Cathar Castles
Château de Muret ( The Name in Occitan. Click here to find out more about Occitan. Castèl de Murèth)

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The Battle of Muret was fought on 12 September 1213. It started as a siege of the castle castle there, but ended as an open battle - one of the very few of the Cathar Crusades. Muret is located near to the City of Toulouse

The Crusader army of Simon IV de Montfort defeated the Aragonese and Catalan forces of King Peter II of Aragon, who had come to the aid of the Occitan forces of his vassal Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse.

Muret is a commune in the Haute-Garonne department in southwestern France. Today It is an outer suburb of the city of Toulouse, though it does not belong to Greater Toulouse, which it declined to join. It lies southwest of Toulouse and is the largest component of the intercommunality of Muretain.

Today there is no vestige of the Medieval castle there, and the battlefield has been largely built over.

The Battle of Muret:
illustration from the Grandes Chroniques de France

 

Simon IV de Montfort was the leader of the Albigensian Crusade, sent to destroy the Cathars and seize the lands of the Occitan lords.

Raymond VI of Toulouse sought assistance from his brother-in-law, King Peter II of Aragon. On 10 September, Peter's army arrived at Muret, and was joined by a Toulousain militia. He positioned his army so their right flank was protected by the Saudrune River, and the left protected by a marsh. He left the Toulousain militia to assault the walls of the castle.

 

 

Google map showing the location of Muret

 

 

Simon de Montfort's 870 mailed cavalry included 270 knights, making the small force of exceptional quality. King Peter of Aragon had brought 800 to 1,000 Aragonese cavalry, joined by a militia from Toulouse and allied armies brought by the Counts of Comminges and Foix. King Peter of Aragon's combined forces possibly numbered 4,000 cavalry, with thirty to forty thousand infantry.

Montfort divided his army into three squadrons, and then led them across the Garonne to meet the Aragonese forces. Raymond, advised a defensive posture in order to weaken the advancing enemy with bowshot and javelins. Peter rejected this suggestion as unknightly and dishonorable.

Peter rode to the front line, forsaking his royal armor for the plain armor of an ordinary knight (a common practice for fighting kings of the time), an ordinary knight donning the king's armour.

When de Montfort's first squadron charged the field, the Aragonese cavalry was crushed and Peter himself was unhorsed. He is reported to have cried out, "I am the king!" but it is not clear why - according to one account he was embarrassed by the poor fighting ability of the knight wearing the royal armour. According to another report he was expecting to be taken prisoner rather than be killed. In any case he was killed. With the realization that their king had been killed, the Aragonese forces broke in panic and fled, pursued by Montfort's Crusaders.

According to the Crusader chroniclers the coalition army numbered almost 34 000 men and de Montfort's army only 2,100, but it seems likely that the imbalance has been exaggerated - as it almost always was by the victorious side in medieval battles.

 
 

Google map showing Muret

 

This was one of the very few open battles of the Cathar Wars - the local forces must have known that they were no match for Simon's army. Simon was a brilliant military strategist, tactician and leader, commanding a highly organised aggressive and experienced hierarchical army. The local forces were poorly organised, uncoordinated and more concerned with paratge, cortezia and convivienza than military victory. Peter must have known that the tactics of the Count of Toulouse would have ensured victory, but imagined that God would ensure victory (the same mistake that Simon would make at Toulouse five years later).

A monument to Peter II marked the spot where tradition holds that he fell in battle near the modern tourist office. Shamefully, a modern French highway has been build over it - the French are not keen on reminders that they annexed this territory after killing the suzerain of these lands in defeating the House of Toulouse. The monument has been moved to a spot nearby, on a traffic roundabout.

"... bed ni centenari dera batalho de Muret en Pedro Aralounes Catala le Gadouoas cayown pera a defenso debas libertas ded... 1213,"

.. in commemoration of the battle of Muret and Pedro of Aragon "The Catholic" who died defending our liberty 1213."

There is another reminder of the battle, as Dominic Guzmán, now St Dominic was there. Churchmen like Dominic and Arnaud Amaury played a prominent role in military sieges - Senior churchmen were often the chief engineers for siege engines, and Arnaud had been supreme commander of the Crusade in the early days. But less warlike senior churchmen would generally retire from open battles.

Dominic had taken part in the Catholic Crusaders' Council of War that preceded the battle of Muret. But during the battle he retired to safety. He supposedly spent the battle kneeling before an altar in the church of Saint-Jacques, praying for the triumph of the Catholic arms. When Simon de Montfort won the battle, he regarded his victory as miraculous, and attributed it to Dominic's prayers. In gratitude for this victory, the Simon erected a chapel in the church of Saint-Jacques, According to Catholic tradition has it was here in the church of Saint-Jacques as he prayed for victory that the Virgin Mary first gave Dominic a chaplet of beads, the prototype of the ones now used so extensively within the Catholic Church. (This tradition is a late and unreliable, and sits ill with the earlier use of identical prayer beads by Moslems). Nevertheless a plaque in the chapel assures us that:

Dans ce sanctuaire pendant la Bataille de Muret
Le 12 Septembre 1213 La Vierge Marie recommanda a
St. Dominic de réciter et précher La Rosaire.

In this sanctuary during the Battle of Muret
on 12 September 1213 the Virgin Mary advised
St Dominic to recite and preach the Rosary.

Pietro II d'Aragón - King Peter II of Aragon

 

Monument to Pietro II d'Aragón - King Peter II of Aragon

 

 


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The arms of Pietro II d'Aragón - King Peter II of Aragon

 

Road in Muret commemorating Peter II, King of Aragon

 

Obelisk marking the Battle of Muret
 

Memorial to Peter II, King of Aragon,

killed at the Battle of Muret

 

The two memorials together, side by side

 

The two memorials have been moved to a traffic roundabout!

 

A reminder that Muret was the gateway to the territories of the Count of Comminges, ally of Raymond, Count of Toulouse and Peter, King of Aragon.

 

Art Catalogue, Muret Exhibition, 2013

 

 

 
 

Eglise St Jacques in Muret

in characteristic Toulouse brick

 

Eglise St Jacques in Muret

in characteristic Toulouse brick

 

Caunes Marble inside the Eglise St Jacques in Muret

 

Saint Dominic depicted on a stained glass window inside the Eglise St Jacques in Muret

 

An angel dressed a Dominican, depicted on a stained glass window inside the Eglise St Jacques in Muret

 

 
 
 

Memorial plaque in the Eglise St Jacques in Muret.

It reads

IN THIS SANCTUARY

DURING THE BATTLE OF MURET

ON THE 12 SEPTEMBER 1213

THE VIRGIN MARY ADVISED

SAINT DOMINIC

TO RECITE AND PREACH

THE ROSARY

 
 

Interior, Eglise St Jacques in Muret, facing East

 

Interior, Eglise St Jacques in Muret, facing West

 

Saint Dominic chapel in the Eglise St Jacques in Muret.

 

Saint Dominic chapel in the Eglise St Jacques in Muret.

 

Memorial plaque in the Eglise St Jacques in Muret.

 

Relics of Saint Dominic, Eglise St Jacques in Muret.

 

La battaille de Muret, 1960, by Jacques Fauché, oil on wood, 197 x 99 cm

Peter is shown on the right, being run-through by a knight's lance. He is (incorrectly) shown wearing his royal crown and bearing the arms of Aragon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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