By Michael Glen Bazemore
M.A. History Thesis, North Carolina State University (2009)
Abstract: The execution of a number of clerics at Orléans in 1022 is viewed as a watershed moment in the history of heresy in the West. Five documents bear witness to the events, and each presents problems for historians. The accounts of Adémar of Chabannes and Paul of St Père de Chartres have received more attention than others, since they hint at the presence of dualist heretics in France, whom some historians have sought to link to the dualist Bogomils of Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire. Though the consensus on the origins of heretics in France has shifted to emphasize local conditions in the emergence of heresy, recent document discoveries have revived the debate. Most prominent of these is the so-called “Letter of Héribert” describing seemingly dualist heretics in Périgord. Previously believed to a twelfth century document, it has recently been discovered in an eleventh-century version. This thesis argues that the “Letter” describes not dualist heretics, but conscientious Christians taking responsibility for their own salvation.It further contends that this group can be identified as the “Manichaeans” whom Adémar of Chabannes describes as appearing in Aquitaine in 1018, and that when he applied the same label to the heretics of Orléans, he was not truly describing the latter group. The similarities between the doctrines adduced to the heretics and those of the Bogomils are considered, and it is argued that these are due to the influence of Orthodox monks on their Western brethren. Finally, it considers the implications of this for the study of eleventh-century heresy.
Heresy was in the air throughout France during the first half of the eleventh century. On the Feast of the Innocents in 1022 a number of persons associated with the Church of the Holy Cross at Orléans were, at the order of King Robert II, burned as heretics. There were, based on the various reports of the incident, between ten and fourteen of them, and whether all of them were clergy is muddied by the sources available, but it seems certain that at least ten of them were. What is certain is that their leaders were close to the king, their unmasking an embarrassment in Orléans, where two bishops contested the episcopate and served as proxies in a struggle between the king of France and the count of Blois. It was the first execution for heresy in the West since the fourth century. The incident at Orléans would not be the only such event in the early eleventh century, but since it seems to mark a shift in both the emergence of heretical groups and in the tactics used in dealing with them, it is the best known.