ARNOLD OF CÎTEAUX:
Cistercian monk, who, with the sanction of Pope Innocent III. (1198-1216), incited a crusade against the Albigenses and Jews of southern France, and occasioned the attack of Simon de Montfort on Viscount Raymund Roger. The latter was stigmatized as a patron of Jews and Albigenses, and on this account his beautiful capital, Béziers, was besieged by De Montfort, and on its fall (July 22, 1209) was well-nigh totally destroyed. According to Arnold's report to the pope, about twenty thousand perished by the sword regardless of caste, age, and sex; after which the city was looted and burned, so that "the vengeance of God raged therein in a wondrous way." The flourishing and cultured Jewish congregation of Béziers was almost exterminated; two hundred persons lost their lives, and a great many others were taken captive. "The year of mourning" is the name by which that year is designated in the Jewish chronicles; the Hebrew word for "mourning" having appropriately the numerical value of the date (=69= 4969, or 1209 of the common era).
From southern France, Arnold carried his murderous fanaticism to Spain under the following circumstances: Mohammed al-Naṣir, the Almohade prince from the northwest of Africa, apprehending the success of the Christians in Mohammedan Spain, transported a vast army to Andalusia to make war on the advancing religion. The Christian princes of Spain immediately ceased their habitual internecine hostilities for the sake of united resistance, and appealed to Innocent III. to inspire a general crusade against the Crescent. The pope acceded; and among the multitudes crossing the Pyrenees,Arnold and his followers were foremost. These ultramontane swordsmen, as they were designated in contrast to the Spaniards, were deeply affronted by the comparative prosperity and freedom that the Jews enjoyed in the Castilian capital Toledo; and Arnold instigated a sudden onslaught upon them (June, 1212). At that particular juncture the Jewish population of Toledo, in addition to being the most representative and flourishing in Spain, had been swelled by the accession of fugitives from Salvatierra, the first city captured by the Mohammedan invaders (Sept., 1211). The fate of the Jews of Toledo would have been sealed had not Alfonso the Noble, king of Castile, and the Christian knights of the city, promptly protected them; thus terminating auspiciously what was in Castile an importation of foreign fanaticism, the first persecution of Jews.
- Ibn Verga, Shebeṭ Yehudah, ed. Wiener, p. 112;
- Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, 3d ed., vi. 333, 339; vii. 9, 13.