Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
Confession of Grazide, widow of Pierre Lizier of Montaillou




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Source Documents: Confession of Grazide, widow of Pierre Lizier of Montaillou, Testimony to the Inquisition


Grazide Lizier lived in the famous village of Montaillou. She was a neighbour of Béatrice de Planissolles. The women were both lovers of the rector, a priest called Pierre Clergue. The town is famous largely because of what happened to Grazide, Beatrice, Pierre and the other inhabitants of their village. They were all arrested on the orders of the Bishop of Pamiers on suspicion of Cathar sympathies - what the Roman Catholic Church regarded as heresy.

Grazide first appeared before the Inquisition on 19th August 1320 (a few weeks after Béatrice de Planissolles. She appeared several times before Jacques Fournier, the Bishop of Pamiers, suspected of Cathar belief. Grazide spoke in Occitan, but the record was transcribed in Latin.


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The year of the Lord 1320, the 19th of August. Grazide, widow of Pierre Lizier of Montaillou, having sworn on the holy Gospels of God to tell the truth as much of herself as accused, as of other as witness,concerning the fact of heresy of which she is strongly suspected and the incest and the debauchery committed with her by Pierre Clergue, rector of the church of Montaillou, appearing judiciarily, said and affirmed:


About 7 years ago, in the summer the rector came to the house of my mother and demanded of me to let him know me carnally. As for me, I consented (I was then still a virgin and must have been 14 or 15 years old, so it seems to me). He took my virginity in the grange where the straw is stored. He did not do me any violence. He knew me after then quite often just until the following January and that always at my mother's house with her knowledge and consent to this. This always took place during the day.


It seems to have been common practice for priests to demand and receive sexual favours from their parishioners in the middle ages. Records of a number of examples like one have survived - in none of them is any surprise expressed about the priests behaviour.

Later, in that month of January, the rector gave me as a spouse to Pierre Lizier, my late husband, after which this priest, with the knowledge and consent of my said husband, knew me carnally often, and during the four years that my husband lived. When my husband asked me if this priest had had intercourse with me, I told him yes, and my husband said to guard myself well against other men, with the exception of this priest. In any case, the priest never knew me when my husband was at home, but only when he was absent.


This is the practice of "cogotia", remunerated complaisance of a husband which appears to have been common (In a treaty of 1275 the Count of Foix exchanged with the men of the Valleys of Andorra the tax which they received from this practice against the law of Justice).

Q. Did you know then or have you since learned that this priest was or was reputed to be the first cousin of your mother Fabrisse?

A. I never knew it nor heard it said, nor that my mother was in any way related to this priest.


Q. If you had known that your mother was a first cousin to this rector, though in truth outside marriage, would you have tolerated being known by him?

A. No. But, because this was pleasing to me and also pleasing to the said rector, when we knew each other carnally, I did not think I sinned with him.


Q. In being known by this priest, either before being married or during the course of your marriage, did you believe it to be a sin?

A. Because at that time it was pleasing both to me and to the rector, I did not believe it and it did not seem to be that this was a sin But now, when this would not please me, if I were to be known by him, I would believe it to be a sin.


Q. During some time you conducted yourself badly with this priest while you had a husband. Do you believe or did you believe that it was equally permitted to you and without sin to unite yourself carnally with your husband and with this priest and reciprocally?

A. It seemed to me more permissible to unite carnally with my husband, nevertheless it seemed to me and I believed as well that I sinned as little with this priest as with my husband when I was known by both of them.


Q. Did you have bad conscience of the fact that you let yourself be known by this priest or did you believe that such intrigues were displeasing to God?

A. I did not have a bad conscience and I did not believe that this could be displeasing to anyone, that I slept with this priest, because it was pleasing to us, to him and to me.


Q. If such a union had been forbidden to you by your husband, would you have believed it to be a sin if you had then united with this priest?

A. Supposing that my husband had forbidden it, which he did not do, I would not have believed it to be a sin if I was united to the priest against his interdiction, because that was pleasing to the priest and to me.


Q. you believe that if any man unites carnally with any woman, who are not related within the degrees of consanguinity, whether she is a virgin, deflowered, married or not, but if such relations are pleasing to that man and to that woman, that would be a sin?

A. Although all carnal union between man and woman is displeasing to God, I do not believe that persons sin in this manner, as long as it is pleasing to both of them.


An answer likely to invite suspicions of Cathar belief.

