View Full Version : The Albigenses

9th April 2009, 00:08
The Albigenses of France died for what they believed.

The Albigenses embraced the Manichaean dualistic system that flourished in the Mediterranean area for centuries (see Manichaeism; Dualism). The dualists believed in the separate and independent existence of a god of good and a god of evil. Within western Europe, the adherents of dualism—called Cathari (from the Greek katharos, meaning “purified”). Persecuted and expelled from the north, the Catharist preachers traveled south and found far greater success in the semi-independent province of Languedoc and the surrounding areas.

The Albigenses believed that the whole of existence was a struggle between two gods: the god of light, goodness, and spirit, usually associated with Jesus Christ and the God of the New Testament; and the god of darkness, evil, and matter, identified both with Satan and the God of the Old Testament. Whether the two deities wielded equal power or whether the forces of evil were subordinate to the forces of good was a question subject to considerable debate; but, by definition, anything material—including wealth, food, and the human body itself—was evil and abhorrent. The soul had been imprisoned by Satan in the human body, and the only hope of human salvation was to live a good and spiritual life. By living a good life, after death a person could win freedom from material existence. Failure to achieve righteousness during one’s lifetime would result in the soul’s being born again as another human being or even as an animal. The Albigenses believed that Christ was God, but that during his time on earth he was a kind of angel with a phantom body taking the appearance of a man. They held that the traditional Christian church, with its corrupt clergy and its immense material wealth, was the agent of Satan and therefore to be avoided.

Adherents of the Albigensian doctrine were divided into the simple believers and the “perfects.” The perfects vowed themselves to lives of extreme asceticism. Renouncing all possessions, they survived entirely from donations given by the other members. They were forbidden to take oaths, to have sexual relations, or to eat meat, eggs, or cheese. Only the perfects could communicate with God through prayer. The simple believers might hope to become perfects through a long initiation period followed by the rite called consolamentum, or baptism of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. Some would receive this rite only when they were near death. They would then attempt to ensure their salvation by abstaining from all food and drink, in effect committing a form of suicide.

Pope Innocent III launched the armed Albigensian Crusade (1208-1229), which brutally repressed the Albigenses and desolated much of southern France. Small groups of Albigenses survived in isolated areas and were pursued by the Inquisition as late as the 14th century.

The first of the Crusades, initiated by the popes of the Middle Ages to free Jerusalem from Arab control, commenced in 1096. Three further Crusades were launched over the course of the next century, but by then the church had learned to use the Crusades in other ways.

Pope Innocent III ruled when the Catholic Church was perhaps at its zenith. Men would swarm to wear “the Cross,” as it was termed, when, beyond the excitement of being in an exotic land, for 40 days service, one’s sins could all be forgiven and a clear way to heaven provided, with a greater share of eternal salvation. Such short-term soldiers were constantly employed by Pope Innocent III to suppress heresies taking root in various parts of Europe at the dawn of the new millennium.

One group who became the object of Innocent’s enthusiasm for orthodoxy were the Albigenses of southern France. He launched a “crusade” against them.

These people were centred in the town of Albi, from which the name Albigenses has come. They were also called Cathars. They believed in dualism, much like the Manicheans of earlier times, in which there were two eternal principles of good and evil.

From this came the belief that the flesh and all material creation were seen as evil. They also rejected the doctrine of hell, purgatory and resurrection. Worse for them, they rejected the authority of the established church, and it was most likely this affront to the church that brought them into direct conflict with Innocent.

The Albigenses were good-living people in contrast to the loose living of many of the priests of the time; their neighbourliness was noteworthy also. Thus their numbers increased in southern France and, at Albi, the first of their bishops had his see or area of control.

Members of the Albigenses who entered fully into their beliefs were called the “perfecti” or perfect ones, because they renounced the flesh and marriage as evil and lived “perfect” lives as a blessing to others.
It was in 1208 when Peter of Castelnau, the papal legate in Languedoc, was assassinated. This was blamed on Raymond of Toulouse, who was seen as sympathetic to the Albigenses.

Simon de Montfort was French born, but after becoming the Earl of Leicester, lived in England. He had been very active in the Fourth Crusade. Now the pope issued indulgences to all who would help exterminate the heretics in southern France. De Montfort became the leader of an army thrown together for the purpose. He attacked Béziers and Carcassone, towns in the Albigensian district.

Béziers was the first to suffer siege. Its occupants refused to surrender the Albigenses who sheltered with them. On July 22, 1209, the defences of the town were breached and across the moat and through the walls de Montfort’s army surged.

“Kill them all,” urged their leader, “God will know which are His!”

And with this cry ringing in their ears, they butchered 20,000 men, women and children. Blood poured from the cathedral, where many had taken refuge. Then the city was torched.

