Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
Confession of Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes


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Source Documents: Confession of Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes

 

 

Introduction

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers, created and conducted his own Episcopal inquisition in the first quarter of the fourteenth century. Questioning of those suspected (or "vehemently suspected") of heresy usually took place in a chamber of his Episcopal palace at Pamiers. He sat judicially alongside a Dominican Inquisitor such as the Inquisitor for Toulouse or the Inquisitor for Carcassonne for the most important events and in most cases a Dominican from the local Convent in Pamiers deputizing for the Inquisitor of Carcassonne. Also present were various witnesses - Archdeacons, Priors, rectors, Cistercian monks, Dominican friars, jurists and notaries. Notaries made notes in Occitan, and read them back in the same language "the vulgar tongue" before rewriting a final version in Latin. Witnesses were also questioned. None of the accused here had legal representation, and so faced a panel of legal experts - including one one of the finest canon lawyers in Christendom - alone.

Inquisitors are interested in three things:

  • Discovering and documented examples of "heresy" - any deviation from Catholic teaching (in one notable case for ridiculing the Catholic practice of placing a lighted candle in the mouth of sick people expected to die). Failing to report heresy was also an offense.
  • Discovering the identities of other "heretics" - those who had ever doubted any Catholic doctrine, who had associated with known heretics, or had been present as heretical events such as heretical preaching, Cathar baptisms ("heretication"), Cathar ritual greetings ("adoration"), or Waldensian ordinations.
  • Discovering details that might help identify other heretics, for example the Inquisitors are interested in what Baptized Cathars wore (usually black, dark blue or dark green clothes and cloaks with hoods) and where they meet.

Those accused were sometimes kept temporarily in a tower belonging to the Bishop under the control of the Bishop's jailer. Some, especially those facing more serious accusations were kept in another prison at the Chateau des Allemans, where hearings also took place. Sentences were read out at separate public events, generally in a cemetery - either the cemetery of the Church of Saint-Jean-Martyr in Pamiers or the cemetery of the Church at Allemans. For a first offense fully admitted the accused might be imprisoned at the Wall in Carcassonne, or given a penance such as having to go on pilgrimage. They would also have to wear conspicuous yellow crosses sewn into the front and back of their clothes. For second offenses or first offenses where the accused refused to acknowledge their supposed errors the penalty was death. Baptized Cathars and Waldensians both refused to swear oaths and this was itself sufficient to warrant death. Such "impenitent heretics" were burned alive immediately in the graveyard immediately after the sentence had been announced. There was no appeal.

 

Interrogation

 

 

 

date and place

 

 

 

 

23 October 1318

Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes
Episcopal Chamer of the Bishop of Pamiers

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers

Pierre Raffy,

Hugues de Bilhères of Mirepoix, jurist

Guillaume de Saint-Julien of Pamiers, jurist

Guillaume de Pardailhan, notary

 


The year of the Lord 1318 the Monday after the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist (October 23, 1318).

 

It has come to the attention of the Reverend Father in Christ My Lord Jacques, by divine providence the Bishop of Pamiers, that Pierre Sabatier of Varilhes in the diocese of Pamiers is strongly suspected of heresy, by reason of certain things said about him by certain persons against the Catholic faith, which the said Pierre has publicly defamed. My said Lord Bishop wishing, as he is bound by his duty, to find out the truth concerning the said Pierre and others, had him brought into his presence in the episcopal room of the See of Pamiers, wishing, as was just said, to inquire into the truth of that which precedes, and with the assistance of persons of good judgment, My Lord Pierre Raffy, the Masters Hugues de Bilhères of Mirepoix, Guillaume of Saint-Julien of Pamiers, jurists and of myself Guillaume de Pardailhan, notary as written below.

 

My said Lord Bishop openly interrogated the said Pierre Sabatier in order to know whether he had ever said that everything said or sung in the church is a lie, by which he gravely defamed the church. He responded no.

 

Item, the bishop asked him openly:

 

Have you ever said that it would benefit people in the throes of mortal agony more to put the consecrated candle into their anus, rather than in their mouth, as one presently does? People have accused you of speaking thus in defamation.

No. But Bernard Masse, my brother-in-law, has spread it about on my account malevolently that I have said this, even though I never said it. And this Bernard Masse, when he had fallen sick of that illness he died from, asked my pardon for these calumnies.

 

Interrogated concerning the articles of faith, he said that he was a good and faithful Catholic and that he paid his tithe and first fruits, he gave alms to the Poor in Christ and made pilgrimages and other good works which a Good Christian and Catholic does and ought to do. And he said nothing else pertinent.

