Lesson from France – The Bloody Extermination of the Cathars at Béziers – “Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His!”

By Rosa Rubicondior | 23 July 2023
Rosa Rubicondior Blog

Burning the Cathars at Béziers. (Image credit: 17th century anonymous engraver / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

“Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His!”

Abbot Arnaud Amalric of Citeaux
Papal legate in charge of the Cathar genocide
Citing 2 Timothy 2:19

Another reminder of the brutal, blood-soaked history of Christianity is to be found in the history of the French town of Béziers on the banks of the River Orb, in the Languedoc region, southeast of Montpellier, on the edge of the Camargue.

It has been, in turn, along with much of the area south of Toulouse, under the control of Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moorish Moslems from Andalucia, Catholic Spain and latterly, Catholic France. Until recent times, the local language was a dialect of French, Occitan, which has close links with Catalan. This gave it a sense of a separate identity from that of France – something that concerned King Philip II, keen to exert the same control over the southern provinces as he had over the North.

Béziers is now a peaceful, quite little market town and cultural centre but it was not always so. It was, until 1209, a stronghold of the Cathars, a religious sect which rejected Roman Catholicism and the authority of the Pope, which was brutally suppressed in the ‘Albigensian Crusade’ on the orders of Pope Innocent III in alliance with King Philip II of France.

Fresh from their success in laying siege to and then massacring the inhabitants of the Carcassonne, the crusaders moved on to other towns in the area, including Béziers.

The Siege of Béziers was a pivotal and infamous event during the Albigensian Crusade in 1209. Béziers was a prosperous city in the Languedoc region of southern France, known for its large Cathar population and sympathizers. The Catholic crusaders, led by Simon de Montfort and under the authority of Pope Innocent III, sought to capture the city and eliminate the Cathar heresy. Here’s a detailed account of the Siege of Béziers:


In 1208, the Pope had declared a formal crusade against the Cathars, labeling them as heretics. Simon de Montfort was appointed as the leader of the crusade, and he began his campaign to subdue the Cathar stronghold of Béziers, which was one of the major centers of Catharism in the Languedoc.

The Siege:

The siege of Béziers began in July 1209, with the crusaders encircling the city and launching a sustained assault. The city’s defenses were formidable, but the large number of defenders and civilians within the walls put a strain on the limited resources and water supply.

The Surrender Offer:

As the siege continued, the crusaders called for the city to surrender and offered terms to spare the lives of the inhabitants. The response from the city’s leaders was a refusal to hand over the Cathars within their walls, stating they would not betray their own people.

The Massacre:

On July 22, 1209, the crusaders breached the city’s defenses and stormed Béziers. The situation quickly descended into chaos and violence. According to historical accounts, the crusaders unleashed a brutal assault on the city, sparing no one in the process. Many sources report that when asked how to distinguish the Cathars from the Catholics, the papal legate Arnaud Amalric is famously quoted as saying, “Kill them all, God will know His own.” The result was a bloodbath, with thousands of people slaughtered, regardless of their religious affiliation.


The fall of Béziers had a profound impact on the course of the Albigensian Crusade. It sent a powerful message to other towns and cities in the region, leading many to surrender without a fight to avoid a similar fate. The massacre at Béziers also instilled fear and terror in the hearts of those who resisted the crusaders, furthering the Catholic Church’s agenda to suppress the Cathar heresy.


1. Pegg, Mark Gregory. “A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom.” Oxford University Press, 2008.

2. Sibly, W.A., and M.D. Sibly. “The Chronicle of William of Puylaurens: The Albigensian Crusade and its Aftermath.” Boydell Press, 2003.

These references provide in-depth historical accounts of the Siege of Béziers and the broader context of the Albigensian Crusade, offering insights into the events and motivations of the time.

ChatGPT3 “Tell me all about the Siege of Bezier in the Albigensian Crusade.” [Response to user request] Retrieved from https://chat.openai.com/

Rosa Rubicondior (a pseudonym) is a retired data analyst, biologist, blogger, author and atheist.

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Who Were the Cathars? – The Albigensian Crusade

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