By September 1213, the town of Muret was back in the hands of the
Occitan lords. About 30 crusader knights remained within the castle.
They knew they could not resist for long. They sent a message to
Simon de Montfort who was at Fanjeaux to come to their rescue. Simon
assembled as many knights as possible among the crusaders who had
not yet gone back to France after their 40 days of annual duty and
they rode hotfoot to Muret. The king of Aragon ordered his men to
withdraw from the town to allow Simon's troop to enter the citadel
(planning to trap them there). The following day, Simon launched
a sudden attack. The Meridionals were not well organised. Together
with thousands Catalans, Aragonese and Occitans, the king of Aragon
died in the field of battle. Simon's victory was complete.
IV de Montfort was the leader of the Albigensian Crusade, sent
to destroy the Cathars and seize the lands of the Occitan lords.
His crusaders' strength:
Cavalry : about 900 knights and sergeants, split into 3
battles of 300 men each.
- 1st squadron: (vanguard) : Guillaume de Contres and Guillaume
- 2nd squadron: Bouchard de Marly
- 3rd squadron: (reserve) led by Simon de Montfort
Infantry: about 700 crossbowmen and spearmen defending the
castle and protecting the access for the cavalry.
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. Aragonese and Occitan
Cavalry: about 2,200 knights and sergeants.
- 1st group: about 200 Aragonese plus 400 men under the Count
- 2nd group: about 700 Aragonese led by the King of Aragon.
- 3rd group: about 900 men led by the Counts of Toulouse and Comminges.
They were probably not fully prepared, possibly not yet mounted.
Infantry: less than 10,000 men. Some attacked the castle,
others stayed encamped or followed the cavalry.
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
Peter rode to the front line, forsaking his royal armour for the
plain armour 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 realisation 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.
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...
.. 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
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
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.