Posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 28, 2005
In Reply to: Kill them all... posted by R. Berg on July 28, 2005
: : I am trying to find the origin of this phrase or quote. Please help me if possible.
: : The phrase is "Kill them all, let God sort them out". I have been told it has to do with the sacking of a city that had Christian inhabitants.
: : I am trying to write a reply to a letter to the editor and would like some quick help please and thank-you.
: A historical explanation involving a real city seems unlikely. Can your informant document that idea? I suspect that the phrase originated in 20th-century popular culture.
This comes from a perfectly genuine mediaeval anecdote. In 1209, during the "Albigensian Crusade" against the Cathar heresy in Southern France, the forces of Orthodox Catholicism had been besieging the city of Beziers, defended by the Cathar heretics, for some time. Finally they breached the walls of the city and prepared to storm it. The commander of the crusade, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, pointed out that not everybody in the city was a heretic, some of them wer good Catholics, so how should they treat the inhabitants when they captured the city? A monk who was actually present at the siege recorded the answer of the Papal Legate to the Crusaders, Arnaud-Amaury, the Abbot of Citeaux, as "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet." ("Kill them all. God will know his own." ) So the Crusaders followed his advice and killed everybody they could find in Beziers.
The Abbot presumably said it in everyday French, and the account we have is in Latin, but there seems no reason to doubt that he really did give that advice.