In 1199 A.D., Pope Innocent III declares that a good Christian no longer needs go to The Holy Land to go straight to Heaven. Heathens can be found a lot closer to home. In Northern Europe kings compete on bringing Christianity to the Baltic region. In southern France a long and bloody war against the Cathars begins.
The Catholic Church has been in a weak position for a long time. A new religious doctrine has been spreading and threatens the Church. Maybe the bishops have been too busy with their intrigues in Rome. Maybe they have been tax collecting a bit too zealously. The message of a simple life, following the example of Jesus, wins sympathy and listeners. Told directly in people’s homes by abstinent, humble men and women.
In 1208, an army of crusaders attack. The main force consists of Normans. The first town, Bezier, refuses to surrender their minority of Cathars to the crusaders. When the town finally falls, there is no mercy. The order is: “Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own.”
More towns fall in the following years. But after a while, acts of war die out. The Count of Toulouse, a defender of the Cathars until now, gives in to the pope and promises to fight the heresy. An uneasy peace spreads.
In 1234, the papal inquisition is formed to help uncover heretics and to prevent vigilantism and lynching. But the efficient and brutal conduct of the inquisition is not to everyone’s liking.