Cathars and the Treasure of Montsegur

Topics: Catharism, Catholic Church, Pope Pages: 6 (2065 words) Published: November 13, 2010
The Treasure of Montsegur is a novel that follows the life of protagonist Jeanne of Béziers. This fictional account intertwines with factual events that surround the Albigensian Crusade, which culminates in the fall of the mountain fortress of Montsegur, reported to have occurred on the 1st March 1244, during which over 200 Cathari were killed.

The novel plots the life of Jeanne, through her adolescent years when she was adopted by the Cathars as a baby following a massacre by the Catholic Church (the sacking of Béziers in July 1209AD, killing 20-60,000 unarmed civilians including women and children), through her adulthood and all the pleasures and pains that accompany love and relationships, centering around her love William, a freedom fighter, and her best friend since childhood, Baiona. These relationships give us a window into the life of the Cathari, as Baiona is seen as a model Cathar by Jeanne and Baiona’s tutor, Lady Esclarmonde, whereas Jeanne is seen more as a dreamer (“She wanted to pitch herself out in the sweet heavy air and . . . fly.”).

The name Cathar was actually a name fashioned by the Catholic church to amalgamate each of the Gnostic Catholic sects, or cults as the Papal rule envisaged them, that had popped up in the Languedoc region of France in the Middle Ages. The Cathari locally, and to some degree throughout the Catholic territories within Europe, were seen as good and moral people, and the name ‘Cathari’ actually can be translate as ‘the Pure Ones’, and thus deriving their other name of the Albigensians.

From the novel, we can appreciate the similarities between the practices of the Cathari and the orthodox Catholic church through the fundamental teachings of the Bible. As Lady Esclarmonde preaches, “God is found in silence, stillness, and prayer”. However, there are very fundamental differences between the Cathar and Ordodox practices. The the keystone believe of the Catholic Church is that Christ resurrected three days after His crucifixion and then ascended into Heaven forty days after His resurrection. Since that point Catholics taken on the Bible and through the guidance of the Pope, who has a divine connection and thus has access to the Word of God, live and carry out the desires of God. However, the Cathari believed that Christ was not killed, but instead travelled with his pregnant wife and Joseph of Arimethea to the Langeudoc region of France where He settled. As a result, the Cathri are descendents of Christ himself or the apostles, and thus have more access to divine influence than the Pope himself and could rightly live without the influence of the Pope and the Church infrastructure. A key aspect of their believe for their descendency was the ability, through the love of God, to heal. Although this power is a metaphysical one, the novel develops to show Jeanne has been chosen by God to protect a physical ‘treasure’ that has immense power and is the key to the survival of the Cathari. The ‘treasure’ relates to what is crux of the issue for the Catholic church, a Bible written in the vernacular, something that could replace the need of teachings by the Catholic church.

The Cathari started to represent a large problem for the Orthodox Catholic church as the movement grew in strength in the Languedoc region and other parts of Europe through the 12th and 13th centuries. In addition to the aforementioned fundamental difference between Cathari and Catholics, there was also a difference that focussed on how people conducted their lives. In increasing levels, the Cathari believed in dualism, the crux of this centering around the fact that power and love cannot co-exist and are mutually exclusive. Given the prominence of religion as the driving factor in Europe for one’s way of life, the Catholic Church was a center of power in Europe, and thus the Pope and the entire Catholic infrastructure were not only powerful, but rich from intertwined nature of life and religion. The Papal...
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