Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Cathari




Basic Tenets


Cathar Believers

Cathar Elect

Afterlife, Heaven & Hell

Other Beliefs

Cathar Ceremonies

Cathar Prayer

The Cathar Hierarchy



Albigensian Crusade

Who led the Crusade ?

Crusader Coats of Arms

Defender Coats of arms

Medieval Warfare






Cathars on Catholics

Catholics on Cathars

Catholic Propaganda

"Kill Them All ... "






Inquisition documents



Cathar Castles

Cathar Castle Photos



Early Gnostic Dualism





Historical Studies

Popular Culture

Catholic Inheritance

Protestant Inheritance

Cathar Vindications

Do Cathars still exist ?





The Catholic Side

The "Cathar" Side

Counts of Toulouse

The Cross of Toulouse



Detailed Chronology





A Cathar Glossary

Documents: The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Cathari


The following are annoted anglicised transcriptions of articles from The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912. The original entries bear the imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Censor.

The two entries are headed "Cathari" and "Albigenses"



(From the Greek katharos, pure), literally "puritans", a name specifically applied to, or used by, several sects at various periods. The Novatians of the third century were frequently known as Cathari, and the term was also used by the Manichæans. In its more usual sense, Cathari was a general designation for the dualistic sects of the later Middle Ages. Numerous other names were in vogue to denominate these heretics. Without speaking of the corrupted forms of "Cazzari", "Gazzari", in Italy, and "Ketzer" in Germany, we find the following appellations: "Piphili", "Piphles", in Northern France and Flanders; "Arians", "Manichæans", and "Patareni", owing to real or alleged doctrinal similarity; "Tesserants", "Textores" (Weavers), from the trade which many of the members followed. Sometimes they were erroneously styled "Waldenses" by their contemporaries. From the demagogue Arnold of Brescia and the heretical bishop Robert de Sperone, they were called "Arnoldistæ" and "Speronistæ". To their geographical distribution they owed the names of "Cathari of Desenzano" or "Albanenses" (from Desenzano, between Brescia and Verona, or from Alba in Piedmont, Albano, or perhaps from the provinces of Albania); "Bajolenses" or "Bagnolenses" (from Bagnolo in Italy); "Concorrezenses" (probably from Concorrezo in Lombardy); "Tolosani" (from Toulouse); and especially "Albigenses" (from Albi). The designations "Pauliciani", of which "Publicani", "Poplicani", were probably corruptions, and "Bulgari", "Bugri", "Bougres", point to their probable Oriental origin.


The etymology of one of two possibilities, otherwise the text here is reliable and impartial.







Among recent historians there is a pronounced tendency to look upon the Cathari as the lineal descendants of the Manichæans. The doctrine, organization, and liturgy of the former, in many points, reproduce the doctrine, organization, and liturgy of the early disciples of Manes. The successive appearance of the Priscillianists, the Paulicians, and the Bogomili, representatives to some extent of similar principles, fairly establishes the historical continuity between the two extreme links of the chain -- the Manichæans of the third, and the Cathari of the eleventh, century. In the present state of our knowledge, however, conclusive proofs in favour of the genetical dependence of the Cathari on the Manichæans are lacking. Some differences between the two religious systems are too radical to find a sufficient explanation in the appeal to the evolution of human thought. Among the Cathari we look in vain for that astronomical mythology, that pagan symbolism, and the worship of the memory of Manes, which were important characteristics of Manichæism. However attractive it may be to trace the origin of the Cathari to the first centuries of Christianity, we must be cautious not to accept as a certain historical fact what, up to the present, is only a probable conclusion.


This is also accurate, though it omits all mention of the evidence in favour of tracing the origin of the Cathars to early Christian times.

