Blessed Peter of Castelnau, OSB Cist.
Feastday: January 15
Martyred Cistercian papal legate and inquisitor. Peter was born near Montpellier and served as archdeacon of Maguelone before entering the Cistercians at Fontfroide, circa 1202. Known for his devout nature and his intelligence, in 1203he was appointed by Pope Innocent III to the post of papal legate and inquisitor with the task of returning the heretic Albigensians to the Church. Among those who took part in his campaign was St. Dominic. The Albigensians were ill disposed to heed his call, and a group of overzealous heretics murdered Peter near Saint Gilles Abbey, probably at the connivance of Raymond VI, count of Toulouse, who harbored political ambitions and hoped to manipulate the crisis of the Albigensians to advantage. According to tradition, Peter’s dying words were: “May God forgive thee, brother, as I fully forgive thee.” His murder was the spark that launched the Albigensian Crusade against the heretics in Southern France.
Born near Montpelier, France; died 1208. Blessed Peter became archdeacon of Maguelonne in 1199 and a Cistercian monk at Fontfroide around 1202. The following year Pope Innocent III appointed him apostolic legate and inquisitor for the Albigensians to lead the famous expedition of evangelization in which Saint Dominic participated. While engaged in that work he was run through by a lance at the hands of one of the Albigensians. As he died, he said: "May God forgive you, brother, as fully as I forgive you"
Pierre de Castelnau (died 15 January 1208), French ecclesiastic, was born in the diocese of Montpellier.
In 1199 he was archdeacon of Maguelonne, and was appointed by Pope Innocent III as one of the legates for the suppression of the Cathar heresy in Languedoc.
In 1202, when a monk in the Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide, Narbonne, he was designated to similar work, first in Toulouse, and afterwards at Viviers and Montpellier.
In 1207 he was in the Rhone valley and in Provence, where he became involved in the strife between the count of Baux and Raymond, count of Toulouse. Castelnau was assassinated on 15 January 1208, quite possibly by an agent of Raymond. His murder was the immediate cause of Raymond'e excommunication and the start of the Albigensian Crusade.
He was beatified in the year of his death by Pope Innocent III, who held Raymond responsible.
His death is also portrayed in Elizabeth Chadwick's work of historical fiction, "Daughters of the Grail".
The relics of Pierre de Castelnau are interred in the church of the ancient Abbey of St-Gilles