If the Crusades had strengthened the power of the Church, they had at the same time brought about an expansion of thought which was undermining it. Men were beginning to think, to inquire, and then to doubt. How could sensuality and vice at Rome be reconciled with a divine infallibility? If the ballad-poetry of Provence satirized the lives and manners of the priests, was it not dealing with what was true?
During the reign of Philip’s father, a pale studious youth was pacing the cloisters on the banks of the Seine, by the side of Notre Dame. He was thinking upon these things. And “as he mused the fire burned.” This was Abelard. The intellectual awakening brought about by the lectures of this most learned and accomplished man of his time produced an epoch. He spoke to his disciples in the open air, as no building could hold the thousands who hung upon his lips. This movement became localized; a faubourg of students was created with their multiform activities. It became a quarter by itself—a noisy, turbulent, agitated quarter—where the only luxury enjoyed was an expanding thought, and where Latin was the spoken language. And so it happened that the Quartier Latin came into existence.
But while the place remains, the man quickly passed off the scene. He was silenced, his teachings condemned by a Church council at Soissons, and he immured for life in the Monastery of Cluny, to be treasured in the heart of humanity as a martyr to truth, and as the lover of Eloise, in that sad romance of the twelfth century.
After a brief reign of three years Louis VIII., son and successor of Philip, was dead, and Louis IX., under the regency of his mother, “Blanche of Castile,” was proclaimed king. The same family, which later gave Isabella to Spain, also bestowed upon France this wise, intrepid woman at a critical time.
With a boy of eleven and a woman of thirty-eight years upon the throne, the time seemed propitious for the barons to recover the power Philip had wrung from them, and to reduce kingship to its former humble position.
With this purpose a powerful coalition was formed, embracing the barons north and south, chief among whom was Raymond of Toulouse. By force of arms, and by diplomacy, Blanche of Castile met this crisis with astonishing courage and address. The free cities sprang to her assistance; and not only was the coalition broken, but there was formed a bond between the crown and the people, leaving the throne stronger than before.
Blanche showed great political wisdom in arranging for the marriage of her son with the daughter of the Count of Provence; thus capturing and securing the loyalty of this most powerful and disaffected state, which was making common cause with Toulouse against the king. And it is with mingled pity and rejoicing that we hear of Raymond VII. of Toulouse, once champion of the Albigenses—warrior, poet, troubadour, and heretic—scourge in hand and barefooted, at the porch of Notre Dame, doing penance for his sins against the Church.