f0fXX], of 1350, tells the voyages of an anonymous Castilian friar and is illustrated with 113 flag images, referred to (though seldom described) in the text.
The 2005 Spanish illustrated transcription of the "Book" [f0f05] shows for "Tolosa, Condado de Burdeo e Limogines, Caorz e Armeñaque e Piteos" a red flag with a yellow cross; the flag is shown in the ogival default shape of this source.
The anonymous author of the "Book" describes the flag thusly: El señor d'esta Tolosas á por señales un pendón bermejo con una cruz de oro puntada atal (The Lord of Toulouse has for device a red pendon with a golden pointed cross like this).

António Martins, 12 November 2007

The original caption says: "Toulouse / County of Bordeaux and Limoges, Cahors and Armagnac and Poitiers".
This territory matches more or less the feudal state ruled by Alfonso, Count of Poitou (1220-1271), the brother of King Louis IX (St. Louis). His proper domain included the County of Poitiers, Saintonge, Auvergne (excluding the town of Clermont), the County of Toulouse, Quercy (capital, Cahors), Rouergue and Agenais; he was also suzereign of Marche, Comminges and Armagnac.
Bordeaux, the capital of the Duchy of Guyenne, and Limoges, the capital of the Viscounty of Limousin, did not belong to Alfonso.
The Counties of Poitiers and Toulouse were incorporated to the Kingdom of France in 1271, following Alfonso's death.

Ivan Sache, 8 January 2010