 

 

 

 

6 November 1318

Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes
Episcopal Chamer of the Bishop of Pamiers

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers

Pierre du Verdier, Archdeacon of Majorca

Bernard Bonnet

Guillaume de Pardailhan, notary

 

After this, the same year as above (1318) the Monday after All-Saints (November 6) the said Pierre Sabatier was brought into the presence of my said Lord Bishop in the said room, in the presence of My Lord Pierre du Verdier, Archdeacon of Majorca and of Master Bernard Bonnet, jurist of Pamiers, and My Lord the Bishop interrogated him once again openly:

 

Have you ever said that everything said or sung in the church is a lie?

One day, I don't remember when, about three years ago, I was coming from the church of Varilhes and was close to the house of Hélis, widow of Guillaume Mate of Varilhes. She asked me where I was coming from. I said that I was coming from the church where everyone lies. But when I said this, I was drunk and the sense in which I said it was that at the moment there were dances being held in the church.

 

Who was present when you said this?

Hélis, and no one else, as I recall.

 

Have you never said this elsewhere, or in other words similar or worse?

No.

 

Have you ever said à propos of this candle....(the same words as recounted above)?

I said this one time at Varilhes to my late brother-in-law, about twenty years ago, I do not remember the exact day, that when someone dies in a state of mortal sin, it will do more to relieve his agony to place the consecrated candle in his anus than in his mouth. And Bernard Masse calumniated me gravely on this subject and he asked my pardon for this defamation.

 

Interrogated concerning the articles of faith, he said that he was a Good Christian and a faithful Catholic and that during the past year he had gone on a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame de Montserrat with his wife and this year, again with his wife, to Santiago de Compostella.

 

And he said nothing else pertinent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 November 1318

Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes
Episcopal Chamer of the Bishop of Pamiers

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers

Pierre du Verdier, Archdeacon of Majorca

Guillaume de Quiniballe, canon of Lombez,

Hughes de Bilhères, jurist

Bernard Bonnet, jurist

Jacques Camelle, jurist

Bernard Gaubert, jurist

Pierre Joulé, notary of Pamiers,

Guillaume de Pardailhan, notary

 

 

 

 

 

After this, the same year as above (1318) the Tuesday before the feast of Saint Catherine the Virgin (November 6th), the said Pierre Sabatier was brought once again into the presence of my said Lord Bishop in the Episcopal Chamber of the See of Pamiers, and swore on the four holy Gospels of God to tell the truth concerning the facts which precede and that which follows. Present and assisting my said Lord Bishop were the persons of good judgment My Lord Pierre du Verdier, Archdeacon of Majorca, Master Guillaume de Quiniballe, canon of Lombez, Hughes de Bilhères, Bernard Bonnet, Jacques Camelle, Bernard Gaubert, jurists, and Pierre Joulé, notary of Pamiers, as well as myself, Guillaume de Pardailhan, notary indicated below, who swore individually, on the holy Gospels of God and conforming to the canonical statutes, to keep secret the present inquisition and to assist and counsel my said Lord Bishop as they were required to do insofar as the Lord would give them discernment, in the present inquisition.

 

When my said Lord Bishop had received from Pierre Sabatier the oath to tell the pure and simple truth about everything contained in the said accusation and to respond to questions without concealing the truth whatever it may be, Pierre declared and avowed of his own free will:

 

About three years ago, I don't remember the day, at Varilhes at the front door of my house, in the presence of Hélis, the widow of Guillaume Mate and Arnaud Gout of Varilhes, who is now dead, around the time, I think, that I was coming from church, I said that everything sung or said in church by the priests and clerics was lies and buffoonery, in spite of which I have never doubted and indeed have always believed to the contrary that the sacraments of the Church and the articles of faith are true.

everything sung or said in church by the priests and clerics was lies and buffoonery

Did you believe that this was true, as you yourself spoke?

Yes, and I believed it before. I remained in this state of disbelief and persevered in it before saying these words for about one year. I believed in my stupidity that everything the priests and clerics sing and say in church while performing the divine office, they sang and spoke in order to receive offerings, not because this divine office had any other good efficacy.

 

Do you still persevere in this error?

No, on the contrary, I believe fervently and I believed even when I spoke those words, and since then until now that the divine office that is done in church in and of itself contains the truth, as well as all that is read there or said while performing the divine offices.

 

I was contrite in my error and have confessed this myself two times: first at Notre-Dame de Montserrat the last year to a priest of that place and this year at Monoiya near to Santiago de Compostella at a midway point to a penitent who lived there. I came there during the normal course of my pilgrimage.

 

Have you ever taught or instructed any person or persons not to believe and to say what you have just confessed?

No.

 

Have you ever encouraged any person or persons not to believe as you once did not believe?

No.

 

Have you said these words anywhere else except for this one time?

No.