Catharist principles

The essential characteristic of the Catharist faith was Dualism, i.e. the belief in a good and an evil principle, of whom the former created the invisible and spiritual universe, while the latter was the author of the material world. A difference of opinion existed as to the nature of these two principles. Their perfect equality was admitted by the absolute Dualists, whereas in the mitigated form of Dualism the beneficent principle alone was eternal and supreme, the evil principle being inferior to him and a mere creature. In the East and the West these two different interpretations of Dualism coexisted. The Bogomili in the East professed it in its modified form. In the West, the Albanenses in Italy and almost all the non-Italian Cathari were rigid Dualists; mitigated Dualism prevailed among the Bagnolenses and Concorrezenses, who were more numerous than the Albanenses in Italy, though but little represented abroad. (For an exposition of absolute Dualism, see ALBIGENSES; on the mitigated form, see BOGOMILI.) Not only were the Albanenses and Concorrezenses opposed to each other to the extent of indulging in mutual condemnations, but there was division among the Albanenses themselves. John of Lugio, or of Bergamo, introduced innovations into the traditional doctrinal system, which was defended by his (perhaps only spiritual) father Balasinansa, or Belesmagra, the Catharist Bishop of Verona. Towards the year 1230 John became the leader of a new party composed of the younger and more independent elements of the sect. In the two coeternal principles of good and evil he sees two contending gods, who limit each other's liberty. Infinite perfection is no attribute even of the good principle; owing to the genius of evil infused into all its creatures, it can produce only imperfect beings. The Bagnolenses and Concorrezenses also differed on some doctrinal questions. The former maintained that human souls were created and had sinned before the world was formed. The Concorrezenses taught that Satan infused into the body of the first man, his handiwork, an angel who had been guilty of a slight transgression and from whom, by way of generation, all human souls are derived. The moral system, organization, and liturgy of absolute and mitigated Dualism exhibit no substantial difference, and have been treated in the article on the Albigenses.


The word "Albanenses" is not an error. The similarity to "Albigenses" or "Albigensians" is coincidental.



The text here is again substantially correct, though it avoids any mention that the Catholic Church itself belongs to the school of Mitigated Dualists.


France , Belgium and Spain

Although there is no historical foundation for the legend that the Manichæan Fontanus, one of St. Augustine's opponents, came to the castle of Montwimer (Montaimé in the Diocese of Châlons-sur-Marne) and there spread dualistic principles, yet Montwimer was perhaps the oldest Catharist centre in France and certainly the principal one in the country north of the Loire. It is in the central part of France that we come upon the first important manifestation of Catharism. At a council held in 1022 at Orléans in presence of King Robert the Pious, thirteen Cathari were condemned to be burned. Ten of these were canons of the church of the Holy Cross and another had been confessor to Queen Constance. About the same time (1025), heretics of similar tenets, who acknowledged that they were disciples of the Italian Gundulf, appeared at Liège and Arras. Upon their recantation, perhaps more apparent than real, they were left unmolested. The sectarians appeared again at Châlons under Bishop Roger II (1043-65), who in 1045 applied to his fellow-bishop, Wazo of Liège, for advice regarding their treatment. The latter advised indulgence. No manifestation of the heresy in North France is recorded during the second half of the eleventh century; its secret existence, however, cannot be doubted.


Again, substantially correct and impartial.

A new outbreak of the evil occurred in the twelfth century both in France and Belgium. In 1114 several heretics who had been captured in the Diocese of Soissons were seized and burned by the populace while their case was under discussion at the Council of Beauvais. Others were either threatened with, or actually met a similar fate at Liège in 1144; some of them were spared owing only to the energetic intervention of the local bishop, Adalbero II. During the rest of the twelfth century, Cathari appeared in rapid succession in different places. In 1162 Henry, Archbishop of Reims, while on a visit to Flanders, found them widely spread in that part of his ecclesiastical province. Upon his refusal of a bribe of six hundred marks, which they are said to have offered him for toleration, the heretics appealed to the pope, Alexander III, who was inclined to mercy in spite of King Louis VII's advocacy of rigorous measures. At Vézelay in Burgundy seven heretics were burned in 1167. Towards the end of the century the Count of Flanders, Phililp I, was remarkable for his severity towards them, and the Archbishop of Reims, Guillaume de Champagne (1176-1202), vigorously seconded his efforts. Confiscation, exile, and death were the penalties inflicted upon them by Hugues, Bishop of Auxerre (1183-1206). The execution of about one hundred and eighty heretics at Montwimer in May, 1239, was the death-blow of Catharism in those countries. Southern France, where its adherents were known as Albigenses, was its principal stronghold in Western Europe. Thence the Cathari penetrated into the northern provinces of Spain: Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, and Leon. Partisans of the heresy existed in the peninsula about 1159. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, King Pedro II of Aragon personally led his troops to the assistance of Raymond VI of Toulouse against the Catholic Crusaders, and fell at the battle of Muret in 1213. During that century a few sporadic manifestations of the heresy took place, at Castelbo in 1225 and again in 1234, at Leon in 1232. The Cathari however never gained a firm foothold in the country and are not mentioned after 1292.



Here the facts are substantially correct, but phrasing like "A new outbreak of the evil occurred ..." shows a clear partiality. A more neutral version might be "The religion re-emerged .."

