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The Cathars

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Cathars and Cathar Beliefs

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The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, their origins something of a mystery though there is reason to believe their ideas came from Persia or the Byzantine Empire.

Cathars were Christian heretics or they were not Christians at all.

Roman Catholics still refer to Cathar belief as "the Great Heresy"

The Cathar country corresponds approximately to the new French region of Occitanie.

They divided into ordinary believers who led ordinary medieval lives and an inner Elect of Parfaits (men) and Parfaites (women) who led extremely ascetic lives yet still worked for their living.

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Cathars believed in reincarnation and refused to eat meat or other animal products

The Consolamentum was a spiritual baptism. Only a Parfait could administer the Consolamentum.

It was the most significant ceremony, marking the transition from ordinary believer to to Parfait.

The ceremony was striking in its simplicity.

In the Languedoc, known at the time for its high culture, tolerance and liberalism, the Cathar religion took root and gained more and more adherents during the twelfth century.

The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Innocent III, called a formal Crusade against the Cathars of the Languedoc, appointing a series of military leaders to head his Holy Army.

Arnaud was appointed as military leader of the crusaders during the first stages of the war in 1209.


He was responsible for the mass burning alive of "many heretics and many fair women" at Casseneuil", for the massacre at Béziers, where some 20,000 men, women and children were killed in an "exercise of Christian charity", and for the immortal words "Kill them all. God will know his own".

Simon was not only a fearsome warrier, but also a good tactitian and strategist.

The first Cathar crusade was led by vassals of Philippe Augustus.

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His son, Prince Louis, the future Louis VIII King of France joined the Crusade.

As king, Louis VIII continued to prosecute wars against the Count of Toulouse and died on his way home from Crusading in the Languedoc. When he died his wife Blanche of Castile, became regent for their infant son Louis IX (later St-Louis), and she also actively pursued the war against her cousin the Count of Toulouse. Ten years later Louis IX reached majority and took over leadership of the War himself.

Raymond VI was the reigning Count of Toulouse at the time of the outbreak of the Cathar Wars.  

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Last edited: 24/01/2017

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