Post-classical history


Miss Prism: Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Cecily: Yes, but it usually chronicles the things that have never happened and couldn’t possibly have happened.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest, II.i

Denunciations and burnings were not the whole story. After the inquisition carried out by Pier Seilha in 1235–6 penances for heresy were imposed on 653 people from a number of towns in the Quercy. Among them were 163 men and 93 women from Montauban, who had confessed ‘spontaneously’ in April 1236, after a lengthy period of non-cooperation in the town, and immediately after the installation of new consuls in March. The suspension of the Toulouse inquisition prevented Seilha from prescribing penances until 1241. When he did so, they were relatively light. Almost everyone was told to go on pilgrimage, some to Constantinople, Compostela, Rome or Canterbury but most to make several visits to much less distant shrines. Even these penalties were not exacted in full, for many of those sentenced to lengthy absences were still in Montauban in 1242–3. The implication is that the sentences had been commuted to fines.

Pier Seilha came from a family that had risen in the service of Count Raymond V. His father had been the count’s vicar for Toulouse in the early 1180s, so he dealt with the consuls on Raymond’s behalf at a time when relations between the count and the city were particularly difficult. Pier had been one of the first companions of Dominic, to whom he turned over his inheritance as the first Dominican house in Toulouse, and was a senior and experienced member of the order when he became an inquisitor in 1233. The lightness of the sentences handed down in Montauban is not attributable to any lack of zeal on Seilha’s part. His arbitrary severity elsewhere was attested with admiration by his younger colleague Guilhem Pelhisson, and with indignation by Raymond VII, whose complaint of it to Gregory IX secured his suspension.

What made the difference in Montauban has been revealed by the survival, in addition to the list of penances, of a register of the town’s thirteenth-century charters (the ‘Red Book’), which contains details of the dominant families. Some fine historical detective work has correlated the two.1 It shows that virtually all of those who confessed to being associated with the heresy of the good men belonged to consular families. Conversely, all ten of the families that provided Montauban’s consuls during this period numbered followers of the heresy among their members. Evidently the political elite had decided in 1236 to make terms with Seilha, and had been able to secure agreement in the town to do so. Equally, Seilha had been willing to reciprocate. The contrast with Toulouse and Narbonne, where the pursuit and denunciation of heresy were so clearly interwoven with other divisions in the community, is marked. No riots, no widening circles of denunciation here. It seems that the money from the fines was used in Montauban itself, to rebuild the church of St Jacques. Similar arrangements appear to have been reached later at Lavaur (1254), Najac (1258) and Gaillac (1271). Even the most brutal victory must be followed sooner or later by negotiation, overt or covert, if its fruits are to be durable.


The way in which the inquisitors went about their business was authoritatively codified by Raymond of Peñafort, Dominican minister-general and leading canon lawyer, at the Council of Tarragona in 1242. Bernard de Caux and Jean de St Pierre described it in the first of what soon became a well-established genre, the inquisitor’s handbook:2

We choose a suitable place from which to conduct an inquisition. Calling the clergy and people together there we deliver a general sermon and make whatever explanation is necessary; then we issue a general summons, either orally or by letter: ‘To so and so, parish priest. We enjoin and strictly instruct you, in virtue of the authority we wield, to summon in our name and by our authority all the parishoners of [church], or inhabitants of [place], men from the age of fourteen or women from the age of twelve, or younger if they have been guilty of an offence, to appear before us on [day] at [place] to answer for acts which they may have committed against the faith and to abjure heresy.

… the person is diligently questioned about whether he saw a heretic or Waldensian, where and when, how often and with whom, and about others who were present; whether he listened to their preaching or exhortation and whether he gave them lodging or arranged shelter for them; whether he conducted them from place to place or otherwise consorted with them or arranged for them to be guided or escorted; whether he ate or drank with them or ate bread blessed by them; whether he acted as their financial agent or messenger or assistant; whether he held any deposit or anything else of theirs; whether he received the touch of peace from their book, mouth, shoulder or elbow;* whether he adored a heretic or bowed his head or genuflected and said, ‘Bless us’ before heretics, or whether he was present at their baptisms or confessions; whether he was present at a Waldensian Lord’s Supper, confessed his sins to them, accepted penance or learned anything from them; whether he was otherwise on familiar terms with, or associated with, heretics or Waldensians in any way; whether he made an agreement, heeded requests or received gifts in exchange for not telling the truth about himself or others; whether he advised or persuaded anyone, or caused anyone to be advised or persuaded to do any of the foregoing; whether he knows any other man or woman to have done any of the foregoing; whether he believed in the heretics or Waldensians or their errors.