The sentence "Confiscation, exile, and death were the penalties inflicted upon them by Hugues, Bishop of Auxerre (1183-1206)" confirms unequivocally that Churchmen were responsible for judicially killing people - contrary to some modern claims by Church apologists.


The "Albigensian Crusade" is played down here, distilled to a brief mention of King Pedro II of Aragon, Raymond VI of Toulouse and the Catholic Crusaders,


Upper Italy was, after Southern France, the principal seat of the heresy. Between 1030-1040 an important Catharist community was discovered at the castle of Monteforte near Asti in Piedmont. Some of the members were seized by the Bishop of Asti and a number of noblemen of the neighbourhood, and, on their refusal to retract, were burned. Others, by order of the Archbishop of Milan, Eriberto, were brought to his archiepiscopal city, where he hoped to convert them. They answered his fruitless efforts by attempts to make proselytes; whereupon the civil magistrates gave them the choice between the Cross and the stake. For the most part, they preferred death to conversion. In the twelfth century, when, after prolonged silence, historical records again speak of Catharism, it exhibits itself as strongly organized. We find it very powerful in 1125 at Orvieto, a city of the Papal States, which, in spite of the stringent measures taken to suppress the heresy, was for many subsequent years deeply infected. Milan was the great heretical capital; but there was hardly a part of Italy where the heresy was not represented. It penetrated into Calabria, Sicily, and Sardinia, and appeared even in Rome. The prohibitions and penalties enacted by the civil and ecclesiastical rulers of the thirteenth century could not crush the evil, although the merciless Frederick II occupied the imperial throne and Popes Innocent III, Honorius III, and Gregory IX were not remiss in their efforts to suppress it. To prevent the enforcement of the punishment decreed against them, the members of the sect, on a few occasions, resorted to assassination, as is proved by the deaths of St. Peter Parenzo (1199) and St. Peter of Verona (1252); or, like Pungilovo, who after his death (1269) was temporarily honoured as a saint by the local Catholic population, they outwardly observed Catholic practices while remaining faithful Catharists. According to the Dominican Inquisitor, Rainier Sacconi, himself a former adherent of the heresy, there were in the middle of the thirteenth century about 4000 perfected Cathari in the world. Of these there were in Lombardy and the Marches, 500 of the Albanensian sect, about 200 Bagnolenses, 1500 Concorrezenses, and 150 French refugees; at Vicenza 100, and as many at Florence and Spoleto. Although the increase in the number of "Believers" was very probably not proportionate to that of the "Perfecti", in consequence of the arrival of refugees from France, yet the Cathari of the northern half of Italy formed at this time over three-fifths of the total membership. The heresy, however, could not hold its own during the second half of the thirteenth century, and although it continued in existence in the fourteenth, it gradually disappeared from the cities and took refuge in less accessible places. St. Vincent Ferrer still discovered and converted some Cathari in 1403 in Lombardy and also in Piedmont, where in 1412 several of them, already deceased, were executed in effigy. No definite reference to their existence is found at a subsequent date.


Catholic apologists almost invariably refer to the areas traditionally called the Languedoc, Midi or Occitania as "Southern France". In fact many of the territories in question belonged to Aragon, the Holy Roman Emperor, the King of England, and the Papacy. The reason for this habitual usage appears to be associated with justifying the French invasion and annexation of the area.


"Infected" - The Catholic Church sees other Christian sects as diseased versions of their own form of Christianity.









Germany and England

Catharism was comparatively unimportant in Germany and England. In Germany it appeared principally in the Rhine lands. Some members were apprehended in 1052 at Goslar in Hanover and hanged by order of the emperor, Henry III. About 1110 some heretics, probably Cathari, and among them two priests, appeared at Trier, but do not seem to have been subjected to any penalty. Some years later (c. 1143) Cathari were discovered at Cologne. Some of them retracted; but the bishop of the sect and his socius (companion), not so ready to change their faith, were cited before an ecclesiastico-lay tribunal. During the trial they were, against the will of the judges, carried off by the people and burned. The heretical Church must have been completely organized in this part of Germany, as the presence of the bishop seems to prove. To these events we owe the refutation of the heresy written by St. Bernard at the request of Everwin, Abbot of Steinfeld. In 1163 the Rhenish city witnessed another execution, and a similar scene was almost simultaneously enacted at Bonn. Other districts, Bavaria, Suabia, and Switzerland, were infected, but the heresy did not gain a firm foothold. It disappeared almost completely in the thirteenth century.







