Languedoc Topics
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The Cathars

     
 

 

Did this peace-loving Gnostic Christian sect hold important secrets before they were exterminated by the Roman Catholic Church, its Crusaders and its Inquisitors ?

The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, their beliefs something of a mystery.  In the Languedoc, famous at the time for its high culture, tolerance and liberalism, Catharism took root and gained more and more adherents during the twelfth century. 

The Cathars of the Languedoc were accused of Dualism & Heresy though in truth, they preserved a very early form of belief from the Early Christian Church which we now know from recently discovered Gnostic Gospels. Records from the Roman Church mention them under various names and in various places, occasionally throwing light on basic beliefs The Roman Catholic Church debated with itself whether they were Christian heretics or whether they were not Christians at all. 

A Medieval representation of a Cathar Baptism

A Medieval representation of a Cathar Baptism

By the early thirteenth century it was probably the majority religion in the area, supported by the nobility as well as the common people.  This was too much for the Roman Church, some of whose own priests had become Cathars.  Worst of all, Cathars refused to pay their tithes.

Innocent III, called a formal crusade, appointing a series of leaders, to head his holy army.  There followed over forty years of war against the indigenous population.  During this period, some 600,000 men women and children were massacred; the Counts of Toulouse, their vassals were dispossessed and humiliated, and their lands annexed to France.  Educated and tolerant rulers were replaced by relative barbarians;  the Dominican Order was founded and the Inquisition, was established to wipe out the last vestiges of resistance;  persecutions of Jews and other minorities were initiated;  the height culture of the Troubadours was lost;  lay learning was discouraged;  tithes were enforced;  the Languedoc started its economic decline,  and the language of the area, Occitan started its descent from one of the foremost languages in Europe to a regional dialect. Carcassonne fell to the French Crusaders in 1209 at the begining of the Crusade and Montsegur in 1244 at the end of it.

Cathars expelled from the Medieval Cité of Carcassonne in 1209

Cathars expelled from the Medieval Cité of Carcassonne in 1209

At the end of the extirpation of the Cathars, the Church had convincing proof that a sustained campaign of genocide can work. It also had the precedent of an internal Crusade within Christendom, and the machinery of the first police state.  This crusade was one of the greatest disasters ever to befall Europe.  Catharism is often said to have been completely eradicated by the end of the fourteenth century.  Yet there are more than a few vestiges even today, apart from the enduring memory of their martyrdom and the ruins of the famous castles. There are even people claiming to be modern Cathars.

A modern reconstruction of a Cathar Baptism

A modern reconstruction of a Cathar Baptism

If you are more interested in the Cathars of the Languedoc, you might be more interested in Cathar Country Tours.

 

 
 
 

Recommended Books

     
     

 

Cathar Related Goods

     
 
     
 
     

 

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