Q. Since you believe, as you have said, that all carnal union between man and women, even between husband and wife is displeasing to God, do you believe that the union of man and wife is more displeasing to God than that between those who are not married?

A. It is more displeasing to God that the unmarried unite themselves than when they are spouses.


The approved Catholic answer. The opposite would have damned her.

Q. Do you believe that those people leading a good and holy life go to paradise after death and that sinners go to hell and do you believe that there is a hell and a paradise?

A. I do not know. I have heard tell that there is a paradise, and I believe it. I have heard tell that there is a hell, but, that, I neither believe nor deny. I believe that there is a paradise because that is a good thing, from what I hear, but I do not believe nor deny hell, because that is an evil thing.


Cathars believed in heaven, but not in hell (as understood by Catholics)

(Interrogated in the same manner concerning the resurrection, she replied that she neither believed it nor denied it, but that she had often heard that we will rise again.)


Cathars did not believe in the Resurrection

Q. Do you presently believe that when a carnal union is pleasing to a man and a woman, that this is not a sin?
A. I do not believe that that is a sin.


Suggestive of Cathar belief, but not enough to be sure

Q. For how many years have you remained in this belief?

A. Since the moment when I was known by that priest.


The Inquisitor is interested in why she holds this belief

Q. Who taught you this error?

A. No one, only myself.


The Inquisitor is probably interested in whether the priest taught her this (as he did Beatrice de planissoles)

Q. Have you taught it to anyone?

A. No. No one has asked me.


After this the same year as mentioned above, the 21st of August, the said Grazide appeared for questioning in the Chamber of the bishop's palace of Pamiers before my said Lord Bishop assisted by Brother Gaillard of Pomiès, substitute for Monsignor the Inquisitor of Carcassonne. Since she was suspected of the Manichean heresy she was interrogated by My Lord the Bishop:


Manichean heresy = Cathar belief.

Her testimony suggests that the Inquisitors may have had a conversation with her off the record.

Q. Do you believe that God made all the material things which are to be seen in the world?

A. Those material things which which are good and useful to men, these things God has made, such as men, the beasts which he eats or which serve for transport, such as cows, goats, horses, mules, and the fruits of the earth and trees, which one eats. But I do not believe that God made wolves, mosquitos, lizards and other things harmful to men. And I do not believe that God made the devil, because that is an evil thing and God has never done anything evil.


A question designed to ascertain Cathar beliefs.

This answer alone was enough to condemn her.

After this, the same year, the 16th of November, the said Grazide, leaving the prison of the château of Allemans, in which she was restrained for 7 weeks and a bit more, because she did not wish, it seemed, to testify plainly, appeared for trial in the chamber of the bishop's palace of Pamiers before my said Lord Bishop, assisted by Brother Gaillard, and vowed and deposed what followed of her own free will and spontaneously and as she herself said, not by fear or threat of torture.


Between the moment when the rector deflowered me and that moment where he gave me to my husband, one day, I do not remember when, I was at the door on the Baille de Montaillou with my mother Fabrissa. The rector was walking up towards the château and he rested a short while with us and we talked jokingly of the sin of lechery. And then he said that to have relations with a woman, as long as it was pleasing to her was not a sin. He said also that one woman was as good as another and that the sin was the same with one or with another. This said, he continued at once to the Château of Montaillou.


Suggestive of heresy (The priest Clergue was later convicted)

Q. Did he say similar words in other circumstances?

A. I do not remember.


Q. Did he tell you that there is no hell?

A. No.


Looking for evidence against him now.

Q. Did he tell you that the devil had created certain things in this world?

A. No.


again, looking for evidence against him. An affirmative answer would have been fatal.

Q. Did you yourself believe that the carnal union of man and woman outside of marriage is not a sin, because of the remarks of this priest?

A. Yes, and this is why I did not believe it to be a sin when I lay with him.


Contradicting her earlier testimony.

Q. Have you believed that it is an equal sin to have relations with one woman as well as with any other, because of the remarks of this rector?

A. No, on the contrary I have always believed that it is more grave to have commerce with relatives than with other women. I told him sometimes that I knew my mother Fabrissa was his first cousin. He told me that no one knew anything about it, because the mother of the said Fabrissa had been the daughter of Guillaume Clergue, the brother of Pons Clergue, father of this rector.