Again the partiality of the account is compromised by the word "infected".

The phrase "It disappeared .. " rather disguises the fact that it was persecuted into oblivion.

About 1159, thirty Cathari, German in race and speech, left an unknown place, perhaps Flanders, to seek refuge in England. Their proselytising efforts were rewarded by the temporary conversion of one woman. They were detected in 1166 and handed over to the secular power by the bishops of the Council of Oxford. Henry II ordered them to be scourged, branded on the forehead, and cast adrift in the cold of winter, and forbade any of his subjects to shelter or succour them. They all perished from hunger or exposure.


Cathars seem to have been massively successful as preachers. We do not know why they performed so badly on this occasion - if they really did - but in any case the author makes a point of noting this one failure but not the vastly more numerous known successes.

The Balkan states

Eastern Europe seems to have been, in point of date, the first country in which Catharism manifested itself, and it certainly was the last to be freed from it. The Bogomili, who were representatives of the heresy in its milder dualistic form, perhaps existed as early as the tenth century and, at a later date, were found in large numbers in Bulgaria. Bosnia was another Catharist centre. Some recent writers make no distinction between the heretics found there and the Bogomili, whereas others rank them with the rigid Dualists. In the Western contemporary documents they are usually called "Patareni", the designation then applied to the Cathari in Italy. At the end of the twelfth century, Kulin, the ban or civil ruler of Bosnia (1168-1204) embraced the heresy, and 10,000 of his subjects followed his example. The efforts made on the Catholic side, under the direction of Popes Innocent III, Honorius III, and Gregory IX, to eradicate the evil, were not productive of any permanent success. Noble work was accomplished by Franciscan missionaires sent to Bosnia by Pope Nicholas IV (1288-92). But though arms and persuasion were used against the heresy, it continued to flourish. As the country was for a long time a Hungarian dependency, Hungary was conspicuous in its resistance to the new faith. This situation developed into a source of weakness on the Catholic side, as the Cathari identified their religious cause with that of national independence. When, in the fifteenth century, the Bosnian king, Thomas, was converted to the Catholic Faith, the severe edicts which he issued against his former coreligionists were powerless against the evil. The Cathari, 40,000 in number, left Bosnia and passed into Herzegovina (1446). The heresy disappeared only after the conquest of these provinces by the Turks in the second half of the fifteenth century. Several thousand of its members joined the Orthodox Church, while many more embraced Islam.


This is substantially correct, though it takes several readings to realise that what the author is saying is that the Catholic Church failed to make any impact on the vastly popular Cathar religion either by preaching or mass killings.

The Cathari and the Catholic Church

The Catharist system was a simultaneous attack on the Catholic Church and the then existing State. The Church was directly assailed in its doctrine and hierarchy. The denial of the value of oaths, and the suppression, at least in theory, of the right to punish, undermined the basis of the Christian State. But the worst danger was that the triumph of the heretical principles meant the extinction of the human race. This annihilation was the direct consequence of the Catharist doctrine, that all intercourse between the sexes ought to be avoided and that suicide or the Endura, under certain circumstances, is not only lawful but commendable. The assertion of some writers, like Charles Molinier, that Catholic and Catharist teaching respecting marriage are identical, is an erroneous interpretation of Catholic doctrine and practice. Among Catholics, the priest is forbidden to marry, but the faithful can merit eternal happiness in the married state. For the Cathari, no salvation was possible without previous renunciation of marriage. Mr. H.C. Lea, who cannot be suspected of partiality towards the Catholic Church, writes: "However much we may deprecate the means used for its (Catharism) suppression and commiserate those who suffered for conscience' sake, we cannot but admit that the cause of orthodoxy was in this case the cause of progress and civilization. Had Catharism become dominant, or even had it been allowed to exist on equal terms, its influence could not have failed to prove disastrous." (See Lea, Inquisition, I, 106.)


That Catharism was an attack on the Catholic Church or on the existing State are minority opinions and restricted to certain Catholic believers.

Catharism was a pacifist religion whose members "attacked" the Catholic Church only in the sense that they criticised it (on grounds that are now generally conceded by Church scholars).

The idea that Cathars "attacked" the existing State is also untenable. The author can only be referring to the fact that Cathars disliked the Papally supported feudal system. By contrast, the Counts of Toulouse really were attacked, by the Catholic Church, precisely because their sovereign state states co-existed happily with large cathar populations.





