The Albigensian Crusade (named for the city of Albi) was launched by the pope in 1209. Under the brutal leadership of Simon de Montfort, the Cathars were slowly eradicated in a series of genocidal campaigns characterized by various atrocities: sieges, famine, mass mutiliations, and outright massacres. After the military defeat of the Cathars, the papacy sought to win hearts and minds by establishing the Inquisition under the leadership of the newly established Dominican Order. Secret inquiries, torture, confiscations, and executions were common over the course of more than a century. The last execution of a Cathar by burning took place in 1321; the last community of Cathars (at the obscure mountain village Montaillou) was eliminated by the Inquisition in 1412.
Today, the most famous signs of these tragic times are the numerous ruins of Cathar castles, usually perched on steep cliffs in the remote foothills of the Pyrenees.