During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the region known as the Languedoc, spreading approximately southward from the Loire to the Pyrenees down into Arragon and eastward to the Rhone, became the most highly civilized area of Western Europe. Its fertile soil and pleasant climate provided the means for a leisurely life. The Rhone and the Garonne were notable routes of communication and the passage of many Crusaders on their way to the East gave an immense stimulus to trade. Above all the Moslem conquest of Spain had brought the influence of Arabic culture. The larger cities had schools of medicine, mathematics and astrology where Arabian scholarship was imparted. Jews were not debarred from public life and were highly respected as doctors and teachers. The Catholic Church no longer held the monopoly of knowledge; and were gradually losing their power hold in the Languedoc.