Henry of Marcy

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Blessed Henry of Marcy[1] (c. 1136 – 1 January 1189) was a Cistercian abbot first of Hautecombe (1160) and then of Clairvaux from 1177 until 1179.[2] He was created Cardinal Bishop of Albano at the Third Lateran Council in 1179.[3]

He was an important figure in the fight against the late twelfth-century movements of Catharism and Waldensianism and took a leading part at III Lateran.[4] He strongly supported the use of force to suppress heresy and a strong alliance between secular and ecclesiastic authority in the use of force.

Early life[edit]

Henry was named after his birthplace of Castro Marsiaco, or the Château de Marcy, near Cluny in Burgundy.[5] He joined the Cistercian order in 1155 or 1156, becoming a monk at Clairvaux before being sent as to become the first abbot of the daughter house of Hautecombe in the Savoy. His spiritual mentor was Bernard of Clairvaux.

Militant suppression of the Cathars[edit]

In September 1177, Raymond V of Toulouse made a request to the Cistercian General Chapter for a legatine mission to help him deal with the heresy of Catharism which was rampant in his domains.[2] On 13 September 1177, the Cistercian General Chapter decided to send Henry to Languedoc at the head of a papal legation which included Peter of Pavia, Cardinal Priest of S. Crisogono; Jean des Bellesmains, Bishop of Poitiers; Pons d'Arsac, Archbishop of Narbonne; and Gerard, Archbishop of Bourges.[2][6] Roger of Howden may have accompanied him, as he is the source for the only account of the mission and he includes Henry's letter summarising their accomplishments. On the other hand, he also relied heavily on the letters between Henry and Pietro di San Chrysogono.

In 1178, Henry excommunicated Roger II of Carcassonne for imprisoning William of Dourgne, the Bishop of Albi.[2] This act severely diminished the reputation of Roger II and probably increased the animosity between Roger and Raymond VI. On the other hand, some modern scholars have suggested that it may have pushed Roger into an alliance with Alfonso II of Aragon.

Henry encountered Peter Waldo in 1180, extracting from him a profession of orthodox Catholic faith.[7]

Henry returned to the Langudeoc in 1181 and led a military attack on Roger's town of Lavaur, which Roger's wife Adelaide immediately surrendered to him without giving a fight.[8] Henry then went on to depose Pons d'Arsac from his see for being "useless and reprehensible."[9] The 1181 expedition received mention in Gaufred de Vigeois and the Chronicon Clarevallensis besides Roger of Howden's Chronicon.

Groundwork for the Third Crusade[edit]

Towards the end of his life he was offered the papal crown (1187), but he declined it in favour of Gregory VIII.[10] Beginning in 1187 he preached the Third Crusade and was in Liège in March 1188.[11] He did a great deal to mediate between the leaders of the Crusade before his death at Arras, bringing Henry II of England and Philip II of France to reconcile, as well as healing the rift between the Emperor Frederick I and Philip I, Archbishop of Cologne. It was at the Tag Gottes ("God's Day") held in Mainz in 1188 that he induced Frederick to join the Crusade. He was buried at Arras and is considered beatified. The Cistercians celebrate his day on 14 July. Among his surviving works, his letters (Epistolae) and his De peregrinante civitate Dei are published in the Patrologia Latina.[12]



  1. ^ Also called Henry of Clairvaux, Henry of Albano, Henry of Hautecombe, Henry of Marsiac, Henri de Gaule, Henricus Albanensis, Henricus de Altacumba, Henricus de Marsiaco, Henricus Gallus, Henricus Claraevallensis, Henricus de Castro Marsiaco, Henricus de Marsiaco Claraevallensis, Henricus Cisterciensis.
  2. ^ a b c d Graham-Leigh, The Southern French Nobility, 105.
  3. ^ Graham-Leigh, The Southern French Nobility, 105 n117.
  4. ^ Robinson, 181.
  5. ^ Dictionnaire.
  6. ^ Cheyette, 308.
  7. ^ [1], [2], in the French language.
  8. ^ Graham-Leigh, The Southern French Nobility, 106.
  9. ^ Graham-Leigh, Hirelings and Shepherds, 1094.
  10. ^ Robinson, 505.
  11. ^ [3], in French.
  12. ^ Patrologia Latina Database: Bibliography