A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom
A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom  -     By: Mark Gregory Pegg
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Oxford University Press / 2009 / Paperback
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A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom

Oxford University Press / 2009 / Paperback

In Stock
Stock No: WW393101


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Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 253
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2009
Dimensions: 8.80 X 5.70 X 1.10 (inches)
ISBN: 0195393104
ISBN-13: 9780195393101

Publisher's Description

In January of 1208, a papal legate was murdered on the banks of the Rhone in southern France. A furious Pope Innocent III accused heretics of the crime and called upon all Christians to exterminate heresy between the Garonne and Rhone rivers--a vast region now known as Languedoc--in a great crusade. This most holy war, the first in which Christians were promised salvation for killing other Christians, lasted twenty bloody years--it was a long savage battle for the soul of Christendom.
In A Most Holy War, historian Mark Pegg has produced a swift-moving, gripping narrative of this horrific crusade, drawing in part on thousands of testimonies collected by inquisitors in the years 1235 to 1245. These accounts of ordinary men and women, remembering what it was like to live through such brutal times, bring the story vividly to life. Pegg argues that generations of historians (and novelists) have misunderstood the crusade; they assumed it was a war against the Cathars, the most famous heretics of the Middle Ages. The Cathars, Pegg reveals, never existed. He further shows how a millennial fervor about "cleansing" the world of heresy, coupled with a fear that Christendom was being eaten away from within by heretics who looked no different than other Christians, made the battles, sieges, and massacres of the crusade almost apocalyptic in their cruel intensity. In responding to this fear with a holy genocidal war, Innocent III fundamentally changed how Western civilization dealt with individuals accused of corrupting society. This fundamental change, Pegg argues, led directly to the creation of the inquisition, the rise of an anti-Semitism dedicated to the violent elimination of Jews, and even the holy violence of the Reconquista in Spain and in the New World in the fifteenth century. All derive their divinely sanctioned slaughter from the Albigensian Crusade.
Haunting and immersive, A Most Holy War opens an important new perspective on a truly pivotal moment in world history, a first and distant foreshadowing of the genocide and holy violence in the modern world.

Author Bio


Mark Pegg is Associate Professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246.

Editorial Reviews


"[L]ively and fast-paced inaugural book in Oxford's 'Pivotal Moments in World History' series.... Drawing on numerous primary documents, Pegg's compelling history offers fresh glimpses, accounts of prophecies, answered prayers, and above all, forgiveness."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"Pegg's work is terrific...exceptional in its subtlety and accessibility."--Times Literary Supplement


"Mark Gregory Pegg's A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom is a pathbreaking, iconoclastic account of the crusade that was mounted in 1209 to eliminate heresy from the French region of Provence.... it breaks new ground rather than synopsizing what is already known."--Austin American Statesman


"Pegg's is a wonderfully articulate, exciting, and very risky book. He boldly redraws the late twelfth-century political and devotional map of Provence and the Toulousain, identified as hotbeds of heresy in Cistercian rhetoric, and he meticulously plots the actions of the Cistercian-inspired Pope Innocent III and the armies he threw for two decades against the 'good men,' 'good women,' and quarreling nobles of the region. Pegg knows the landscape well, and his accounts of military enterprise are meticulous and vivid, his characters distinctive, and his final reflections on genocide offer ominous implications not only for the religious uses of coercion in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Europe, but for later times as well."--Ed Peters, University of Pennsylvania


"Mark Pegg's A Most Holy War is a bold, erudite, engaging, and superbly written study of what has long been one of the most central topics in medieval and Mediterranean history. By providing a vivid and detailed portrait of the Albigensian crusade and of the great trail of blood the crusaders left in their wake, Pegg offers to his readers a brilliant and lasting contribution to our understanding of one of the harshest and most critical moments in the history of the West."--Teofilo F. Ruiz, Professor of History, UCLA


"I can think of no topic in medieval history that makes such demands on the skills of the historian as the terrible and momentous tragedy of the Albigensian crusade. Mark Pegg's extraordinary achievement lies not so much in his rare command of the materials and the problems that surround them as the grace with which he embraces them in a flowing, deeply moving and beautifully written narrative. This is the first modern account that is worthy of the subject."--Robert Moore, Professor Emeritus, Medieval History, University of Newcastle upon Tyne and author of The Formation of a Persecuting Society


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