Albigenses the name of one or more religious sects to whom this title seems to have been first given in the twelfth century in the south of France, distinguished by their zealous opposition to the Church of Rome, as also by the peculiar doctrines for which they contended. Some writers (e.g. Cave) suppose them to be the same as the Waldenses, as the two sects are generally associated and condemned together by the Romanist writers. But it is certain that the Waldenses originated at a later period and held a purer faith, though it is not at all impossible that in the terrible persecutions to which the Albigenses were subjected many Waldenses were included. In the creed of the Waldenses "we find no vestiges of Dualism, nor any thing which indicates the least affinity with Oriental theories of emanation." That the Albigenses were identical with the Waldenses has been maintained by two very different schools of theologians for precisely opposite interests: by the Romanists, to make the Waldenses responsible for the errors of the Albigenses, and by a number of respectable Protestant writers (e.g. Allix), to show that the Albigenses were entirely free from the errors charged against them by their Romish persecutors. "What these bodies held in common, and what made them equally the prey of the inquisitor, was their unwavering belief in the corruption of the mediaeval Church, especially as governed by the Roman pontiffs" (Hardwick, Middle Ages, p. 311).
By some writers their origin is traced to the Paulicians (q.v.) or Bogomiles (q.v.), who, having withdrawn from Bulgaria and Thrace, either to escape persecution or, more probably, from motives of zeal to extend their doctrines, settled in various parts of Europe. They acquired different names in different countries; as in Italy, whither they originally migrated, they were called Paterini and Cathari; and in France Albigenses, from the name of a diocese (Albi) in which they were dominant, or from the fact that their opinions were condemned in a council held at Albi in the year 1176. Besides these names, they were called in different times and places, and by various authors, Bulgarians, Publicans (a corruption of Paulicians), Boni Homines, Petro-Brussians, Henricians, Abelardists, and Arnaldists. In the twelfth century the Cathari were very numerous in Southern France. At the beginning of the thirteenth century a crusade was formed for the extirpation of heresy in Southern Europe, and Innocent III enjoined upon all princes to expel them from their dominions in 1209. The immediate pretense of the crusade was the murder of the papal legate and inquisitor, Peter of Castelnau, who had been commissioned to extirpate heresy in the dominions of Count Raymond VI of Toulouse; but its real object was to deprive the count of his lands, as he had become an object of hatred from his toleration of the heretics. It was in vain that he had submitted to the most humiliating penance and flagellation from the hands of the legate Milo, and had purchased the papal absolution by great sacrifices. The legates, Arnold, abbot of Citeaux, and Milo, who directed the expedition, took by storm Beziers, the capital of Raymond's nephew, Roger, and massacred 20,000 — some say 40,000 — of the inhabitants, Catholics as well as heretics. "Kill them all," said Arnold; "God will know his own!" (For a full and graphic account of this crusade, see Milman, Latin Christianity, 4, 210 sq.) Simon, count of Montfort, who conducted the war under the legates, proceeded in the same relentless way with other places in the territories of Raymond and his allies. Of these, Roger of Beziers died in prison, and Peter I of Aragon fell in battle. The conquered lands were given as a reward to Simon of Montfort, who never came into quiet possession of the gift. At the siege of Toulouse, 1218, he was killed by a stone, and counts Raymond VI and VII disputed the possession of their territories with his son. But the papal indulgences drew fresh crusaders from every province of France to continue the war. Raymond VII continued to struggle bravely against the legates and Louis VIII of France, to whom Montfort had ceded his pretensions, and who fell in the war in 1226. After hundreds of thousands had perished on both sides, a peace was concluded in 1229, at which Raymond purchased relief from the ban of the Church by immense sums of money, gave up Narbonne and several lordships to Louis IX, and had to make his son-in-law, the brother of Louis, heir of his other possessions. These provinces, hitherto independent, were thus for the first time joined to the kingdom of France; and the pope sanctioned the acquisition in order to bind Louis more firmly to the papal chair, and induce him more readily to admit the inquisition. The heretics were handed over to the proselytizing zeal of the order of Dominicans, and the bloody tribunals of the inquisition; and both used their utmost power to bring the recusant Albigenses to the stake, and also, by inflicting severe punishment on the penitent converts, to inspire dread of incurring the Church's displeasure. From the middle of the thirteenth century the name of the Albigenses gradually disappears.
So far as the Albigenses were a branch of the Cathari, they were Dualistic and, to a certain extent, Manichnean. For their doctrines and usages, SEE BOGOMILES; SEE CATHARI; SEE PAULICIANS. But as the name "Albigenses" does not seem to have been used until some time after the Albigensian crusade (Maitland, Facts and Documents, p. 96), it is likely, as has been remarked above, that many who held the simple truths of the Gospel, in opposition to the corruptions of Rome, were included in the title by the Romish authorities, from whom our knowledge of these sects must chiefly be derived. Indeed, the gross charges brought even against the Cathari rest upon the statements of their persecutors, and therefore are to be taken with allowance. In the reaction from the mistake of Allix and others, who claimed too much for the Albigenses, there is little doubt that Schmidt and others of recent times have gone too far in admitting the trustworthiness of all the accounts of Bonacorsi, Rainerius, and the other Romanist sources of information, both as to the Albigenses and the pure Cathari (Hase, Church History, § 228). With the exception of the charge of rejecting marriage, no allegation is made against their morals by the better class of Roman writers. Their constancy in suffering excited the wonder of their opponents. "Tell me, holy father," says Evervinus to St. Bernard, relating the martyrdom of three of these heretics, "how is this? They entered to the stake and bore the torment of the fire, not only with patience, but with joy and gladness. I wish your explanation, how these members of the devil could persist in their heresy with a courage and constancy scarcely to be found in the most religious of the faith of Christ?" Elliott, in his Horoe Apocalypticoe, vindicates the orthodoxy of the Albigenses, however, too absolutely. For arguments in their favor, see Allix, History of the Albigenses (Oxford, 1821, 8vo); Faber, Theology of the Vallenses and Albigenses (Lond. 1838); Baird, History of the Albigenses, Vaudois, etc. (N. Y. 1830, 8vo). On the other hand, C. Schmidt, Histoire et doctrine de la Secte des Cathares (Paris, 1849, 2 vols.); Hahn, Geschichte der Ketzer im Mittelalter, vol. 1 (Stuttgart, 1845); Maitland, Facts and Documents illustrative of the Ancient Albigenses and Waldenses (Lond. 1832, 8vo); Maitland, Dark Ages (Lond. 1844, 8vo). Compare Fauriel, Croisade contre les Albigeois (Paris, 1838); Petri, Hist. Albigensium (Trecis, 1615); Perrin, list. des Albigeois (Genev. 1678); Benoist, Hist. des Albigeois (Paris, 1691); Sismondi, Kreuzzuge gegen d. Albigenser (Leipz. 1829); Maillard, Hist. Doct. and Rites of the ancient Albigenses (Lond. 1812); Barran and Darrogan, Histoire des Croisades contre les Albigeois (Paris, 1840); Faber, Inquiry into the History and Theology of the ancient Vallenses and Albigenses (Lond. 1838); Chambers' Cyclopcedia; Princeton Rev. vols. 8, 9; North Amer. Rev. 70, 443; Neander, Ch. Hist. 4, 560 sq.; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. cent. 11, pt. 2, ch. 5; Gieseler, Ch. Hist. per. 3, § 86; Lond. Qu. Rev. April, 1855, Art. 1.