1902 Encyclopedia > Languedoc


LANGUEDOC, a province of France, which lay between the Garonne on the west and the Rhone on the east, with the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean on the south. It was divided into the three senkhaussees of Toulouse, Carcassonne, and Deaucaire ; and it comprised, besides the province proper, the districts of Gevandan, Vellai, Vivarez, Cevennes, and Foix. It contained the important cities of Toulouse, Carcassonne, Narbonne, Montpellier, Nismes, Cette, Viviers, Alby, and Foix. The south-western spurs of the Cevennes run across the province from the north-east to meet the first slopes of the Pyrenees. In spring and early summer no part of France possesses a more delightful climate than Languedoc, while Montpellier and its neighbourhood, in spite of the mistral, was up to recent times considered as an excellent retreat for consumptive patients. The Roman remains of Nismes, the lagoons and decayed towns of the Gulf of Lyons, the historical associations of Montpellier, the fine mediaeval fortress of Carcassonne, the old towers and the bidet de ville of Narbonne, the little known scenery of the eastern Pyrenees, with the castles of Foix and Tarascon, and Toulouse with its churches, fairs, floral games, and winding streets, make the country one of the most interesting in the • whole of France. Here may still be heard the soft accents of the Langue d'Oc, a language which has not, even yet, spoken its last word in the poetry of the world.

Gallia Narbonensis, one of the seventeen provinces into which the empire was divided at the death of Augustus, occupied nearly the same extent as the province of Languedoc. It was rich and flourishing, crowded with great towns, densely populated, with schools of rhetoric and poetry, theatres, amphitheatres, and splendid temples. From Narbo Martins came the rhetorician and poet Mont,anns, who was exiled by Tiberius to Majorca ; from Nismes came Domitius Afer ; and the emperors Carinus and Numerianus were also natives of Narbonne. The planting of Christianity, though doubtless the Greeks of Massilia heard of it before, was accomplished, according to tradition, by St Trophimus of Arles, St Paul of Beziers, and Saint Saturnin of Toulouse. It is characteristic of the country that its ecclesiastical historians lament even in the earliest ages a tendency to heresy among its people. At the break up of the Roman empire the Visigoths founded the kingdom of Toulouse (412 A.D.), and in a few years spread their conquests over Narboneusis, Novempopulana (Gascony), and Aquitania in France, as well as over the whole of the Spanish peninsula. They were driven out of France by Clovis, but retained " Septimania," the country of the seven cities - Narbonne, Carcassonne, Elne, Beziers, Maguelonne, Lodeve' and Agde - that is, very nearly the area occupied later by the province of Languedoc. At the council of Narbonne (589) five sorts of people are mentioned as living in the province: - the Visigoths, then the ruling race, Romans, Jews, of whom there were a great many, Syrians, and Greeks. It was not until the year 759, when Pippin took their chief town, Narbonne, that the Visigoths were forced across the Pyrenees, and the country became part of the great empire bequeathed by Pippin to his great son Charles. Septimania became part of the kingdom of Aquitaine, but was separated from it and constituted a special duchy in the year 817. Two or more invasions of the Saracens took place in the 9th century, and the Normans made a descent upon the coast in the year 859. Early in the 10th century we find the whole province in the power of the counts of Toulouse, and one of the great fiefs of the crown of France. While the Normans were ravaging the north of France and laying siege to Paris, the Saracens from the mouths of the Rhone were plundering and harrying the county of Toulouse. Neither in the south nor in the north of the country was there during the terrible 10th and 11th centuries any peace or comfort. A frightful pestilence desolated Aquitaine and Toulouse in the year 1000 ; and in 1032 a famine began which lasted for three years. Yet the court of Toulouse was already remarkable for its "luxury," as the ecclesiastical writers call it, - rather for its love of art and literature, combined with extravagance of dress and fashions. Constance, wife of King Robert, and daughter of the count of Toulouse, gave great offence to the monks by her following of gallant countrymen. They owed their tastes, not only to their Roman blood and the survival of their old love for rhetoric and poetry, but also to their intercourse with the Saracens, their neighbours and enemies, and their friends when they were not fighting. On the preaching of the crusade, no part of France responded with greater enthusiasm than the south. A hundred thousand men followed Raymond de Saint Gilles. A century later their own country was to be the scene of another crusade even more bloody than that against the Saracen.

