By Diana Jane Morton
Master’s Thesis: Wichita State University, 2009
Abstract: The following thesis is a narrative history of the persecution and ultimate elimination of a Christian heresy called Catharism. Their destruction was brought about by the Roman Catholic Church which saw the Cathar’s strength in numbers, wealth, and organization as a viable threat to its power. Pope Innocent III called for a crusade against the heretics – the Albigensian Crusade beginning July, 1209, in the southern region of France known as Languedoc (Occitania).
The most powerful noble of this period is Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. He took every possible means to protect his subjects and land from the ravages of the Crusading army. His unwillingness to persecute heretics exemplifies the choice made by the majority of noblemen in the South and portrays best what was then known as “parage.”
The voice of this narrative is that of a Cathar woman, a perfecta, raised in a noble family of believers, and educated by Cathar perfectae. She represents many Occitanian women: educated and financially independent seeking spiritual guidance and purpose. The Cathar faith offered her position, equality, and a voice – all forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church.
Excerpt: Listen, you can hear the soft rustling of foot soldiers in the valley deep below as they build the mass burning pyre. Tomorrow morning we will walk down from our Montsegur fortress and step up to our deaths. We were given a choice: swear allegiance to the Roman Church or die. We made our choice. Two days ago, the consolamentum was administered by the perfecti to the credentes, the majority of those surrendering, and also to numerous knights, soldiers, and mercenaries. These men fought valiantly in our defense are now choosing to die by our side and in our faith – amazing.