Esclarmonde of Foix

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Esclarmonde de Foix
Born after 1151/ 1165-1167
Occitania, France
Died 1215
Occitania, France
Other names

La Grande Esclarmonde

(=The Great Esclarmonde)
Occupation Albigense Delegate to Council at Pamiers 1207
Spouse(s) Jordan III of L'Isle-Jourdain m abt 1180
Parent(s) Roger-Bernard I of Foix and Cecile Trencavel

Esclarmonde de Foix (Occitan: Esclarmonda de Fois; after 1151 – 1215), was a prominent figure in Catharism in thirteenth century France. Her biography is difficult to establish, because several noble women of the time and of the region had this rare firstname. This name Esclarmonde means "Clarity of the world" in the Occitan language.

She was the daughter of Roger Bernard I, Count of Foix, and of Cecile Trencavel.

She was the sister of Raymond-Roger de Foix, Count of Foix. In 1175, she married Jordan III of L'Isle-Jourdain, lord of L'Isle-Jourdain. They had 6 children :

  • Bernard-Jourdain de l'Isle-Jourdain, the lder, heir of the county
  • Escaronia
  • Obica
  • Jordan
  • Othon-Bernard
  • Philippa

She was widowed in October 1200 and, sometime thereafter, turned to the Catharism, a Christian religion seen as heresy by Catholicism and at that time largely developed in southern France. She received the Cathar sacrament, the consolamentum, for becoming a Cathar Perfect from the hands of the Cathar bishop Guilhabert de Castres in 1204 in Fanjeaux with three other women of high rank, Aude de Fanjeaux, Fays de Durfort, and Raymonde of Saint-Germain. The ceremony was conducted in the presence of her brother, Raymond-Roger de Foix, Count of Foix.

She settled in Pamiers and was probably involved in the initiative to rebuild the fortress of the Château de Montségur. She belonged to the conference of Pamiers (1207) which followed the "conference of Montreal" (1206). It was the last debate between the Cathars and the Roman Catholic Church, represented by Dominic Guzman, founder of the Dominican order and later known as Saint Dominic.

The following year (1208), the Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars after the murder of his delegate Pierre de Castelnau.

There is a debate about her life :

  • For Catholics, she acted to spread heresy in the country and obliged people to adopt rules of life of the cathars.
  • For others, she was responsible for the establishment of schools and hospitals in the region. For those reasons, she was known as "la Grande Esclarmonde".

The meaning of her firstname is also expressed in several medieval epic poems including one often named "Esclaramonde" by Bertran de Born, and in "Parzival" by Wolfram von Eschenbach.

In her memory, the University of Winnipeg created in 1978 the Esclarmonde de Foix Memorial Travel Scholarship[1]


This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the French Wikipedia.

Further reading[edit]

  • Michel Roquebert, The epopee cathare. 1198-1212: The invasion, Toulouse: Privat, 1970.
  • Helene Luise Köppel, Die Ketzerin vom Montségur, Aufbau-TB-Verlag, Berlin, 2002, ISBN 3-7466-1869-X (in German)
  • Glen Craney, "The Fire and The Light"
  • Norma Lorre Goodrich, "The Holy Grail," Harper Perennial, 1993, ISBN 0-06-092204-4