A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom

Mark Gregory Pegg, Author . Oxford $25 (253p) ISBN 978-0-19-517131-0

When a papal legate was murdered in southern France in 1208, Pope Innocent III's reaction was swift and harsh. Convinced that the villages between Montpelier and Bordeaux were hideouts for heretics and accusing the count of Toulouse of protecting them, the pope issued his now famous plea for all knights and barons to be “signed with the cross” and to drive out all heretics in a great crusade. The Albigensian Crusade was the only one of the medieval crusades to pit Christian against Christian. In this lively and fast-paced inaugural book in Oxford's “Pivotal Moments in World History” series, Pegg grippingly retells the story of a crusade built on legend, not truth. The pope preached to his armies that whoever slaughtered these alleged heretics would not only cleanse his own soul but the soul of Christendom as well. This crusade, as Pegg remarkably demonstrates, introduced genocide into the world and paved the way for Christians to engage in the inquisitions against Jews and the crusades against Muslims that marked the remainder of the Middle Ages. Drawing on numerous primary documents, Pegg's compelling history offers fresh glimpses into the nature of religious violence as well as the easy ways that religions often fall into intolerance. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
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