These were not procedures designed to elicit information about the beliefs, rituals or organisational principles of the heretics. That was assumed to be known already. The focus was firmly and minutely on behaviour, and specifically on establishing whether the witness was either a confirmed heretic or one of seven categories of associates (believers, concealers, defenders etc.), and ensuring that no shred of information was overlooked that might help to track down others. Bernard and Jean were careful to set out the nature and extent of the inquisitors’ authority, the punishments (or strictly, penances) to be imposed and the correct legal forms for each step in the process, including turning people over to the secular authorities. An official record of the condemnations and penances, sealed and witnessed, was to be kept. Scrupulous legality is the hallmark. ‘To no one do we deny a legitimate defence, except that we do not make public the names of witnesses’ and ‘we do not proceed to the condemnation of anyone without clear and evident proof or without his own confession … holding in all things to the letter of the law, or to specific apostolic ordinances.’

All this was in line with the best practice of the most advanced secular courts, and of the revived Roman law which such courts were now adopting. Confession, currently at the forefront of pastoral development in the church, was also increasingly sought in civil law. It was seen as the remedy for the frailty of traditional procedures. Unless the defendant had been caught red-handed by responsible officers before reliable witnesses, ‘clear and evident proof’ was seldom available. Conviction depended on circumstantial evidence, reputation, hearsay or testimony all too easily fallible, corrupt or partisan. To secure a confession judges might use torture. Inquisitors were licensed to do so by Pope Innocent IV in 1252, though only as a last resort, and in strictly defined conditions. In this the inquisitors were not innovators. They resorted to torture less readily and employed it less indiscriminately than many of their counterparts in secular courts. Nevertheless its use meant that the expectations of a prosecutor who sincerely believed that he confronted a terrible and urgent danger would always be confirmed. To understand why, it is necessary only to ask how he concluded, in the absence of other evidence, that the truth had at last been elicited and the torture might cease.


Bernard de Caux and Jean de St Pierre were well qualified to write their handbook, for they had recently completed the largest inquisition of the entire medieval period. The district of the Lauragais, to the south-east of Toulouse, was thought so deeply infected by heresy that every man and woman in thirty-nine parishes had to be questioned. It was considered so dangerous (Avignonet, the scene of the murders of Guilhem Arnaut and his party in 1242, is in the middle of it) that, instead of being visited in their villages by the inquisitors, the witnesses had to be summoned to the church of St Sernin in Toulouse, up to 90 kilometres away. There on 201 days between May 1245 and August 1246 Bernard and Jean questioned 5,471 people. The two surviving volumes of the ten into which their reports were copied about twenty years later, if read with the technical skills of the medieval historian and an anthropologist’s grasp of the workings of religion in small pre-modern societies, bring us closer than any other body of evidence to what this faith meant to the people among whom it was lived.3

This register does not show the people of the Lauragais using the academic and monastic terminology of the dualist heresy that their interrogators feared so greatly. There are no ‘Cathars’ here (or indeed in any other medieval sources from this region), and none of the parfaits (perfecti) who abound in modern accounts. There was, in fact, no collective name for this faith and its followers. Even to the inquisitors its ministers were simply ‘the heretics’. Later in the thirteenth century they were sometimes referred to as Albigensians or Manichaeans. The latter name betrays the real source of catholic descriptions of them, in scholarly debate rather than real encounters. There is no mention of ‘bishops’ among them before the crusade and very few after it, or of their travelling companions, ‘elder’ and ‘younger sons’ of whom the inquisitors in Italy had a good deal to say. There are references to ‘deacons’, who until after 1230 had taken the lead in the ritual known to the inquisitors as ‘heretication’ or the consolamentum (becoming a good man or woman), which was always performed by men. It was the cherished hope of most believers to receive this rite at the point of death, when they could still speak but were beyond hope – or danger – of recovery, attended, at least until it became too dangerous, by family and friends. The good men and their followers were not generally buried separately from other Christians before the crusade, though they did have some burial grounds of their own. After 1230 they and their believers were buried in haste and secrecy, to avoid the exhumation on which the inquisitors were so zealously determined.

