'tis but a scratch: fact and fiction about the Middle Ages
'tis but a scratch: fact and fiction about the Middle Ages
Richard Abels

Heresy and Crusade in Southern France: The Cathars

58 minutes Posted Jul 23, 2022 at 2:00 pm.
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In this episode Ellen and I talk about a dualist heresy that was widespread in twelfth- and thirteenth-century southern France and northern Italy.  This heresy is generally known as Catharism.  Its central tenet was that there are two gods, a good god who created the spiritual world and an evil god who created the visible world. The soul of man is good, but the flesh in which it is imprisoned is evil.  Pope Innocent III regarded the heresy as a sufficient threat to Christendom to warrant a crusade. This was the so-called Albigensian Crusade that began in 1209 and did not end until 1229.  A Dominican friar writing around 1250 observed that “if the heresy had not been cut back by the swords of the faithful … it would have corrupted the whole of Christendom.”  The Albigensian Crusade was exceptionally brutal even by medieval standards. It began with a massacre that gave birth to the saying, "kill them all. God will know his own." The failure of this crusade to eradicate the heresy was the impetus for the creation of the medieval inquisition.
     This subject is also a stroll down memory lane for Ellen and me, as we reflect upon our collaboration many, many years ago on an article about women's participation in Catharism.  When we wrote that article no one questioned whether there really was a Cathar heresy. That is no longer the case. 
     Please join us as we examine the historiography and history of the Cathars.

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Intro and exit music are by Alexander Nakarada

If you have questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected]