Abbaye de Fontfroide, Narbonne, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

The Abbey of Fontfroide was born in 1093, on the land given to some Benedictine monks by the Viscount of Narbonne. The abbey takes its name from the nearby spring, the Fons Frigidus, the Cold Fountain. Besides the water, the monks could find in the massif the wood and the stone for the construction of the monastery. But Fontfroide did not really develop until after 1145 and its attachment to the Order of Cîteaux . The Cistercian monks, under the direction of St Bernard of Clairvaux, wish to return to the purity of the rule of St Benedict, advocating poverty, austerity and architectural sobriety.

In the 12th century, a Christian religion different from Catholicism developed in the south of France: Catharism. This new belief is spreading rapidly throughout Occitania, calling for a return to the early Christian model of early Christianity. This ‘heresy of good men’ is condemned by Pope Innocent III and becomes the target of Catholics, primarily Cistercians.

The monks of Fontfroide failed to convince the Cathars to abandon their beliefs by the mere use of preaching, the papacy decided in 1209 to unleash against the Cathars of the South, the first crusade organized in the Christian land against heretics and those who support them.The assassination of Pierre de Castelnau, monk of Fontfroide became legate of the Pope will be the triggering action of the Crusade against the Albigensians.

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