The status of good man or woman might be conferred even on children, though before the crusade it was not necessarily, or for girls normally, permanent. ‘Clothed heretics’, as they became, were usually known to one another as ‘friends of God’, and to others as ‘good men’ and ‘good women’, an honorific that they shared with many others. Those who considered them holy were referred to as believers by themselves and others, but there is no evidence that the description corresponded to any formal category until such a category was created by the danger of associating with the good men or attending their meetings. Before the crusade, as we have seen, good men lived and worked openly and as celibates, in known houses where they regularly practised and taught crafts, notably leatherwork, dressed in sober colours and avoided meat, cheese and eggs – the fruits of procreation – in their diet. Their mild and gentle demeanour was recalled many decades later by those who remembered, as children do, small treats of food and acts of kindness. To their followers the good men and women were points of contact with the holy. They were routinely accorded gestures of respect – bows, respectful nods, requests for a blessing – which the inquisitors took for ‘adoration’ and counted as incriminating signs of ‘believer’ status, but – at least, again, until it became too dangerous – it was by no means only believers who offered these courtesies. For believers to be in the company of good men, to eat with them, or to eat bread blessed by them, to receive the kiss of peace from them, were memorable, cherished occasions, most intense at the regular meeting for common worship that the inquisitors called the apparalamentum. On these occasions holy men, women, even children, would sit among rapt, even ecstatic followers, in adoration perhaps not so much of as through them.

After the crusade, with a brief respite in the 1220s, the houses of good men and women disappeared, replaced in the confessions by innumerable references to the hazards and services, the guides and messengers, the food, money and hiding places, necessary to support a fugitive ministry. This was not an absolute change: heretics, like other people, had always had many reasons to travel and had built up their networks of contacts and places to stay, often and naturally with like-minded people. Neverthless, the contrast between the solid, firmly rooted village worthies of the pre-crusade period and the will-o’-the-wisps lurking in woods and caves in the 1230s, fed and guided by anxious, tenacious followers and helpers, represents a transformation whose ramifications for their community and faith firmly prohibits any glib assumption of continuity either of organisation or belief.


Were it not for the screen of terrible suffering and lurid accusations through which we view all this in retrospect, the good men and their followers might not appear so very different from many other pious sectaries in the Europe of that time and since. What structure of belief lay behind their influence is difficult to discern from the depositions at St Sernin. Dualism is certainly suggested by occasional comments incidental to the inquisitors’ immediate concerns – that God did not make the world, that the devil did, that a man who slept with his wife could not be saved (and so might just as well sleep with somebody else) or that, conversely, a former believer’s marriage showed the authenticity of her repentance. Testimony presented before Bernard de Caux and Jean de St Pierre by a group of Franciscan friars a year after their great inquisition was more revealing.4 One of their brethren, William Garcias, had been visited in their convent by a relative, Pier Garcias, a believer and a citizen of Toulouse, and the pair had argued about religion; once Pier brought another believer, Raymond Pier of Plan, to back him up. Since, along with two of his brothers and six others, Raymond Pier was sentenced to life imprisonment for his heresy three days after the first appearance of these friars before the inquisitors, it looks as though his trial had triggered their testimony. Perhaps it was intended to clear William Garcias of suspicion, for their story was that it was at his suggestion that on at least two occasions they had hidden in a balcony or loft above the common-room where he met Pier, to listen in to the conversation.

The unique value of the friars’ stories, which differ in detail but are the same in substance, is that they record a spontaneous account of Pier’s beliefs, given of his own volition. It was edited, of course, by the friars’ own presumptions and memories, compared and discussed among them, but it was not initially shaped by the questions or preconceptions of anyone else. Pier did not feel that he was in danger, or under pressure either to divulge or to disguise his opinions, which he expressed with some vigour. The God who had given the law to Moses, he said, was a malevolent scoundrel, who would damn nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand men he had made; Pier, if he got hold of him, would spit in his face, bite and scratch him, break him in pieces, ‘May he die of gout!’ He expressed the anticlerical sentiments and anti-ecclesiastical views that had been current in the region – and not only in this region – for a century or more with the same vehemence: the church should have no property; its sacraments were invalid and its alms and penances worthless, since there was no purgatory; its buildings were not churches, but mere structures in which falsity and nonsense were spoken; its liturgy unintelligible, meant to deceive simple people; and the cross merely a piece of wood. Nobody should be condemned to death, and officials who pronounced such sentences, such as preachers of the crusade, were murderers. Marriage was prostitution, and nobody who slept with a woman, even his own wife, could be saved; Pier himself had not done so for two years, though his wife was not a believer but ‘an idiot like you’.