From the article "Cathari" by Nicholas Weber, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912. This article is an anglicised transcription originally made by Fr. Paul-Dominique Masiclat, O.P.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.


Eberhard of Béthune, Antihaeresis, in Biblioth. Max. Patr. XXIV, 1525-84; St. Bernard, Sermones in Cantica, in P.L., CLXXXIII, 1088-1102; Ber. Guidonis, Practica Inquisitionis haereticae pravitatis, ed. Douais (Paris, 1886); Bonacursus, Vita haereticorum, in P.L., CCIV, 775-92; Moneta, Adv. Catharos et Waldenses, ed. Ricchini (Rome, 1743); Rainier Sacconi, Summa de Catharistis et Leonistis, in Martène and Durand, Thesaurus nov. Anecdot. (Paris, 1717), V; Ecbert of Schönau, Sermones contra Catharos, in P.L., CVC, 11-98; Fredericq, Corpus documentorum Inquisitionis haereticae pravitatis Neerlandicae (Ghent, 1889, sqq.); Döllinger, Beiträge zur Sektengesch. des M. A. (Munich, 1890); Schmidt, Histoire et doct. de la secte des Cathares (Paris, 1849); Douais, Les Albigeois (Paris, 1879); Lea, Inquisition of the Middle Ages (New York, s.d.), I, 89-208, 563-83; II, 290-315, 569-87, and passim; Tanon, Tribunaux de l'inquisition en France (Paris, 1893); Alphandéry, Les idées morales chez les hétérodoxes latins au début du XIIIe siècle (Paris, 1903), 34-99; Guiraud, Questions d'hist. (Paris, 1906), 1-149; Palmieri, Les Bogomiles en Bosnie-Herzég. in Dict. théol. cath. (Paris, 1905), II, 1042-45; Vacandard, L'inquisition (Paris, 1907), 81-123 and passim; Davison, Some Forerunners of St. Francis of Assisi (s.C. 1907), 16 sqq.; Molinier, L'Eglise et la société Cathares, in Rev. hist., XCIV, 225 sqq. (1907), and XCV, 1-22, 263-94 (1907). For further bibliographical indications see Molinier, Sources de l'histoire de France (Paris, 1903), Part I, III, 54-77.







(From Albi, Latin Albiga, the present capital of the Department of Tarn).

A neo-Manichæan sect that flourished in southern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The name Albigenses, given them by the Council of Tours (1163) prevailed towards the end of the twelfth century and was for a long time applied to all the heretics of the south of France. They were also called Catharists (katharos, pure), though in reality they were only a branch of the Catharistic movement. The rise and spread of the new doctrine in southern France was favoured by various circumstances, among which may be mentioned: the fascination exercised by the readily-grasped dualistic principle; the remnant of Jewish and Mohammedan doctrinal elements; the wealth, leisure, and imaginative mind of the inhabitants of Languedoc; their contempt for the Catholic clergy, caused by the ignorance and the worldly, too frequently scandalous, lives of the latter; the protection of an overwhelming majority of the nobility, and the intimate local blending of national aspirations and religious sentiment.


As indicated above, Albi was not in Southern France in the Twelfth century.


Of the reasons given for the spread of Catharism, only the contempt for the Catholic clergy is substantiated by the evidence.





The Albigenses asserted the co-existence of two mutually opposed principles, one good, the other evil. The former is the creator of the spiritual, the latter of the material world. The bad principle is the source of all evil; natural phenomena, either ordinary like the growth of plants, or extraordinary as earthquakes, likewise moral disorders (war), must be attributed to him. He created the human body and is the author of sin, which springs from matter and not from the spirit. The Old Testament must be either partly or entirely ascribed to him; whereas the New Testament is the revelation of the beneficent God. The latter is the creator of human souls, which the bad principle imprisoned in material bodies after he had deceived them into leaving the kingdom of light. This earth is a place of punishment, the only hell that exists for the human soul. Punishment, however, is not everlasting; for all souls, being Divine in nature, must eventually be liberated. To accomplish this deliverance God sent upon earth Jesus Christ, who, although very perfect, like the Holy Ghost, is still a mere creature. The Redeemer could not take on a genuine human body, because he would thereby have come under the control of the evil principle. His body was, therefore, of celestial essence, and with it He penetrated the ear of Mary. It was only apparently that He was born from her and only apparently that He suffered. His redemption was not operative, but solely instructive. To enjoy its benefits, one must become a member of the Church of Christ (the Albigenses). Here below, it is not the Catholic sacraments but the peculiar ceremony of the Albigenses known as the consolamentum, or "consolation," that purifies the soul from all sin and ensures its immediate return to heaven. The resurrection of the body will not take place, since by its nature all flesh is evil.







