led the Crusade ?
Coats of Arms
Coats of arms
Them All ... "
Cathars still exist ?
Cross of Toulouse
A source of confusion is the number of different names used for
Catharism and its adherents. This is partly due to the different
languages used - Roman Catholics tended to use Latin, people in
the Languedoc used Occitan
the local language, while modern studies often favour French or
Another source of confusion is that some Catholic
critics were themselves hugely confused by what the Cathars
were and where they had come from. Many names are derived from villages
where Catharism flourished, developing into a local centre, not
only in the Languedoc, but throughout Europe..
Many catholic authorities imagined that all "heresies" were essentially
the same, so Cathars could be lumped together with Waldensians
(or Vaudois), Arians, Marcians and dozens of others, included many
who might have been no more than disenchanted monks (or, later,
friars) criticising their own Roman Catholic Church.
Scholars are not unanimous in identifying the Cathars of the Languedoc
and Italy with the Bogomils of the Balkans, nor with other earlier
Gnostic Dualists - but realistically there is little doubt that
there was a continuous chain of teaching from the earliest Christian
times to the thirteenth Century Languedoc. For this reason I have
included terms for Bogomils in this section.
Cathars referred to their elect as boni homines - "good
men". Women members of the elect were "good women"
and together they were "good Christians". French members
of the Cathar elect were bons hommes, but Catholic writers
often failed to distinguish been members of the elect and ordinary
believers, referring to all as "bons hommes".
Various other names were used for Gnostic Dualist sects, that we
would call Cathars and they themselves would have called "Good
Men". A list of these names is given below:
Cathars and variations,
Cathari, Kathari, Catari, Ketzer
The name Cathar is widely claimed to derive from the Greek word
Katharoi meaning "the pure". Many scholars assert
that the name was initially used by Cathar believers of the inner
Elect, and that it was later extended to the whole body of believers.
The term was first used (in Germany) by Eckbert, Abbot of the double
abbey of Schönau around 1163, apparently based on the bizarre idea
that they, like other heretics, performed obscene acts with cats. This
was a common and apparently unfounded accusation of Medieval Catholics
against anyone that they regarded as heretical.
But everyone who knew the Cathars and their simple asceticism
assumed that the word derived from katharos, the Greek for
pure. The Cathars, French Cathares, Latin Cathari,
rarely called themselves by any of these names.
Medieval Italian Catholic writers like Moneta and Sacchoni use
the word, and the German form Ketzer became a general term for any
What to call those who had undergone the Consolamentum
is something of a problem. "Elect"
is a good a term as any other, though Cathars never called themselves
by this name either. The main problem is that it is awkward to use
when referring to a single member of the Elect. At the time,
members of the Elect were generally known as boni homines
(French Bonnes hommes, English Good men). Of
these boni homines is unfamiliar in English. Bonneshommes
is a common name in modern works on the subject, but it tends to
give the misleading impression that they and their followers were
French, or at least French speaking, which of course they were not. Similarly
women members of the Elect were bonnes femmes "good women"
- or often just men and women together were "good Christians".
The Roman Church regarded them as perfect heretics (ie complete
or finished) heretics, from which they are sometimes called Perfecti
or Perfects, or in French Parfaits
(male) and Parfaites
(female). The terms Perfect, Parfit and Parfait
are now widely used. But Perfect suggests, in English, pretensions
that they did not have, and Parfit is just an old fashioned version
of the same word. So, despite its French origins, the term Parfait
is used on this website to denote a member of the Elect.