The heresies which were the cause of so much bloodshed may, perhaps, be said to have begun with Peter de Brueys, who preached in Languedoc for twenty years, until he was silenced by the usual method. He denied infant baptism, respect for churches, the worship of the cross, transubstantiation, and prayers for the dead. His follower, Henry the Deacon, most eloquent of preachers, denied a great deal more. Wherever he taught he left deserted churches and contempt for the clergy. Although Bernard himself was invited to lend his persuasive powers to restore the cause of the church, lie succeeded for a time only. Toulouse, for instance, was brought back to orthodoxy ; yet when the great preacher went away the citizens relapsed. Again, there were the poor men of Lyons, the followers of Peter Waldo, of whom there were many in Languedoc ; and there were the Manichieans, under the name of Puritans, Paterines, or Populars. In Languedoc and Provence the ground was ready for the seed of heresy. The towns were wealthy and free, the people bad been in continual intercourse with Saracens of Palestine and Moors in Spain; they had never entirely rid themselves of pagan customs ; their poetry taught the joys of life rather than the fear of death; their restless inquiring minds prompted them to ask whether there were any other solution of the problem of life than that offered by the church. The whole province - the county of Toulouse, with its fiefs of Narbonne, Beziers, Foix, Montpellier, and Quercy - was in open and scornful secession. It seems incredible, but it is doubtless true, that the churches were universally deserted, sacraments denied, and clergy despised. The history cf the crusade, in the reign of Raymond VI., against the heretics of Languedoc contains every clement of cruelty and horror. The count made haste to submit, but it was of no avail. Bishops, papal legates, and ecclesiastics of all ranks headed the vast armies which were gathered together against the freethinkers. All the cities, one after the other, the castles, and the strongholds of Languedoc were taken by the crusaders. Raymond was made to submit to the lowest abasement ; the country was wasted ; the people were destroyed by fire and sword. When all was over, when Raymond and Simon de Montfort were dead, and King Louis VIII. had led a vast army of conquest through the country, the council of Toulouse was held, in order to subject the people to total spiritual submission. They chose the method, which seems so easy hut is so difficult, of universal espionage and deletion. They succeeded in enforcing apparent submission ; but the spirit of religious freedom lingered among the people, and yet survives, for nearly half the Protestants in France belong to the south. The pacification of Languedoc was completed by the annexation of the county to the crown of France. In 1229 Count Raymond VII. renounced his claim to seven provinces, and swore fealty to the king.

Languedoc had, for two centuries, no other history apart from that of France. The long wars with the English affected the country little. The province, comparatively safe from war, continued to increase and prosper in wealth. When it begins again to have a history of its own, it appears to be the home of the most bigoted orthodoxy. The university of Toulouse burns a professor, Caturce, for supposed heresy, and exiles a scholar, Dolet, for daring to sympathize with him. At the east of the province, however, Rabelais, who carries with him an atmosphere of free thought, is lecturing and dissecting ; and in the west of the province Gerard Roussel is already preaching the doctrines of a purer faith. In the wars of religion, the great recruiting ground of Coligny was in those southern provinces against which Simon de Montfort had led his crusade. The insurrection of the Camisards belongs to the history of Languedoc, but the struggle was confined to the north part of the province. The pacification by Pillars and the duke of Berwick, the horrible cruelties practised upon the people, and the singular story of Cavalier are noticed elsewhere A special interest attaches to the history of two towns, at least, of Languedoc. Both Montpellier and Toulouse present very remarkable features of interest to the student of municipal histories. The literature of the country is the literature called after its neighbour PROVENCE (q.v.). Probably no great future remains for the literature of a dialect slowly dying out, yet examples have not been wanting of late to prove that there is still vitality in the language of the people. (w. an )

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