This is the first comprehensive account in English of the most feared and the most mysterious of medieval heretics.
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The Cathars of medieval Europe were so named, wrote one German theologian, because in their satanic rituals they kissed the backsides of black cats. Had he known his Greek, he would have recognized that the Cathars took their name from a word meaning "purified," but he certainly had a firm grasp on Christendom's official sentiments: the Cathars, members of various sects who rejected the opulence of Roman and Byzantine Christianity alike and took vows of poverty and chastity, were despised wherever their heresy traveled.
Originating in Asia Minor and brought to Europe by way of Bulgaria, the rise of Catharism prompted the first recorded burnings at the stake in France, led to the establishment of the papal Inquisition and the Dominican order of monks who conducted it, and caused the deaths of untold thousands of men, women, and children over a three-century period from about 1200 to 1459, when the official Cathar church was outlawed in its final stronghold, Bosnia. Lambert writes with dry authority on the curious history of this doctrine and official response to it. --Gregory McNameeFrom the Back Cover:
This is the first comprehensive account in English of the most feared and the most mysterious of medieval heretics. A crusade was launched to uproot them in the south of France, the Inquisition was developed to suppress them, and St Dominic founded his friars to preach against them. Their history and that of the medieval Church are inextricably mingled.
This book puts the Cathars back into the context where they belong - that of medieval Catholicism. It studies the rise and fall of the heresy from the twelfth-century Rhineland to fifteenth-century Bosnia and the Church's counteraction, peaceful and violent. Within the exposition, Italian Cathars are given their rightful place, a chapter is devoted to the puzzle of the Bosnian Church, and perspective is given to Le Roy Ladurie's brilliant but wayward Montaillou. A final survey assesses the legacy of a heresy which still exerts its strange fascination.
This book combines scholarly investigation with lucid narrative. It is, in short, historical writing at its best and likely to become the definitive account of a subject of enduring interest and importance.
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