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Fanjeaux, the birthplace of a Catholic recapture

Fanjeaux, a Cathar stronghold and birthplace of the Dominican Order


Fanjeaux, cradle of the recovery

From the Seignadou, History looks down upon you!

The Seignadou is a spur close to the center of Fanjeaux from which you can see the whole Lauragais plain. On this spot, legend has it that Saint Dominique saw a ball of fire hovering over the hamlet of Prouilhe, showing him where to found his first monastery. But it is also in Fanjeaux that a large part of the Cathar History has been written.


From Spain to Fanjeaux

Dominic de Guzmán is born in Castile, Spain, in 1170. Quickly, he is captivated by Holy Scriptures that he studies and meditates. Then he applies them during a scarcity winter selling his books to feed people. He starts his religious life in an Augustinian community in which he decides to care for poor people.

Between 1203 and 1206, he travels for the first time in Occitania. Actually, the King of Castile has given him the mission to bring back the daughter of the King of Denmark, bride for the crown prince of Castile. Two trips are required for the task. Passing via Toulouse, he becomes aware of the importance of Catharism there. Finding accommodation in a Cathar house, he spends the night talking with his host, converting him to Catholicism. Saint Dominic understands then the power of education and speech to stop the heresy.

Cistercian monks send by the Pope have failed in their mission to evangelize Occitania. Dominic and his friend Diego de Acebo are entrusted with this new mission by Pope Innocent III in December 1206. They depart then, escorted by some Cistercian legates, just like at the beginning of Christendom: “by pair, on foot, without purse or bag”


Thus appeared a mendicant and missionary order

In june 1206, Diego and Dominic arrived in Carcassonne, then they climb back toward Montréal and Fanjeaux, passing by the ancient sanctuary of Notre-Dame of Prouilhe. There, they try to gather women, especially former Cathar and noble ladies and noble ladies.

In March 1207, took place in Montréal the so-called “Montréal Disputation”. In the same way as the later “Valladolid Debate”, the 1207 discussion is related to Catharism. Each contributor has to explain his position in public and to defend it. On both sides, referees transcribe the ideas and give a sentence. The Montréal Disputation is a watershed because no decision is taken and from then on, there is a change in the missionaries’ method: they stop wandering and divide up the territory to evangelize between themselves. Dominic takes up residence in Prouilhe but becomes vicar of Fanjeaux in 1214.

He stayed almost 10 years in Lauragais. Most of the time, he preaches alone, especially after the death of Diego in 1207. When the Albigensian Crusade starts in 1209, he refuses to convince heretics by any other way than speech.

Thereafter, he founded the Dominican Order. His name will forever stay connected with the so-called Cathar epic.


To see in Fanjeaux :

  • Saint Dominic’s Home in the “Borget Sant Doumenge”
  • The vista from the Seignadou over the Lauragais plain and the Prouilhe Monastry