The Polemical use of the Albigensian Crusade during the French Wars of Religion
French History 13, 3 (1999)
From the outset of the Reformation, Catholic authors had sought to draw parallels between Protestantism and earlier heresies. In France, members of the Sorbonne took arguments from controversies against a variety of heretical groups which they applied indiscriminately to Protestantism. Although the Albigensian, or Cathar heresy was mentioned in this context, it was but one of many such heresies used for the purpose of combating Protestantism. The reason the Albigensians received special attention from Catholic polemicists lay with the political specificity of the Albigensian heresy rather than their alleged beliefs: of all other heresies, Catharism alone had been the object of an organised crusade. The comparison between the emerging Calvinist Church and the Albigensian heresy became commonplace during the French wars of religion. At the same time, the Protestant demand for identity and legitimacy was being answered in the shape of martyrologies and histories of the True Church. Protestant martyrologists gradually came to terms with the Catholic comparison with medieval heresy and turned it to their advantage.