Pier Garcias did not answer the summons to respond to the friars’ testimony and was excommunicated. His property was confiscated, and no more is heard of him. Although much that he said suggests theological dualism, none proves it; it could have been merely Pier’s own conclusions from reading the translation of the New Testament that he admitted he had at home. Nonetheless, his assertions that God had not created visible things, that (interrupting William) his creation was ‘visible to the heart and invisible to the eyes of the flesh’, that only angels who had fallen from heaven would be saved, that the flesh would not be resurrected and that Christ, the Virgin and John the Evangelist had come directly from heaven and did not have human bodies, show that Pier was familiar with a body of dualist teaching and legend in some form. Yet the witnesses deposed that, when William had asked him whether he believed in two gods, Pier replied that ‘he could in no way reach certainty about this.’ Striking as they are, his views hardly amount to a coherent body of doctrine, any more than the occasional comments of the same kind dropped to Bernard de Caux at St Sernin had done. Rather, they warn that even the most ardent votaries of any faith do not necessarily understand or endorse what theologians, or historians, may regard as the obvious, necessary corollaries of what they say. Pons Estoz, a believer since 1215, told Bernard and Jean at St Sernin that he had left the good men at once when he heard one of them say ‘that God did not make visible things, that the sacred Host is not the body of Christ, that baptism, like marriage, is no salvation, and that the bodies of the dead will not be resurrected’ – in 1233. Was he just another old lag desperately denying all knowledge of the crime, or does the astonishment that he professed at this revelation, after eighteen years, suggest that the theological abstractions that were everything to the inquisitor (and, for all we know, to the good man) meant little to ordinary devotees, whose faith was rooted in the power of lived holiness to temper by example rather than precept the conflicts and anxieties of daily life?


In Italy the efforts of the inquisitors continued to be hamstrung by the lack of unified political backing. Religious differences were correspondingly open and exuberantly debated, though without leaving the record that more systematic persecution might have created. A glimpse remains in the Superstar* of Salvo Burci, a catholic notary and a native of Piacenza, completed in 1235, in the house of a nobleman named Monaco di Cario.5 The di Cario were one of Piacenza’s leading families, on the record since the middle of the tenth century and vassals of the bishop since the middle of the eleventh, and had extensive commercial interests, notably in the cloth trade, that gave them a network of contacts in the Languedoc, Flanders and Champagne. Despite the breadth of information thus available to him about areas notorious for heresy, however, Salvo’s focus and preoccupations were firmly Piacenzan. Together with its great length – more than 400 pages in the modern edition – and lack of orderly structure, this suggests thatSuperstar, which was not widely circulated and survives in only one manuscript, was meant as background or briefing material for the private or political use of Salvo’s patrons rather than as a direct contribution to public debate. Even by Lombard standards Piacenza was a city bitterly divided by the enmity between the commune – which Innocent III had declared tainted with heresy when it tried to tax the bishop – and the emerging popolo. It had incorporated Frederick II’s decrees in its statutes in 1221 and burned two heretics in 1230. Three years later it was the scene of a rare failure of the Alleluia movement when one of the most celebrated Dominican preachers, Roland of Cremona, had to beat a hasty retreat, badly injured, when he and his entourage were pelted with stones.

For Salvo Burci the most important heretics by far were the Cathars and the Waldensians. He saw neither as a unified body. On the contrary, he insists that the faction and division that characterised heretics were a clear sign that theirs was not the church of God. He was well informed about the Waldensians, stating clearly the differences and divisions outlined above between the Poor Men of Lyon and of Lombardy (to which he adds that the Lombards considered that ‘a husband may be separated from his wife against his will, or a wife from her husband’) and recounting their unsuccessful attempts at unification. His account of Cathars in Lombardy goes beyond the stereotypical descriptions of pernicious doctrines and scandalous behaviour. The greatest difference among them, he says, ‘so sharp that each damns the other to death’, is between the Concorezzans, who believe that God is good, and the Albanenses, who hold that he is not; other groups include the Caloianni and the Francigene (French-born) ‘who in general do not share the beliefs of the Albanenses or the Concorezzans’, and the Bagnolenses, who like the others reject the sacraments of the church and have only two of their own – the imposition of hands and the breaking of bread, to which they all, but especially the Albanenses, attach less importance. ‘It is well known, however, that the Albanenses and Concorezzans have met together many times and have often taken counsel together to discuss how they might agree on one faith.’ Salvo insists that ‘it is an evident fact that the Cathars were once members of the Roman church, and in that faith received baptism and confirmation and the other sacraments, and in it they remained for a time.’ He does not say when this schism or schisms occurred, whereas he dates the appearance of the Waldensians and Speronists accurately to the 1170s.