It is often claimed that the name derives from Hereticus Perfectus,
a phrase denoting a "completed Heretic" ie an initiated
Cathar. This does not appear to be true. A curious fact (which I
have not seen referenced in any previous work) is that the early
Christians appear to have referred to the progressing in knowledge
of the faith as a processes of perfecting (ie completing). Here
for example is one of the most respected Church Fathers, Clement
of Alexandria (c.150 - 215). The passage comes from a letter explaining
why certain passages from the Mark gospel had been suppressed (to
give the version we are familiar with today), but for present purposes
the point is his use of the term "perfected". The fact
that it occurs in this context along with the word "gnosis"
During Peter’s stay in Rome he wrote an account of
the Lord’s doings, not however declaring all of them,
nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting those
he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those
who were being instructed. But when Peter died as a martyr,
Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing his own notes and
those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former
book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress
towards gnosis. Thus he composed a more spiritual gospel
for the use of those who were being perfected…
English translation from Toy, What
are Apocryphal Writings, p19. For more on this
see Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel ( London,
Clement seems to be confirming that early Church practices were
identical to Cathar ones - where Perfected adherents were those
who had completed their training in gnosis, the secret knowledge
of the Gnostics, which was deliberately kept from the mass of the
The idea is also present in the gospels. When a rich young man
asks what more he must do to achieve eternal life, according to
Matthew 19:21, Jesus answers "If thou wilt be perfect, go
and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt
have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me" [my emphasis].
When administrating the Consolamentum,
the Parfaits were sometimes known as Soul Collectors by other
believers were variously known as believers (credentes) and
less involved listeners (auditores).
Their heresy - as Roman Catholics saw it - was "The Great
For those interested in the question
of the name Cathar and its connection with the
Greek word Katharos (pure), it is an extraordinary
fact that in the early third century AD the father of
Mani had belonged to a Judaeo-Christian sect known as
katharioi [Stoyanov, The Other God, p
Mani, of course, was the founder of
Manichaeism, a Dualist system of belief which some think
developed into Bogomilism and thence Catharism.
The name Cathari had also been
used by Novation sects of Anatolia in the fourth century
- see for example Epiphanius, Adversus Haereses, (edited
by Oehler, Berlin 1859) p 505. Significantly, perhaps,
the Novations, well known Gnostic Dualists, were condemned
by the victorious party that we call "orthodox"
at the Council of Nicea in 325 (Cannon 8 " Concerning
those who have given themselves the name of Novations....").
In other words, it seems that self professed Cathars,
with fully developed Gnostic Dualist ideas, were already
in existence when the first "Orthodox" Church
Council met to start the long process of hammering out
its own version of orthodoxy.
Devil and the cat worshippers kissing the
cats backside. Jean Tinctor, Traittié du crisme
de vauderie (Sermo contra sectam vaudensium), Bruges ca. 1470-1480
(Paris, BnF, Français 961, fol. 1r). Like Cathars,
any group considered heretical were accused by the Catholic
Church of worshipping cats. Here Waldensians
are shown queuing up to kiss the rear end of a cat.
Dominic Guzmán (later Saint
Dominic) bravely seeing off a malodorous, black, catlike,
demonic apparition of terrific size with savage eyes and formidable
claws - which escapes up the bell-rope. This miracle supposedly
caused nine women to renounce their Cathar beliefs.
Vincent of Beauvais, Le Miroir Historial (French translation
of Jean de Vignay), Paris 1400-1410. Den Haag, Koninklijke
Bibliotheek, 72 A 24, fol. 313v
Alternative Names for Cathars
Patarenes and variants of the word: Patareni,
Paterini, Patrini, Paterelli, Patalini.
The word seems to have originally been used in the early eleventh
century for a reforming part in the church of Milan, but was soon
transferred to Cathars. It became the standard name in Dalmatia
and was used extensively in Italy especially after the thirteenth
century. In both places it was used indiscriminately for local Cathars
and those from Bosnia.
Manichaeans: a reference to an ancient Dualist
synthetic religion founded by Mani in the fourth century. Aurelius
Augustinus, later St
Augustine of Hippo (354 430) had been a Manichaean
but he left when he realised that he was not going to advance in
the hierarchy. He therefore transferred to the branch of the Christian
Church that developed into the Roman Catholic Church - bringing
some Manichaean ideas with him, but leaving detailed denunciations
of others in his writings. When later scholars read his works and
compared Manichaean beliefs with contemporary Cathar beliefs they
deduced that Cathars were Manichaeans, and adopted the term to describe
them. It is more than possible that they were wrong and that Manichaeans
and Cathars shares a common Gnostic Dualist Christian ancestor sect.