This is a very fair summary except for two points, one minor, one more significant.

The idea that Mary was impregnated through her ear was a common medieval belief, and not especially associated with Cathar belief.

The more serious point is that "peculiar ceremony" of the Albigenses is in fact a preservation of the practices of the very earliest Christians


The dualism of the Albigenses was also the basis of their moral teaching. Man, they taught, is a living contradiction. Hence, the liberation of the soul from its captivity in the body is the true end of our being. To attain this, suicide is commendable; it was customary among them in the form of the endura (starvation). The extinction of bodily life on the largest scale consistent with human existence is also a perfect aim. As generation propagates the slavery of the soul to the body, perpetual chastity should be practiced. Matrimonial intercourse is unlawful; concubinage, being of a less permanent nature, is preferable to marriage. Abandonment of his wife by the husband, or vice versa, is desirable. Generation was abhorred by the Albigenses even in the animal kingdom. Consequently, abstention from all animal food, except fish, was enjoined. Their belief in metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, the result of their logical rejection of purgatory, furnishes another explanation for the same abstinence. To this practice they added long and rigorous fasts. The necessity of absolute fidelity to the sect was strongly inculcated. War and capital punishment were absolutely condemned.


It is not true that suicide was considered "commendable", nor (as implied) that the Endura was common.

The Cathars did not condemn suicide, but neither did they seem to have encouraged it. We know of few cases of Endura, which in almost cases parallel cases of non-Cathars on their death beds who decline food and drink in order to hasten their end.

The idea that Cathars might believe in metemphychosis as a "result of their logical rejection of purgatory" is absurd. The history of metemphychosis stretches back into pre-Christian times, while the doctrine of Purgatory had not even been declared at the begining of the thirteenth century.