Salvo Burci’s chief concern, however, was the defence of public order and institutions against the subversive implications of heretical teaching. Kings, princes and secular or temporal authority were the work of a benevolent God, not of the devil. The rich man who asked Jesus how he could be saved was not told to give away all he had: it was perfectly possible to be both wealthy and virtuous. He returns repeatedly to sex and, more particularly, marriage. His reiteration of the common assertion that the heretics, condemning all intercourse, make no discrimination in their lusts between the women who come to hand, mothers and sisters included, reflects the darkest male anxieties of the tiny, introverted world of the noble families for whose domestic authority and political strategies unfailing control of women’s sexuality was imperative. Secret marriage, outlawed by Lateran IV but always an acute problem in the Italy of the communes, was even more dangerous than promiscuity. The longest sustained discussion inSuperstar defends, with many references to vendetta, the swearing of oaths as essential to the maintenance of civic order.


Who, then, were the Cathars? In Italy, unlike the Languedoc, the term was widely used about, if not by, followers of what was believed to be the most dangerous deviation from the teachings of the church. From the time of Innocent III it was effectively interchangeable with ‘Patarene’, an epithet that embodied the memories of those who clung to the radical apostolic and anti-hierarchical vision of the eleventh-century reformers, and sometimes with ‘Manichee’, the academic epitome of dualism.

Imperial territorial authority in Italy, of which shelter and support for heretics had so often been a by-product, was effectively ended when Charles of Anjou defeated Manfred of Sicily at Benevento in 1266. This victory tilted the balance of local power in Lombardy and central Italy significantly towards the inquisitors. Even then they rarely enjoyed consistent political support and never operated on the scale that produced the massive series of registers compiled by their counterparts in the Languedoc. In 1268 an inquisition at Orvieto sentenced sixty-seven living people and eighteen dead. The bones of the dead were ordered to be exhumed and burned, their ashes scattered, the goods of their heirs confiscated and their houses destroyed. The living, some of whom were old enough to carry the memory of offences back into the 1230s, were dealt with less harshly. The Franciscan inquisitors, local men, were sensitive enough to avoid overt hostility. The sentences ranged from fines and pilgrimages to wearing the yellow cross, imprisonment and excommunication, but there were no burnings. The most severe penalty, because it permanently undermined the families affected, was the confiscation of property, which was divided between the church and the commune; at least some of these confiscations were carried out.

These events and comparable inquisitions at Florence and Bologna are well enough documented to leave no doubt that in Italy Catharism, whatever else it may have been, was a social fact. That the people sentenced in Orvieto were in some sense supporters or believers was a matter of public knowledge. Many of them were connected with one another, and had been for generations, by marriage, by business and professional association, and by political allegiance to the popular movement that had contested power in the city since the 1190s and won it by the 1240s. Several public officials of the 1240s and ’50s were from Cathar families. They often came from the newer nobility that had emerged since the middle of the twelfth century, the relative upstarts who had been prominent in the rise of the popolo, but also from a wide social spectrum, including bankers and notaries, and many skilled craftsmen. One indication that they were winners rather than losers from social change is the presence among them of many engaged in the fur trade, which was now developing the skills to make clothing with fur turned inwards, symbolic of a world that saw itself as a civilisation triumphing over the barbarism that had worn its fur on the outside since the days of Attila the Hun.


