Oliver de Termes

(Termes, Aude, near 1200 – Acre, Israel, August 12, 1274)

Oliver, one of the most famous knights of the thirteenth century, was initially the most active of the opponents to the Albigensian crusade and a protector of the Cathars. He became after an appreciated knight of king Louis IX of France and of the Catholic Church in Southern France and the Holy Land where he died at the head of the crusaders.

Oliver acquired broad famous among his contemporaries and became familiar of several kings and popes thanks to his energy, his bravery and his control of the art of the sieges and the guerrilla of which he made proof in his trade of knight until his death.

One broken childhood

     Oliver was born around 1200 in a rich seigniorial family converted to catharism, which dominated about sixty villages or hamlets around the castle of Termes (Aude). His youth was dramatically marked by the beginning of the Albigensian crusade: in 1210 after the castle of Termes was taken by Simon de Montfort, he lost his father and his possessions, but could observe the techniques of siege and guerrilla in which he will become the large specialist. He completed his education in Catalonia where his mother was from originating. There he met his future suzerains wham he will become familiar ones : King James I of Aragon, Raimond the young person who accompanies his father Raimond VI de Toulouse, and Raimond Trencavel Viscount of Carcassonne in exile. All the four of them of the same generation, were victims of the crusade and were animated by a spirit of reconquest.



Cruciform romanesque window of the Termes’s chapel

(Photograph : Gérard Sioen)


At the service of the southern princes

     Oliver thus puts at the service these three lords and is distinguished in a great number of military operations: for the count of Toulouse he defends the village of Labècede-Lauragais besieged by the army of king of France (1227) for king James I of Aragon he takes part in the conquest of Majorque on Saracens; for the count of Toulouse he manages on several occasions the town of Narbonne revolted against its archbishop and the Inquisition (between 1234 and 1242); with Raimond Trencavel he raises Corbières against the king and carries out him siege of Carcassonne (1240) etc. In reward he receives fiefs in Lauragais, Roussillon and in Majorque.


The crossbowmen of Majorque
covered with a doublet to the coat of arms of their lord. Thus were to appear the crossbowmen which were under the orders of Oliver in Majorque or on other grounds of operation.
(Detail of a wall-painting of the conquest of Majorque, at the beginning of XIVth Century, Barcelona, Palau Reial Major, Museu d'Història de la Ciutat)

At the service of king of France

     But after its suzerains made definitively peace with Louis IX, Oliver puts himself at the service of king of France since 1245. During the VIIth crusade, Oliver, appointed by the King, Master of the crossbowmen (i.e. head of artillery), is distinguished by defending Damiette (Egypt, 1250) and by saving Joinville at Baniyas (Israel, 1253). Recognizing, King Louis returns to Oliver his seigniory of Termenès. Returned to France in 1255, Oliver puts a term at the pacification of Languedoc by obtaining the rendering of the castle of Quéribus (1255), then goes up to the court where he plays a role of adviser near the king for the businesses concerning Languedoc, Aragon and Castille. Familiar also of King James I of Aragon, Oliver is undoubtedly one of the makers of the treaty of Corbeil (1258) passed between the two kings and who fixed for four centuries the border between Aragon and France.

Siege of Damiette 1248
From the cross ships the crossbowmen support the unloading of the troops.
(Miniature of the Grandes chroniques de France, XIIIth c., Bibliothèque nationale de France).

The Chapel Saint-Bernard of Fontfroide
Built in 1257 by Oliver. The wall-niche tomb under the left arcade could shelter the tomb of Oliver de Termes

(Photograph : G. Langlois)

At the service of God

     Starting from 1257 Oliver is worked by the safety of its soul and decides to put itself at the service of God. In a few years he liquidates its seigniory of which the castle of Aguilar which it had made build, to distribute of the considerable gifts to the abbey of Fontfroide and other religious establishments, and to finance a military Holy Land forwarding. He goes back there in 1264 to the head of a royal contingent, then becomes in 1269 seneschal of the kingdom of Jerusalem, i.e. head of the Holy Armies where it carries out a fight activates against Moslems. He takes part in the VIIIth crusade by joining Louis IX in Tunis (1270) then sets out again out of Holy Land with the head of a new contingent paid by the pope and the king (1274). He dies there on August 12, 1274. Perhaps Oliver, if he was not buried out of Holy Land, rests in Fontfroide, against the Chapel Saint-Bernard that had made build.


Recumbent effigy’s knight of XIIIe century, chapel Saint-Bernard of the Fontfroide’s abbey

(This recumbent effigy, placed in the funerary chapel of Oliver de Termes, is not that of Oliver. It was bought in Spain at the beginning of the century by the owners of the abbey)


     When joining it the Catholic Church and the king of France, Oliver de Termes involved all his entourage, and undoubtedly largely facilitated some of the broad objectives of king of France and the Church : the integration of Languedoc in France, the fight against the cathar heresy, the modernisation of the Church in Languedoc, and the fight against the Moslems.

Seal of Oliver de Termes
Round seal, 35 mm.
Armorial : a full shield, the shield rounded.
(Suspended at a charter where Oliver de Termes places at the disposal of the king his ground
and his castle of Aguilar, May 1241.
Arch. nat. J 399 n° 39. DOUET D'ARCQ, n° 3675.)

Source :

Langlois (Gauthier). – Olivier de Termes, le cathare et le croisé (vers 1200-1274), Toulouse : Éditions Privat, 2001, 288 p. (Collection Domaine cathare).

File Sir Oliver de Termes. Find on this site some extracts of the book "Oliver de Termes, the Cathare and the Crusader" (abstract, summary, maps of the crusades, genealogy of the family of Termes, the first chapter etc.), a forum of discussion on the siege of Termes and Oliver de Termes. You can order the book also there.



Page made by Gauthier LANGLOIS

Extract from the site Paratge at the address :
< http://paratge.chez-alice.fr/histoire/oliver_de_termes.htm >
Last modified : August 31, 2003