Carcassone, Montpellier and other towns were attacked in quick succession. Simon de Montfort himself fulfilled the words of Jesus when He said, “He that takes the sword shall die by the sword,” and was killed in the siege of Toulouse. On his tomb in Carcassonne the epitaph shows him as a saint and a martyr.

Of this William of Tudela in The Story of the Crusade, says: “If one may seek Christ by killing men and shedding blood, by winning lands by violence, by fostering evil and snuffing out good, and by slaughtering women and children, then must Simon surely shine resplendent in heaven.”

With the Albigenses dispersed and in hiding, a peace was signed in Paris, in 1229. However, Pope Gregory IX, now the reigning pope, wanted the complete extermination of this hotbed of heresy and in 1233 commissioned the Dominicans to bring the Inquisition to the area.

With the fall of the mountain fortress Montségur in 1244 and the thorough work of the Inquisition, these people, who loved Jesus but refused to be directed by the establishment, were annihilated.

The Albigenses were different, and for this they paid the ultimate price. Yet they loved Jesus and lived by His principles, a summary lesson for all who value principle above dogma and liberty more than death.

9th April 2009, 00:09
Raynaldus: on the Accusations against the Albigensians

We know the beliefs of the Cathars, or "Albigensians" mainly through the writings of opponents.
This account is from an early thirtheenth century chronicle

First it is to be known that the heretics held that there are two Creators; viz. one of invisible things, whom they called the benevolent God, and another of visible things, whom they named the malevolent God. The New Testament they attributed to the benevolent God; but the Old Testament to the malevolent God, and rejected it altogether, except certain authorities which are inserted in the New Testament from the Old; which, out of reverence to the New Testament, they esteemed worthy of reception. They charged the author of the Old Testament with falsehood, because the Creator said, "In the day that ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall die;" nor (as they say) after eating did they die; when, in fact, after the eating the forbidden fruit they were subjected to the misery of death. They also call him a homicide, as well because he burned up Sodom and Gomorrah, and destroyed the world by the waters of the deluge, as because he overwhelmed Pharaoh, and the Egyptians, in the sea. They affirmed also, that all the fathers of the Old Testament were damned; that John the Baptist was one of the greater demons. They said also, in their secret doctrine, (in secreto suo) that that Christ who was born in the visible, and terrestrial Bethlehem, and crucified in Jerusalem, was a bad man, and that Mary Magdalene was his concubine; and that she was the woman taken in adultery, of whom we read in the gospel. For the good Christ, as they said, never ate, nor drank, nor took upon him true flesh, nor ever was in this world, except spiritually in the body of Paul....

They said that almost all the Church of Rome was a den of thieves; and that it was the harlot of which we read in the Apocalypse. They so far annulled the sacraments of the Church, as publicly to teach that the water of holy Baptism was just the same as river water, and that the Host of the most holy body of Christ did not differ from common bread; instilling into the ears of the simple this blasphemy, that the body of Christ, even though it had been as great as the Alps, would have been long ago consumed, and annihilated by those who had eaten of it. Confirmation and Confession, they considered as altogether vain and frivolous. They preached that Holy Matrimony was meretricious, and that none could be saved in it, if they should beget children. Denying also the Resurrection of the flesh, they invented some unheard of notions, saying, that our souls are those of angelic spirits who, being cast down from heaven by the apostacy of pride, left their glorified bodies in the air; and that these souls themselves, after successively inhabiting seven terrene bodies, of one sort or another, having at length fulfilled their penance, return to those deserted bodies.

It is also to be known that some among the heretics were called perfect" or "good men;" others "believers" of the heretics. Those who were called perfect, wore a black dress, falsely pretended to chastity, abhorred the eating of flesh, eggs and cheese, wished to appear not liars, when they were continually telling lies, chiefly respecting God. They said also that they ought not on any account to swear.

Those were called "believers" of the heretics, who lived after the manner of the world, and who though they did not attain so far as to imitate the life of the perfect, nevertheless hoped to be saved in their faith; and though they differed as to their mode of life, they were one with them in belief and unbelief Those who were called believers of the heretics were given to usury, rapine, homicide, lust, perjury and every vice; and they, in fact, sinned with more security, and less restraint, because they believed that without restitution, without confession and penance, they should be saved, if only, when on the point of death, they could say a Pater noster, and received imposition of hands from the teachers.

As to the perfect heretics however they had a magistracy whom they called Deacons and Bishops, without the imposition of whose hands, at the time of his death, none of the believers thought that he could be saved; but if they laid their hands upon any dying man, however wicked, if he could only say a Pater noster, they considered him to be saved, that without any satisfaction, and without any other aid, he immediately took wing to heaven.

From Raynaldus, "Annales," in S. R. Maitland, trans., History of the Albigenses and Waldenses, (London: C. J. G. and F. Rivington, 1832), pp. 392-394.