Armanno Punzilupo died in his native Ferrara in 1268. He had been a gentle, kindly man, a regular prison visitor, remembered for his generosity and the simplicity of his life. A large crowd carried his body to the cathedral for burial. Miracles were reported at his tomb, which soon became a place of pilgrimage, festooned with the offerings of the devout. This was how saints had always been made until Rome took firm control of the process at the end of the twelfth century. But in the years that followed several abjuring heretics identified Armanno as someone who had met many well-known Cathar and Waldensian ministers, had been seen to take off his hat to them, bow and exchange blessings. He had publicly condemned the burning of a ‘good man’ and often been heard to make jokes at the expense of the catholic clergy, to question their morals and beliefs, to query their sacraments. One penitent swore that Armanno was a believer of the Bagnolan sect, another that he had died a Cathar. Eventually the case was taken up by inquisitors, and though many testified to his catholic piety – including seven priests who swore, contrary to one of the charges against him, that he had attended church regularly and that they had heard his confession and given him absolution – Armanno was condemned as a heretic in 1301, his body exhumed and burned, his tomb in the cathedral broken up and the offerings piled around it destroyed.

In 1299 a similar dispute raged in Bologna when Bompietro di Giovanni and Giuliano were burned as heretics, together with the exhumed bones of the widow Rosafiore. Rosafiore’s husband had died at the stake some years earlier, and she had been sentenced to wear the yellow cross. Her parish priest, believing her sincerely penitent before she died, had absolved her, given her the last unction and allowed her to be buried in the cemetery. As Bompietro, who came of a Cathar family, was being taken to the stake, he asked for absolution and the sacrament. It was refused and he was burned. Riots followed, and the rioters were in turn excommunicated for defying the inquisitors, who were accused of cruelty and injustice, of acting out of corruption and greed for Bompietro’s property or, others said, because his sister had refused the inquisitor her favours. People were especially bitter against the Carmelite friars to whom Bompietro had regularly given wine for the Mass. The angry protests involved people from every part of the community, including the clergy, for Rosafiore’s parish priest had been made to dig up her bones with his own hands and punished, along with an archdeacon who had acted as Giuliano’s legal adviser, for granting her absolution without the inquisitor’s approval.

Asked during his interrogation ‘what faith and belief and which heretical faith he held’, Bompietro replied that ‘he could not differentiate well among the beliefs and sects of the heretics, but he believed that the heretics were the best men in the world and that true salvation was in them and in their faith, and damnation in the faith of the Roman church’.

Now as ever, the voice of the ordinary layman or woman – Bompietro was a pursemaker by trade – tells us that faith is vested in personal conduct and demeanour, not in doctrines. Bompietro’s house served as a meeting place for heretics, but he attended the services of the Carmelites as well as giving them wine, and his charity embraced both Cathar and catholic. Armanno Punzilupo paid his respects to all he regarded as good men and criticised the avarice and hypocrisy of bad ones, irrespective of their theological differences, of which he probably knew little and certainly cared less. Neither his beliefs nor those of his admirers prevented him from becoming the object of a cult of the most uninhibitedly catholic piety, repellent in principle to the flesh-hating dualists the inquisitors were so determined to find and root out.6


So again, who were the Cathars? Until believing in or supporting them became criminal in itself, the only ‘heretics’ were the people who preached heresy, or who, without the approval of the church, performed religious rites for those who desired them, among which the most important for Lombard Cathars was the death-bed blessing that the inquisitors called consolation (consolamentum). For most people it was then, and only then, that they actually became Cathars. Until that moment those who accepted the preachers’ message and believed them to be evangelists of the true faith were not categorically distinguished from the many who merely turned up to listen, or were inclined to think that there might be a good deal in what the heretics said, or without agreeing with them admired their self-denial and modesty of demeanour, or simply accorded them the ordinary courtesies of daily life. In principle such shades of heretical grey had been outlawed with increasing firmness since the Council of Tours in 1163. In practice the Albigensian wars had not been enough to banish them from the Languedoc. They lingered even after the Council of Toulouse in 1229 finally drove the good men underground and forced those who assisted them or attended their meetings to declare themselves by doing so members of a clandestine sect.

The stories of Armanno Punzilupo and of Bompietro show how remote was the black-and-white world picture of the official church from the religious life of Italian cities, even by the end of the thirteenth century. The faith of those who were outraged when Bompietro was denied the sacrament and who worshipped at Armanno’s tomb was vested in the two men’s personal character and conduct, not in systems of belief. There was no clear line between Cathars and catholics. People accounted Cathars by the inquisitors, or even by their neighbours, routinely attended catholic services and participated in catholic religious practices, including (for instance) the veneration of relics which in theory should have been repugnant to them. Conversely, scepticism of the powers and claims of the catholic clergy was widespread. The imperfections of their lives, relished in the telling and deeply resented, were openly, not to say exultantly, discussed and easily led to doubt of their teaching. The question that so profoundly exercised the bishop and chapter of Ferrara, the Dominican inquisition and the papal court, whether Armanno was a catholic or a heretic, was of no interest to the people who had prayed and left offerings at his shrine. Whether it mattered to Armanno himself there is no telling. It was the inquisitors who insisted that he must be one or the other.


