THE PRINCIPLES OF THE DOGMA
finds its origins in the first signs of Christianism, and
is somehow similar to the Persian Bogomilian religion,
although it is quite different.
(click on the miniature)
Like it is said above, the Cathars were Christians, and relied on the New Testament, giving a capital position to the Gospels. (the Old Testament was about the history of a different god, not theirs).
Cathars were dualistic: God is essentially good. He cannot
therefore be responsible for the plagues of this world.
Evil is the absolute contrary. These theory leads to the
conclusion that there are two Creations, one Good, and
one Evil (this lies on a different interpretation of only
one verse on the Gospel from St John!).
Human beings are made of material, and therefore cannot
be divine creatures. To create them, Satan seduced some
of God's angels and imprisonned them in flesh. The soul,
carried by the blood, gives them life itself (if a human
being looses its blood, he dies). Hence, a Human being
is host to three distinct entities: the body (Evil), the
Spirit (good and immortal), and the Soul (source of life).
a consequence, Christ - who is considered as God incarnate
by Rome - cannot be "God" in that form.
THE CATHAR SOCIETY
The Cathar Society was rather organized: there were Bounshommes (in Oc language: "good men"), deacons, and bishops. The Cathars were strongly opposed to the Roman Church, its hierarchy, and its "decadence".
The Perfects were often wandering through the country by two, preaching, and begging for their subsistence. They were poorly dressed, vegetarians, and aside from their religious role, they were often dyers, doctors or nurses, confidants,... They were very close to the people, and were called "Perfects" because of their lives which were exemplary. They were able to give the "Consolamentum", a kind of baptism, which they had themselves received to be Perfects. There were Perfect men and Perfect women without any sexual segregation whatsoever.
Generally, they would give the "Consolamentum" to dying people, in order to purify them before they die, and therefore, making them Perfects before death and their creator.
The Deacons were the elders, but there were no actual diocese. Many deacons were killed during the assault of Montsegur which I will tell later on...
THE POLITICO-HISTORICAL CONTEXT
As I said sooner, Catharism remained only in the South of France. The area is roughly limited by Albi, in the North, Toulouse, in the West, Béziers, in the East, and Carcassonne in the South.
This part of Europe had been a crossroads for commercial exchanges for a very long time (spices, salt, fabric,...). The lords of the area, under the domination of the Count of Toulouse, and the viscount of Béziers and Carcassonne, were becoming richer and richer, and were seeking more and more refinement.
At this time, the Roman Church was giving the world a distorted image of the Catholic clergy, and therefore of the Catholic religion: it was less and less a spiritual guide, and more and more a bunch of greedy people. Yet, its power was feared by the kings of Europe, because the Pope had the power of excommunication, thus damning the sinful forever (many of them joined the first crusade in Holly Land in 1065 to take Jerusalem back from the Turks, in order to get purified from sins they had committed in the eyes of Rome... And for most of the lords, the following crusades were more a matter of pillage and 'salvation' than of religious conversion of the 'infidels').
The Lords from Languedoc (this part of the south of France), fed up with those religious debaucheries, were seduced by the doctrine taught by those pairs of men in black robes, preaching a penitent life.
The humble people appreciated the proximity with these new 'priests', who often were weavers, herbalists, 'doctors',… , close to the people and its misery (it was not seldom that the Perfects knew by name all the inhabitants of the village). Thus Catharism slowly nested in Languedoc.
(Map of the Cathar churches From "Histoire Médiévale" special number Feb. 2003).
The election of young Pope Innocent the 3rd about 2 centuries later, was going to toll the knell of the Cathar heresy...
The Cathar, rich and powerful, were spreading all around Europe, and therefore becoming a serious threat to Rome.(Map of the Cathar Dioceses From "Histoire Médiévale" special number Feb. 2003) Moreover, according to their doctrine, Jesus Christ was not God made man, a major heresy. Innocent the 3rd declared the dogma an heresy, and asked the king of France, Philippe-Auguste, to send an army of crusaders. At the same time, St Dominic created the community of the preacher friars, religious men who were close to the humble people, and who were preoccupied by their problems, as another recent religious order, the Franciscans. They were therefore very efficient at converting them… And it was the beginning of Inquisition...
The king of France Philippe-Auguste saw in this crusade a totally different opportunity… Languedoc had always been proud and independent, almost like a kingdom inside the kingdom. Philippe-Auguste had the opportunity there to grab all these treasures, and to silence these dangerous and impetuous vassals.
The Albigensians' crusade was indeed a religious crusade, but first, it was a war of conquest…
In 1207, Innocent the 3rd excommunicates Raimond VI of Toulouse for making an attempt to the moral order (he was too friendly towards the Cathars...). Fearing his lands would be seized, Raimond tries to make peace with Rome. The papal legate, Pierre de Castelnau, accepts to meet him in Saint Gilles at the beginning of 1208. Unfortunately, Pierre de Castelnau is murdered. It is a terrible offense, and the Pope asks Philippe-Auguste, king of France, to send an army of crusaders in Languedoc.
The king orders Simon de Monfort, a terrible warrior, to be the leader of this army. We are in 1208, the crusade will last 50 years...