Origin and history

The contact of Christianity with the Oriental mind and Oriental religions had produced several sects (Gnostics, Manichæans, Paulicians, Bogomilae) whose doctrines were akin to the tenets of the Albigenses. But the historical connection between the new heretics and their predecessors cannot be clearly traced. In France, where they were probably introduced by a woman from Italy, the Neo-Manichæan doctrines were secretly diffused for several years before they appeared, almost simultaneously, near Toulouse and at the Synod of Orléans (1022). Those who proposed them were even made to suffer the extreme penalty of death. The Council of Arras (1025), Charroux, Dep. of Vienne (c. 1028), and of Reims (1049) had to deal with the heresy. At that of Beauvais (1114) the case of Neo-Manichæans in the Diocese of Soissons was brought up, but was referred to the council shortly to be held in the latter city. Petrobrusianism now familiarized the South with some of the tenets of the Albigenses. Its condemnation by the Council of Toulouse (1119) did not prevent the evil from spreading. Pope Eugene III (1145-53) sent a legate, Cardinal Alberic of Ostia, to Languedoc (1145), and St. Bernard seconded the legate's efforts. But their preaching produced no lasting effect. The Council of Reims (1148) excommunicated the protectors "of the heretics of Gascony and Provence." That of Tours (1163) decreed that the Albigenses should be imprisoned and their property confiscated. A religious disputation was held (1165) at Lombez, with the usual unsatisfactory result of such conferences. Two years later, the Albigenses held a general council at Toulouse, their chief centre of activity. The Cardinal-Legate Peter made another attempt at peaceful settlement (1178), but he was received with derision. The Third General Council of the Lateran (1179) renewed the previous severe measures and issued a summons to use force against the heretics, who were plundering and devastating Albi, Toulouse, and the vicinity. At the death (1194) of the Catholic Count of Toulouse, Raymond V, his succession fell to Raymond VI (1194-1222) who favoured the heresy. With the accession of Innocent III (1198) the work of conversion and repression was taken up vigorously. In 1205-6 three events augured well for the success of the efforts made in that direction. Raymond VI, in face of the threatening military operations urged by Innocent against him, promised under oath to banish the dissidents from his dominions. The monk Fulco of Marseilles, formerly a troubadour, now became Archbishop of Toulouse (1205-31). Two Spaniards, Diego, Bishop of Osma and his companion, Dominic Guzman (St. Dominic), returning from Rome, visited the papal legates at Montpellier. By their advice, the excessive outward splendour of Catholic preachers, which offended the heretics, was replaced by apostolical austerity. Religious disputations were renewed. St. Dominic, perceiving the great advantages derived by his opponents from the cooperation of women, founded (1206) at Pouille near Carcassonne a religious congregation for women, whose object was the education of the poorer girls of the nobility. Not long after this he laid the foundation of the Dominican Order. Innocent III, in view of the immense spread of the heresy, which infected over 1000 cities or towns, called (1207) upon the King of France, as Suzerain of the County of Toulouse, to use force. He renewed his appeal on receiving news of the assassination of his legate, Peter of Castelnau, a Cistercian monk (1208), which judging by appearances, he attributed to Raymond VI. Numerous barons of northern France, Germany, and Belgium joined the crusade, and papal legates were put at the head of the expedition, Arnold, Abbot of Cîteaux, and two bishops. Raymond VI, still under the ban of excommunication pronounced against him by Peter of Castelnau, now offered to submit, was reconciled with the Church, and took the field against his former friends. Roger, Viscount of Béziers, was first attacked, and his principal fortresses, Béziers and Carcassonne, were taken (1209). The monstrous words: "Slay all; God will know His own," alleged to have been uttered at the capture of Béziers, by the papal legate, were never pronounced (Tamizey de Larroque, "Rev. des quest. hist." 1866, I, 168-91). Simon of Monfort, Earl of Leicester, was given control of the conquered territory and became the military leader of the crusade. At the Council of Avignon (1209) Raymond VI was again excommunicated for not fulfilling the conditions of ecclesiastical reconciliation. He went in person to Rome, and the Pope ordered an investigation. After fruitless attempts in the Council of Arles (1211) at an agreement between the papal legates and the Count of Toulouse, the latter left the council and prepared to resist. He was declared an enemy of the Church and his possessions were forfeited to whoever would conquer them. Lavaur, Dep. of Tarn, fell in 1211, amid dreadful carnage, into the hands of the crusaders. The latter, exasperated by the reported massacre of 6,000 of their followers, spared neither age nor sex. The crusade now degenerated into a war of conquest, and Innocent III, in spite of his efforts, was powerless to bring the undertaking back to its original purpose. Peter of Aragon, Raymond's brother-in-law, interposed to obtain his forgiveness, but without success. He then took up arms to defend him. The troops of Peter and of Simon of Montfort met at Muret (1213). Peter was defeated and killed. The allies of the fallen king were now so weakened that they offered to submit. The Pope sent as his representative the Cardinal-Deacon Peter of Santa Maria in Aquiro, who carried out only part of his instructions, receiving indeed Raymond, the inhabitants of Toulouse, and others back into the Church, but furthering at the same time Simon's plans of conquest. This commander continued the war and was appointed by the Council of Montpellier (1215) lord over all the acquired territory. The Pope, informed that it was the only effectual means of crushing the heresy, approved the choice. At the death of Simon (1218), his son Amalric inherited his rights and continued the war with but little success. The territory was ultimately ceded almost entirely by both Amalric and Raymond VII to the King of France, while the Council of Toulouse (1229) entrusted the Inquisition, which soon passed into the hands of the Dominicans (1233), with the repression of Albigensianism. The heresy disappeared about the end of the fourteenth century.


"Those who proposed them were even made to suffer the extreme penalty of death." - Whenever the Catholic Church is responsible for killing people, the author adopts the passive voice.


Catharism is repeatedly described as "the evil"


"King of France, as Suzerain of the County of Toulouse" - an extreme simplification. The Counts of Toulouse did not pay homage to the King of France forced to do so as a result of the Crusade


"papal legates were put at the head of the expedition, Arnold, Abbot of Cîteaux, and two bishops." - The Clergy had military command until the fall of Carcassonne.


"The monstrous words: "Slay all; God will know His own," alleged to have been uttered at the capture of Béziers, by the papal legate, were never pronounced (Tamizey de Larroque, "Rev. des quest. hist." 1866, I, 168-91)" - an odd assertion with no supporting evidence. All evidence points to the words as having been spoken. They certainly represent the legat's known views and actions.






The "dreadful carnage" at Lavaur is not elabourated and it is not at all clear who was responsible for it. In fact the Church was responsible for attrocities at Lavaur. Some 400 Cathars were burned alive and the whole garrisson murdered - including the Lady of Lavour.





"Innocent III, in spite of his efforts, was powerless to bring the undertaking back to its original purpose." - A telling admission.




