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Avignonet Lauragais, from the fall to thereconquest

Here speaks the stone

Dear visitor, when you see in the distance the imposing silhouette of the church of Avignonet, what will surprise you is the presence of stone, the first of its kind on the road that leads from Toulouse to Carcassonne. Because it was necessary to send a strong signal to mark the end of the Cathar epic, the Catholic reconquest, on these lands shaken by the wind of the Cathar protest.


Avignonet, to understand the fall of Montségur.

But let's go back to the beginning of the story to understand the Avignontin episode. In April 1233, Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition Courts. Mostly Dominican, the judges go from village to village to make the most recalcitrant abjure their Cathar faith. The procedure, based on Roman law, prevents the accused from being represented by a lawyer. Torture is not excluded to obtain abjuration. If confessions are made, and the refusal to recant obvious, then the sentences can go as far as burial or even death. While the inquisitors were carrying out their fateful tasks, the episode of Avignonet was noted by the historian of Catharism, Michel Roquebert, in his "Cathar Epic"; as one of the most important moments in the history of the Crusade against the Albigensians.

At the end of May 1242, inquisitors held court in Avignonet. The city is a bailiwick of Raimon d'Alfaro, guard of the Count of Toulouse Raimon VII, a fervent supporter of the Cathars. His Cathar connection was more for political reasons: to remove the pressure from the northern princes led by Simon de Montfort.

On May 28, sixty men, including 15 knights, came down from Montségur, a Cathar stronghold; during their journey, the troop increased. In the middle of the dark night, Raimon d'Alfaro waits for them at the castle gate while accomplices have opened the city gates. A squire leads them into the room where the inquisitors sleep. Taken by surprise, the court was destroyed, Guilhaume Arnaud, head of the inquisitors, terror of the Lauragais, had his tongue cut out, so much it symbolized the crimes of the prelates. The Count of Toulouse and the population of Languedoc think they can win their freedom. Tired, this episode made the crusade against the Cathars even more violent and Montsegur soon fell, after a long siege decided by both the Pope and the king. In the spring of 1244, the “ pog" of Montségur capitulated.



After this bloody episode, in retaliation, the Papacy decided to close the church.

The current church, built after this episode, was intended to be the symbol of the reconquest of the Catholic Church in Lauragais. An annual pilgrimage takes place there, which originated in the Cathar episode, as witnessed by a Papal Bull preserved in the sacristy.