The Relationship of the Italian and Southern French Cathars, 1170-1320

The Relationship of the Italian and Southern French Cathars, 1170-1320

By Andrew Roach

PhD Dissertation, University of Oxford, 1989

The Cathar stronghold of Carcasonne in southern France.

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to answer two questions, namely why Southern French Cathars chose to flee to Italy when persecuted in the early thirteenth century and secondly to assess the extent to which Catharism was a ‘universal church’.

The first three chapters deal with the separate arrivals of Catharism in Italy and Southern France from the Byzantine Empire. The growth of Catharism’s different characteristics in each place is observed, both before and after the mission to both areas of Nicetas, the Byzantine dualist. Subsequent chapters deal with economic, political and cultural links between Southern France and Italy, and the development of Catharism in both areas.

The assault by the Inquisition led to the flight of many Cathar perfecti and supporters from Languedoc. Communities of Languedocian Cathars built up within the context of the wider Languedocian community in north Italy. Subsequently there were Southern French Cathars at Cuneo, Alessandria, Pavia, Cremona, Piacenza, Sirmione and there was an unsuccessful attempt to establish a community in the kingdom of Sicily. A recognisable history of these communities can be traced, beginning in Cuneo in the 1240s and ending with the fall of Sirmione in 1276. Within this period there were some limited examples of cooperation between Southern French and Italian Cathars in north Italy.

The penultimate chapter deals with the participation of Southern French and Italians in the revival of Catharism in both areas, which was organised from Piedmont in the period 1290-1320. There follows a brief comparison of the doctrine, ritual and lifestyle of the two sects and how, in the case of the Languedocian Cathars, these were affected by the period in Italy. The conclusion drawn is that economic, cultural and political considerations largely dictated the Languedocian Cathars’ choice of refuge and that, although there was an element of universalism in the heresy, regional differences were more important. The sources used are mainly Inquisition material, and in addition, chronicles, charters, notarial documents and the vidas of the troubadours.

Click here to read this dissertation from the University of Oxford

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