Back from a short break in Languedoc, the region of Aude to be precise. To be even more precise, the village of Sougrainge. And to be precise to the point of useful information: Auberge Ecluse au Soleil. Modest almost to Spartan, but comfortable, clean, and with no choice on the menu. Plus a tennis court!
This was the land, in the 12th century, of the Cathars, heretics who thought that God was bad and that death would deliver them back to the Good God. Toulouse was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe, and with wealth came tolerance. Catholics and Cathars had little beef with one another. There were Jews in government office.
The Pope was horrified, and so began the Albigensian Crusade, to wrest Languedoc back into the arms of Rome. Northern France fell first upon Beziers. Crusader-in-Chief Arnauld-Amaury was asked how heretics in the town could be distinguished from Catholics: "Kill them all. God will recognise his own." Everyone was killed and the city razed to the ground.
'The lord of Beziers, Raymond Roger of Trenceval, with typical Languedoc grace had the night before escorted the entire Jewish population of Beziers to safety, believing they alone had anything to fear from Christian marauders.' (This quote, as is the little information above, is from the Orange Blossom Special on the Albigensian Heresy).
The long and the short is that the rather gentle, unassertive heresy of the Cathars was wiped out. Statues of the Virgin Mary are to be found in every nook and cranny. There are also plenty of hippies, so perhaps a Cathar spirit remains - they were, after all, against war, against eating meat, and against marriage. What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?