From feudal powers to royal Capetian power

During the 10th Century, life became more difficult for those without arms, i.e. peasants and the clergy. It was the feudal period, and the seigneurial lords’ exercise of their power over the people was violent. Society had become stateless. The Comtes were feudal lords who operated independently of the power of the Crown. They became suzerains: their vassals derived their dominions from their hands. They swore to defend their interests, sword in hand.

At the same period, from the 11th Century onwards, châteaux were beginning to proliferate. They become the beating hearts of seigneurial power. These châteaux, initially somewhat intimidating for the common people, ended up in the 12th Century becoming sources of protection as well as of the restrictions imposed by seigneurial power. It was at this period that a large number of villages tended to emerge around châteaux.

And the Church? The Church strove to play an important role in pacifying the regions by imposing the Peace of God, in an effort to limit the more violent abuses from the knights. In another crucial initiative, the Church launched the “Gregorian Reform“ in the 12th Century to guarantee its independence from any lay powers.

In the Pays d’Oc region, three main hubs remained in conflict with each other throughout this period: Poitiers, Toulouse and Barcelona. The opposition between Toulouse and Barcelona came to a head in the “Great Southern War” during the 12th Century.


There is one viscountry between Toulouse and Barcelona of particular interest to us: the viscounts of Trencavel, lords of Albi, Carcassonne-Béziers and the Razès region. The Trencavels’ allegiance was flexible, with them going from being allies of Barcelona to defenders of the Toulousain heartland...They were successful in holding onto their principality until the arrival of the crusaders in the 13th Century.

The crusaders did not have much trouble overcoming a region that was already weakened and was fractured on a political level. The new Capetian rulers ended up establishing a new administrative and judicial order, founded on senechalsies, which acts as seats of the royal power.

Le serment de Roland
Le Pape Innocent III excommunie les Albigeois (gauche), Simon de Montfort (droite)