Esclarmonde of Foix

Esclarmonde of Foix (French: Esclarmonde de Foix; Occitan: Esclarmonda de Fois), was a prominent figure associated with Catharism in thirteenth century Occitania (in the south of modern-day France).

Esclarmonde of Foix
Bornafter 1151/ 1165-1167
Other namesLa Grande Esclarmonde
OccupationAlbigense Delegate to Council at Pamiers 1207
Spouse(s)Jordan III of L'Isle-Jourdain
Parent(s)Roger-Bernard I of Foix and Cecile Trencavel

Her personal history is difficult to establish, because several noblewomen in the region at that time had the same rare first name. The name Esclarmonde means "clarity of the world" in the Occitan language.


Esclarmonde of Foix was the daughter of Roger Bernard I, Count of Foix, and Cecile Trencavel. She was a sister to Raymond-Roger of Foix, Count of Foix.

In 1175, she married Jourdain III, lord of L'Isle-Jourdain. They had 6 children:

  • Bernard-Jourdain de l'Isle-Jourdain, the eldest
  • Escaronia
  • Obica
  • Jordan
  • Othon-Bernard
  • Philippa


Esclarmonde was widowed in October 1200 and adopted Catharism sometime thereafter. Catharism was a form of Christianity which had developed in southern France at that time, and which was seen as heresy by the Catholic church.

She received the Cathar sacrament, the consolamentum, for becoming a Cathar Perfect from 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 of Foix.

She settled in Pamiers and was probably involved in the initiative to rebuild the fortress of the Château de Montségur. She participated in the Conference of Pamiers of 1207, which followed the Conference of Montreal of the previous year. 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, in 1208, Pope Innocent III launched the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars after the murder of his delegate Pierre de Castelnau.


Esclarmonde of Foix is remembered differently by different groups in France. From a Catholic point of view, she spread heresy in the country and forced people to adopt the rules of the Cathars. Among others, she was remembered for the establishment of schools and hospitals in the region, earning the nickname "la Grande Esclarmonde" – "The Great Esclarmonde".

The significance of her name's meaning, i.e. "clarity of the world", is explored in several medieval epic poems including one referred to as "Esclaramonde", by Bertran de Born, and in "Parzival" by Wolfram von Eschenbach.

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


Further readingEdit

  • Michel Roquebert [fr], The epopee cathare. 1198-1212: The invasion, Toulouse: Privat, 1970.
  • Helene Luise Köppel [de], 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 [fr], The Holy Grail, Harper Perennial, 1993, ISBN 0-06-092204-4