Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/174

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

arrived before the city, humanely desiring to save it from destruction, he obtained from the legate authority to offer it full exemption if the heretics, of whom he had a list, were delivered up or expelled. Nothing could be more moderate, from the crusading standpoint, but when he entered the town and called the chief inhabitants together the offer was unanimously spurned. Catholic and Catharan were too firmly united in the bonds of common citizenship for one to betray the other. They would, as they magnanimously declared, although abandoned by their lord, rather defend themselves to such extremity that they should be reduced to eat their children. This unexpected answer stirred the legate to such wrath that he swore to destroy the place with fire and sword — to spare neither age nor sex, and not to leave one stone upon another. While the chiefs of the army were debating as to the next step, suddenly the camp-followers, a vile and unarmed folk as the legates reported, inspired by God, made a rush for the walls and carried them, without orders from the leaders and without their knowledge. The army followed, and the legate's oath was fulfilled by a massacre almost without parallel in European history. From infancy in arms to tottering age, not one was spared — seven thousand, it is said, were slaughtered in the Church of Mary Magdalen to which they had fled for asylum — and the total number of slain is set down by the legates at nearly twenty thousand, which is more probable than the sixty thousand or one hundred thousand reported by less trustworthy chroniclers. A fervent Cistercian contemporary informs us that when Arnaud was asked whether the Catholics should be spared, he feared the heretics would escape by feigning orthodoxy, and fiercely replied, "Kill them all, for God knows his own!" In the mad carnage and pillage the town was set on fire, and the sun of that awful July day closed on a mass of smouldering ruins and blackened corpses — a holocaust to a deity of mercy and love whom the Cathari might well be pardoned for regarding as the Principle of Evil. To the orthodox the whole was so manifestly the work of God that the Crusaders did not doubt that the blessing of Heaven attended their arms. Indeed, other miracles were not wanting to encourage them. Although in their senseless havoc they destroyed all the mills within their reach, bread was always miraculously plentiful and cheap in the camp — thirty loaves for a denier was