Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. David Sheffler

Second Advisor

Dr. Philip Kaplan

Third Advisor

Dr. Andrew Holt

Department Chair

Dr. David Sheffler

College Dean

Dr. George Rainbolt


This study assesses the intersection of crusading and heresy repression in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. The event that encapsulates this intersection was the Albigensian Crusade, a two-decades long conflict that befell the south of France, or Occitania. The papacy, aligned with northern lords and other willing Christians, took up arms to defend the Church from the Cathar heresy’s corrupting influence. This conflict marked a new development in Christian acts of violence. While the Church had crusaded against many different enemies—even branding some as heretics—before 1209, the Church had never called a crusade for the explicit purpose of stamping out a heretical group. This study aims to answer two questions: how did the scope of crusade broaden to incorporate heretical groups and how did methods for countering heresy shift to include crusading? To answer these questions, this study analyzes two strands of ecclesiastical propaganda. Propaganda consisted of written works that functioned as tools to educate, inform, persuade, and inspire in others certain beliefs and actions. These were texts that defined, promoted, and celebrated the practice of crusading; and texts that defined, maligned, and condemned heresies and those adhering to them.

These two strands of propaganda began to intertwine in the late twelfth century, resulting in a modified anti-heresy discourse in which crusading against heretics became a theologically justifiable idea. This study argues that the call for crusade against the Occitan heretics was the end result of theological developments that began in the 1170s. What’s more, the institutionalization and codification of these strands of propaganda created the theological precedent for framing the Albigensian Crusade as a holy war, allowing the idea of crusading against heretics to take root in anti-heresy discourse in the years preceding Innocent III’s papacy and his call for crusade in southern France.