 

Have you every had commerce or relations with heretics or any individual heretic?

No.

 

Are your parents or anyone else in your family embroiled in heresy or suspected of it?

No. My father came from Bagan and my mother from Saint-Gaudens, where one never finds heretics.

 

Concerning the second article:

 

About twenty-five years ago, the late Bernard Masse of Varilhes, who later was to become my brother-in-law, and who later taught me the craft of weaving, asked me why one holds a consecrated candle in the mouth of men and women who are departing this world. I told him that this was to signify that as much as the light was clear, so much the souls of the dying who have confessed and are contrite over their sins will travel clearly toward God, but for those who have not been confessed and repented of their sins, it would help just as much to put the candle in their anus as in their mouth.

 

Who was present when you said this?

Only the late Bernard Masse.

 

Have you said this any other time to this Bernard Masse or to anyone else?

No.

 

The sacraments of the Church and the articles of faith were then explained to him and he said that he believed fervently in each of them, as the faithful of the holy mother Church hold them and believe them.

 

Do you believe that all of the holy scripture contained in the Old and New Testament is true?

Yes, fervently.

 

And he said nothing else pertinent.

 

 

 

 

30 November 1318

Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes
Episcopal Chamer of the Bishop of Pamiers

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers

Pierre du Verdier, Archdeacon of Majorca

Hughes de Bilhères, jurist

Bernard Bonnet, jurist

Guillaume de Saint-Julien

Bernard Gaubert, jurist

Pierre Joulé, notary of Pamiers,

Guillaume de Pardailhan, notary

 

 

 

 

 

After this, the Thursday after the fast of Saint Catherine the Virgin (November 30), the said Pierre Sabatier, brought into the said chamber in the presence of My Lord the Bishop, My Lords Pierre du Verdier, Archdeacon, Master Hughes de Bilhères, Bernard Bonnet, Guillaume de Saint-Julien, Bernard Gaubert and Pierre Joulé assisting My Lord, as well as the Master notary inscribed below, was interrogated:

 

Have you ever been in error concerning any of the articles of faith beside what you have already confessed?

No.

 

Have you ever adored a heretic?

No.

 

Have you ever hosted a heretic or given any of your good to a heretic?

No.

 

Have you ever been present at the heretication of anyone?

No.

 

Do you persist in the deposition you have given above?

Yes.

 

Do you wish to add or retract anything from your confession or deposition above?

No.

 

And he renounced and concluded the present affair and asked for mercy and non-judgment.

 

 

 

 

29 April 1320

Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes
Episcopal Chamer of the Bishop of Pamiers

 

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers

Germain de Castelnau, Archdeacon of Pamiers,

Bernard Faissier, official of Pamiers,

Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, notary of the bishop,

 

 

 

 

 

After this, the 29th of April 1320, the said Pierre Sabatier appeared judiciarily before my said Lord Bishop in the Episcopal Chamber of Pamiers in the presence of My Lord Germain de Castelnau, Archdeacon of Pamiers, and Bernard Faissier, official of Pamiers, and Master Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, notary of the said Lord Bishop, and had read and explained to him the deposition he made on the Tuesday before the feast of Saint-Catherine 1318 and especially the passage of his deposition where he said:

 

About three years ago, I don't remember the day, at Varilhes at the front door of my house, in the presence of Hélis, the widow of Guillaume Mate and Arnaud Gout of Varilhes, who is now dead, around the time, I think, that I was coming from church, I said that everything sung or said in church by the priests and clerics is lies and buffoonery, in spite of which I have never doubted and indeed have always believed to the contrary that the sacraments of the Church and the articles of faith are true."

 

He was interrogated about this passage and these words by my said Lord Bishop:

 

What did you believe, when you held this belief, and how do you understand what you have avowed, by these words "everything sung or said in church by the priests and clerics is lies and buffoonery"?

For about two years I believed and persisted in the belief that the act of priests donning sacred vestments in order to celebrate the mass, the office of the mass, that is to say the Introit, the Kyrie eleison, the Gloria in excelsis Deo, the prayers, the epistles, the responses, alleluias, musical embellishments, Gospels, offertories, mysteries, prefaces, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, the postcommunions and prayers, and generally all that is said and sung during the mass except for the Credo and the words spoken when one consecrates the body and body of the Lord, is a lie and buffoonery, and that the priests and the clerics had invented it in order to receive offerings and that the mass had no other effect than to procure the offerings of the people for the priest. As for the other divine offices, such as morning prayers and vespers, since I did not care about them, I did not have the same skepticism.

a lie and buffoonery, and that the priests and the clerics had invented it in order to receive offerings and that the mass had no other effect than to procure the offerings of the people for the priest.

