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Mysteries of the Languedoc


Their concept of courtly Love, its origins in the Midi, supported by the Counts of Toulouse

Modern European literature originated in Occitania in the early 12th century.  It was started by hundreds of Troubadours (poet-musicians), who sang the praises of new values and in a new way.   Their themes were courtly love, and concepts such as "convivencia" and "paratge" for which there is no modern counterpart in modern English or French.   "convivencia" meant something more than conviviality and "paratge" meant something more than honour, courtesy, chivalry or gentility (though our concepts of honour, courtesy, chivalry and gentility all owe something to the concept of "paratge".

They praised high ideals, promoting a spirit of equality based on common virtue and deprecating discrimination based on blood or wealth.  They were responsible for a great flowering of creativity.  The lyrics could be racy, even by modern standards.  Woman troubadours as well as men were welcomed in Châteaux throughout the Midi.  They were loathed and resented by the Roman Church, though a number of priests and bishops had themselves been well known troubadours - including the infamous Fouquet de Marseille, Bishop of Toulouse.  The contempt for class distinction is well illustrated by the social standing of troubadours.  As well as commoners and minor nobles, known troubadours include an emperor, five kings, five marquises, ten counts, a countess and five viscounts. 

"Trobadors" were welcomed by noble courts throughout Occitania, including areas that are now regarded as Spanish, Italian or French.   They were also welcomed in the courts of England, France and even Germany (as minnesänger).   They made great contributions to intellectual life with their new art, blending courtly love, eroticism, political satire and philosophy - all of which excited the ire of the Roman Church.

Some 2000 of their works are known, from the short compositions like the "cansos", to the epics.  All are expressed in Occitan, or as it was then called, "plana lenga romana" - the plain Roman tongue.

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