Medieval Europe: Charlemagne to Columbus
November 10, 2011
Due to Christianity’s predominance in Medieval Europe, prejudice towards different religions and those who shared dissimilar Christian beliefs was pervasive. Philip Augustus was the king of France from 1180- 1223. During his reign, he oversaw of the Albigensian Crusade. The purpose of this Crusade was to expel heretics from the south of France. However, in The Uses of Heterodoxy: The French Monarchy and Unbelief in the Thirteenth Century, Robert E. Lerner, depicted Philip as a man of religious toleration. This paper will examine Lerner’s piece to demonstrate that Philip was not religiously bigoted.
While Philip II appeared in historical accounts to have been a willing to participant in the Albigensian Crusade, Robert Lerner believed this was not the case. He wrote that in May of 1204 and February of 1205, Pope Innocent III requested that Philip deal with the Albigensian heresy. However, to the Pope’s dismay, Philip did not take action against the Albigensians. The Pope patiently waited two years before he felt compelled by Philip’s noncompliance to write him again. In this letter, Innocent offered, in return for Philip’s help, full indulgences to those who helped expel the Albigensians. Again, to the Pope’s anger, Philip said that he was too busy dealing with England to focus on the Albigensian matter. Finally, in January of 1208, Innocent III sent Cardinal Guala to order Philip to fight the Albigenians. Philip said that he would not participate, nor allow his mercenaries to fight. However, after years of badgering Philip conceded to let the Pope use his feudal vassals to engage in the Crusade.
Philip also demonstrated deep compassion towards Jews. After first expelling the Jews from France in 1182, Philip granted them the right to return in 1198. When he conquered Normandy in 1204, he took great measures to ensure that Jews remained in their lands. He also allowed Jews greater privileges and even allowed certain Jews to stay in his royal palace. In addition, Philip supported trade amongst Jews and Christians. Under prior circumstances, such transactions between Christians and Jews were often met with excommunication. In 1205, Pope Innocent III wrote Philip a letter stating that Philips protection of Jews bordered on favoritism. Despite numerous attempts and legislations passed by the Pope to change Philip’s stance on Jews, Philip did not budge. Lerner, nonetheless, contemplated that Philip’s tolerance for the Jews was mainly financial. Still, no matter his motives, Philip II should be regarded as a protector of Jews in France.
Lerner pointed out, “Philip Augustus never received a reputation for piety.” However, Lerner’s account revealed a monarch who was religiously tolerant for his time. Further, Lerner’s piece demonstrated that Philip was not a willing participate in the Albigensian Crusade. Philip’s protection of Jews within his state further illustrated his tolerance for the Jewish faith. Lerner’s account changed how one should view Philip II in historical annals. In sum, Philip should have been known for his piety rather than his bigotry.
Word Count: 497
Bennett, Judith M.. Medieval Europe: a short history. 11 th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill 2011.
Lerner, Robert E. French Historical Studies , Vol. 4, No. 2 (Autumn, 1965), pp. 189-202