More on the Manichaeans
Tixerands with variations Textores, Tisserands
and Tisseyres. The reference of to Weavers and other cloth workers.
Cathar Elders often earned their living by weaving, and it is likely
that cloth merchants introduced Cathar ideas to western Europe -
they travelled back and forth to the east. As Runciman explains
it "Many of the missionaries were itinerant cloth merchants,
whose trade was the chief trade that linked Eastern and Western
Europe. It was their function to carry the woven silks of Byzantium
and the East to the eager markets of the West. They were therefore
ideally placed to be the channels of an Eastern faith. From them
the residents cloth merchants learnt the doctrine and spread it
to the actual weavers. Clothiers' shops were well suited to be centres
of heresy, for it was perfectly natural for the women of the district
to gather and gossip there" (Runciman, The Medieval Manichee,
Albigeois; The name Albigenses, given to them by the Roman Catholic
Council of Tours (1163) was common towards the end of the twelfth
century. It comes from the name of the town of Albi (Latin Albiga,)
where the Roman Church imagined the heresy to be centred - hence
Crusade. Roman Catholic works still favour the name Albigenses
or Albigensians for what almost everyone else now calls Cathars. During
the wars against the people of the Languedoc geographic names were
often used to denote both Cathars and people from the area whether
Cathars or not - possibly a deliberate blurring of the distinction
between Cathars and Catholic victims of the Crusaders. As well as
Albilensian, the words Toulousain and Provençal
were used in this way.
Paulicians: a reference to an early Gnostic
theologian regarded by the Roman Church as a heretic.
Publicans: and variants Publicani, Populicani:
This term was used in France and especially in Champagne in the
eleventh and twelfth centuries. It seems to have started life as
a a Latinised version of Paulician, which was misunderstood as a
reference to the "Publicans" of the New Testament. It
is possible that the word Pauliciani had been picked up by western
Crusaders passing through Constantinople and then applied to people
back home with surprisingly similar beliefs. By some curious turns
Publicani seems to have been distorted into Teleonarii and
thence Deonarii to which there are a few references.
Piphles, and variants Piphiles and Pifli.
This is thought to be yet another improbable corruption of the term
Popliocani. It was used extensively in Flanders.
Bulgari, Bougres, Bugares and Buggers:
originally denoting their real or supposed Bulgarian origins - but
successfully caused the name to be associated with sodomy.
a reference to follows of Bogomil - a leader of a sect in the Balkans
with very similar Manichaean teachings. This term was used extensively
by Bulgarian writers and sometimes by Byzantine writers.
Phundaites: The name is derived from the
Greek word for a scrip, a reference to the document (presumably
the John Gospel) that they were reputed to carry. The term is used
only in the works of twelfth century Byzantine writers.
Kudgers: a late medieval term apparently for
Bogomil believers and derived from a the name of the village of
to Kotugeri near Vodena (modern Kaisariana in the Pella Prefecture,
near Edessa in Greece).
Babuni: a name given to Gnostic Dualists in
Serbia and Bosnia, up to the fourteenth century.
Concorricii: Cathars from Concoresso (In
Garatenses: a term applied to a school of
Cathar believers founded by Bishop Garatus in Concoresso (In modern
Italy). this is the term used in the famous Liber de Duobus Principiis.
Runcarii, with variants Rungarii, Roncaroli,
Runkeler. The name was applied to a group of German Cathars
in the thirteenth century and is thought to have been a geographical
name. The variant Roncaroli was used by Frederick II in his
law against heresy (Mansi, Concilia, v xxii, p 590)