Again, contradicting her earlier testimony

Q. Why did you not wish to confess from the beginning when you were taught these errors concerning the sin of the flesh?

A. When I was cited, the first time, I came with Alazais Azema, who could not walk well nor keep up with the others. On the road, she told me that the rector of Montaillou had done much good for me, and he had married me, that I should not speak ill of him, even if I should swear to tell the truth, because it is a great thing to establish a person (i.e. Pierre has married her to Pierre Lizier - he does not leave her to become a concubine or whore). It was not a sin, I must remain firm and constant. I was afraid, also, if I said the truth of the rector and his brother, that they would kill me or maltreat me.


Q. Do you wish to persist in your preceding depositions?

A. Yes.


Q. Do you repent of the errors that you have testified to have believed?

A. Yes.


And she was instructed in the contrary by my said lord the bishop. This instruction ended, she said and confessed that she believed and would believe for all the days of life to come that all carnal coitus, except that between a legitimate man and wife is a mortal sin.


Item, she said that she believes and will believe in the future that the carnal union of man and legitimate wife is not a sin.


Item, she said that she believes and will believe always in the future that there is a hell in which evil men and evil demons will be perpetually punished (and a heaven where the holy men and saints and angels will be perpetually glorified).


Item, she said she believes now and in the future that all men will be resurrected in the same flesh that they have now, in which each one will receive according to his acts, whether good or evil.


This done, the said Grazide swore and recited the formula which follows:


"I, Grazide, appearing for questioning before you, Reverend father in Christ My Lord Jacques, by the Grace of God Bishop of Pamiers, abjure entirely all heresy against the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Roman Church, and all beliefs of heretics, of whatever sect condemned by the Roman Church and especially the sect to which I held, and all complicity, aid, defence and company of heretics, under pain of what is rightfully due in the case of a relapse into judicially abjured heresy;


Item, I swear and promise to pursue according to my power the heretics of whatever sect condemned by the Roman Church and especially the sect to which I held, and the believers, deceivers, aiders and abetters of these heretics, including those whom I know or believe to be in flight by reason of heresy, and against any one of them, to have them arrested and deported according to my power to my said Lord Bishop or to the Inquisitors of the heretical deviation at all time and in whatever places that I know the existence of the above said or any one of them.


Item, I swear and promise to hold, preserve and defend the Catholic Faith that the Holy Roman Church preaches and observes.


Item, I swear and promise to obey and to defer to the orders of the Church, of My Lord the Bishop and the Inquisitors, and to appear on the day or days fixed by them or their replacements, at all times and in whatever place that I receive the order or request on their part, by messanger or by letter or by other means, to never flee nor to absent myself knowingly or in a spirit of contumaciousness and to receive and accomplish according to my power the punishment and the penance that they have judged fit to impose on me. And to this end, I pledge my person and all my worldly goods.


After this swearing, she renounced and finished and asked what sentence would be passed on her.


There has never been any opportunity for a defence, or for neutral witnesses. No charges were formulated and guilt has simply been assumed.

Made the same year and day as above, in the presence of My Lord the Bishop, Brother Gaillard, and Brother Arnaud of Carla from the Order of Preachers of the convent of Pamiers, and myself Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, notary of My Lord the Bishop, who recited and wrote that which precedes.  

Order of Preachers = Dominicans

After this, the same year as above, the 7th of March in the house of the Preachers of Pamiers.


Made the same year as above, in the presence of Brother Gaillard de Pomiès, prior of the convent of the Preaching Friars of Pamiers, Brother Arnaud du Carla, of the same convent, witness at these convocations, and myself Guillaume Peyre-Barthe, notary of my said Lord Bishop, who has recited and written all of this in the presence of Master Barthélemy Adalbert, notary of the Inquisition, who wrote also in his protocol the ratification of the confession of the said Grazide.


And the Sunday assigned to the said Grazide, she appeared in the cemetery of Saint-Jean-Martyr of Pamiers and was given her sentence by the said Lords Bishop and Inquisitor according to what follows "Let all know, etc." See the sentence in this case in the Book of Sentences of the Inquisition."


And I, Rainaud Jabbaud, cleric of Toulouse, sworn to the service of the Inquisition, have, on the order of My Lord the Bishop, faithfully corrected this confession against the original.


The sessions would have been conducted in Occitan.



The translation above is based on that of Nancy P. Stork. (© 1996). A few changes have been made - eg preferring English name spellings rather than French for Occitan names, when the Occitan form is not used.

Annotations are the web-master's.

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Author: James McDonald MA, MSc.
Title: Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
Date last modified: 8 February 2017


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