But I have always believed in the articles of faith and the sacraments of the church. For all of this, I wish to hold to my confession made the Tuesday before Saint Catherine and equally to the present explication of my words and my belief that I have made today.

 

And he asked indulgence for these acts and renounced and concluded and asked that sentence be given at once.

 

 

 

 

29 April 1320

Pierre Sabatier de Varilhes
Episcopal Chamer of the Bishop of Pamiers

 

 

Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers

Jean de Beaune, Inquisitor

Germain de Castelnau, Archdeacon of the church of Pamiers,

Gaillard de Pomiès,

Brother Arnaud du Carla, of the order of Preachers of the Convent of Pamiers,

Jean Estève, Dominican, companion of Jean de Beaune

David, monk of Fontfroide,

Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, notary

Barthélemy Adalbert, notary of Jean de Beaune

 

 

 

 

After this on the same day, the said Pierre Sabatier appeared judiciarily in the said See of Pamiers before my said Lord Bishop, assisted by the venerable and religious person My Lord Brother Jean de Beaune, Inquisitor of the realm of France appointed by the Apostolic See; he swore on the holy Gospels of God to tell the truth concerning that which precedes and then the avowals that he had made the same day before my said Lord Bishop were read to him and explained in the vernacular tongue; and when they had been read and explained the said Pierre persisted and said he wished to persist in the said deposition that he had made the Tuesday before Sainte-Catherine, the year of the Lord 1318. Then the said Pierre Sabatier abjured judiciarily before the said lords bishop and Inquisitor all heresy, belief, complicity, defense, concealment or apologyfor a sect contrary to the faith, all connivance with heresy or with heretics who call themselves the Poor of Christ of Lyon, whatever name they bear; he swore to uphold and preserve the faith which the sacrosanct Roman Church, mother and mistress of all the others sustains, teaches, preaches and observes; and under the penalty of law due those who relapse into heresy and Vaudoism, he swore moreover that he would pursue, seek out, arrest, bring and render to the power of My Lords bishop and Inquisitor by himself or by others, or he would arrange by himself to the full measure of his abilities or by others that all heretics, Vaudois, discalced and those who are called the Poor of Lyon as well as their believers, agitators, concealers, defenders, friends, intermediaries and fugitives by reason of heresy, Vaudoism and any other heretics be rendered and brought to the bishop. He also swore to hold and obey all orders of the Church and the lords bishop and Inquisitor and their successors and to submit to and accomplish all punishment, penance, satisfaction or charge that the said lords bishop and Inquisitor or their successors, or one of the two, would judge fitting to impose on the said Pierre on his proper person or his goods, during his entire lifetime until his death; and he bound himself and wished to be bound from this moment now henceforth, and henceforth from this moment, his movable goods and the furnishings belonging to him to the profit of the lords bishop and Inquisitor, all as if the same punishments, penance or charge were at this moment imposed or enjoined on the said Pierre in his proper person or in his good by the lords bishop or Inquisitor themselves or by one of the two or by their order.

heretics who call themselves the Poor of Christ of Lyon

Vaudois

And he was reconciled by My Lords the bishop and the Inquisitor.

 

Done the same year and day as above (April 29, 1320) in the presence of the religious persons Germain de Castelnau, Archdeacon of the church of Pamiers, Brother Gaillard de Pomiès, Brother Arnaud du Carla, of the order of Preachers of the Convent of Pamiers, Brother Jean Estève of the same order, companion of my said lord Inquisitor and Brother David, monk of Fontfroide, witnesses called together to this end, the Masters Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, notary of My Lord the Bishop and Barthélemy Adalbert, notary public by the royal authority and notary of the charge of the Inquisitor of the heretical deviation, assisted in all the actions this day and recorded them.

 

After this, the last Wednesday of the month of April, I myself, Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, the above-mentioned notary, coming personally to the Episcopal See of Pamiers, on the order of My Lords the bishop and the Inquisitor, have cited the said Pierre to appear in person the following day before them at Allemans in front of the church of the said locale, there to hear his sentence concerning the deeds above mentioned and avowed before them. The same Pierre said that he was ready to appear on that day and to hear his sentence on the deeds expressed in his confession.

 

Present were Pierre Marty of Pamiers and Master Guillaume Peyyre-Barthe notary above-mentioned who wrote and revised all that precedes.

 

The sentence in this case was given Thursday the 1st of May in the year of the Lord 1320 and is written in the Book of Sentences of the Inquisition

 

And I, Rainaud Jabbaud, cleric of Toulouse, sworn in the matter of the Inquisition have faithfully corrected the said confession against the original by the order of my said Lord Bishop.

 


Sentence unknown?

 

 

 

 

 


Translation by Nancy Stork, San José State University - to whom many thanks for permission to reproduce this text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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