"Peter of Aragon, Raymond's brother-in-law, interposed to obtain his forgiveness, but without success. He then took up arms to defend him." - not quite the whole truth. Peter was in fact Raymond's liege lord. He had a right and duty to oppose Simon's war of conquest (and his army was a Catholic one)









"The heresy disappeared about the end of the fourteenth century." - much as six million Jews "disappeared" in the 1940's


Organization and liturgy

The members of the sect were divided into two classes: The "perfect" (perfecti) and the mere "believers" (credentes). The "perfect" were those who had submitted to the initiation-rite (consolamentum). They were few in number and were alone bound to the observance of the above-described rigid moral law. While the female members of this class did not travel, the men went, by twos, from place to place, performing the ceremony of initiation. The only bond that attached the "believers" to Albigensianism was the promise to receive the consolamentum before death. They were very numerous, could marry, wage war, etc., and generally observed the ten commandments. Many remained "believers" for years and were only initiated on their deathbed. If the illness did not end fatally, starvation or poison prevented rather frequently subsequent moral transgressions. In some instances the reconsolatio was administered to those who, after initiation, had relapsed into sin. The hierarchy consisted of bishops and deacons. The existence of an Albigensian Pope is not universally admitted. The bishops were chosen from among the "perfect." They had two assistants, the older and the younger son (filius major and filius minor), and were generally succeeded by the former. The consolamentum, or ceremony of initiation, was a sort of spiritual baptism, analogous in rite and equivalent in significance to several of the Catholic sacraments (Baptism, Penance, Order). Its reception, from which children were debarred, was, if possible, preceded by careful religious study and penitential practices. In this period of preparation, the candidates used ceremonies that bore a striking resemblance to the ancient Christian catechumenate. The essential rite of the consolamentum was the imposition of hands. The engagement which the "believers" took to be initiated before death was known as the convenenza (promise).












"The existence of an Albigensian Pope is not universally admitted" - Indeed the idea of a Cathar Pope is hardly tenable and could only make sense to a Catholic.



"In this period of preparation, the candidates used ceremonies that bore a striking resemblance to the ancient Christian catechumenate" - as indeed did most Cathar ceremonies.

Attitude of the Church

Properly speaking, Albigensianism was not a Christian heresy but an extra-Christian religion. Ecclesiastical authority, after persuasion had failed, adopted a course of severe repression, which led at times to regrettable excess. Simon of Montfort intended well at first, but later used the pretext of religion to usurp the territory of the Counts of Toulouse. The death penalty was, indeed, inflicted too freely on the Albigenses, but it must be remembered that the penal code of the time was considerably more rigorous than ours, and the excesses were sometimes provoked. Raymond VI and his successor, Raymond VII, were, when in distress, ever ready to promise, but never to earnestly amend. Pope Innocent III was justified in saying that the Albigenses were "worse than the Saracens"; and still he counselled moderation and disapproved of the selfish policy adopted by Simon of Montfort. What the Church combated was principles that led directly not only to the ruin of Christianity, but to the very extinction of the human race.





"Properly speaking, Albigensianism was not a Christian heresy but an extra-Christian religion" - a significant point.

"The death penalty was, indeed, inflicted too freely on the Albigenses, but it must be remembered that the penal code of the time was considerably more rigorous than ours, and the excesses were sometimes provoked. " - the passive voice again.

"What the Church combated was principles that led directly not only to the ruin of Christianity, but to the very extinction of the human race." - An interesting perspective. The underlying fear seems to have been for the ruin of Catholicism rather than Christianity.

The extinction of the human race point is entirely spurious (in principle it is similar to the argument that the principles of Catholicism will lead directly to the very extinction of the human race since Catholicism considers verginity the highest ideal, and if everyone adopted that ideal, then the human race would be driven to extinction)




Weber, Nicholas. "Albigenses." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907.




















You can join small exclusive guided tours of Cathar Castles
led by an English speaking expert on the Cathars
who lives in the Languedoc
(author of and )

Selected Cathar Castles. Accommodation provided. Transport Provided.

Cathar Origins, History, Theology.
The Crusade, The Inquisition, and Consequences

Click here to visit the Cathar Country Website for more information





Further Information on Cathars and Cathar Castles



If you want to cite this website in a book or academic paper, you will need the following information:

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


If you want to link to this site please see How to link to


For media enquiries please e-mail




Click here to find out about Langudoc Heraldry


 The Cross of Toulouse. Click to see information about it.


   ::::   Link to   :::    © C&MH 2010-2016   :::   :::   Advertising   :::