The Dominican inquisitors were, as Dominic had insisted, products of the schools, where everything began with the elementary precept of Aristotle that a thing could not be both a and not a. They were also men of passion and dedication, living in poverty and at the disposal of their superiors, without the consolations of freedom, of sex, of companionship except each others’, regularly beaten up by angry crowds and revelling in the prospect of maryrdom that the beatings foreshadowed. ‘Let me hear from you whether you are prepared to die for the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ’, cried the prior at Toulouse when he called the brothers together to ask for volunteers to go to Carcassonne, where nobody was willing to confront the heretics. ‘I want those who are so prepared to prostrate themselves, as for pardon.’ ‘At this all, acting as one, prostrated themselves in the chapter’, wrote Guilhem Pelhisson, himself one of the volunteers.7 The appeal for help had come from Guilhem Arnaut, soon to be murdered at Avignonet.

The prototypical martyr of inquisition was Peter of Verona. His assassination near Milan in April 1252 provided a promptly and successfully cultivated image of the Dominicans as the church’s valiant defenders against the ravaging monster of heresy. He was canonised by Pope Innocent IV within a year, in the fastest official saint-making ever; in 1254 the General Chapter ordered his portrait to be hung alongside Dominic’s in every Dominican house and church, and his death became a popular subject for the greatest painters of the Renaissance.

Peter, who once almost died after fasting so rigorously that he became too weak to open his mouth for food, was a hugely successful preacher throughout northern Italy in the violent 1230s and ’40s. He was also an energetic and successful organiser of lay fraternities in many cities, seeing them as vehicles of solidarity among the pious and militant organisations for the suppression of heresy. That as an inquisitor he caused nobody to be burned (as far as we know) vindicates the conventional depiction of him as a gentle and peaceable man, but like many inquisitors he came from a Cathar family, and one equally conventional story of his childhood evokes the violence that lay close behind every conversion. When Peter was seven years old, his uncle, a Cathar, collecting him from school, asked what he had learned that day. The creed, Peter replied, beginning to recite ‘I believe in God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.’ His uncle objected, ‘Don’t say “creator of heaven and earth” because God is not the creator of visible things’, citing the scriptural authorities read in that way by the heretics. Peter ‘turned them against the uncle and slew the man with his own sword, so to speak, leaving him disarmed and unable to parry’. Peter was able to see his uncle, another hagiographer suggests, ‘not just as his uncle, but as a poisonous snake and a rabid wolf’.8 The language is a reminder that religion (Latin religio: from ligere, ‘to tie or bind’) meant not personal faith but the most sacred tie that bound a group together. When everyone’s identity, security and fortune were almost exclusively rooted in the family thus bound, to break with one’s family religion was not only traumatic but devastatingly and disruptively violent in itself. That is why the idea of conversion – or, from the other point of view, apostasy – is commonly associated with the language of treason and perfidy. This is another reason for caution in weighing the testimony of converts.


Peter Martyr of Verona was probably the author, around 1235, of the earliest of a series of treatises on heresy produced by the Italian Dominicans. Where their brethren of Toulouse and Carcassonne took the teachings of the heretics for granted and concentrated on the activities of their supporters and believers, the Italians went in for long and systematic rebuttals of heretical teachings rather in the manner of the schools, while concrete information about the heretics themselves and their doings sometimes appears almost incidental. Indeed the agenda of the longest and most comprehensive of these treatises, by Moneta of Cremona (c. 1240), is so thoroughly governed by the requirements of academic exposition of catholic orthodoxy that it is doubtful whether it addressed any real heresy at all. It was a classroom exercise, designed to equip its students systematically with rebuttals of every shade of heretical opinion that they might conceivably encounter, rather than those they actually would.

Peter’s treatise, lengthy but incomplete, has much of this character, but it also shows a good deal of practical knowledge of heretics and their doings in such places as Milan, Como, Bergamo and Piacenza. One result is that, though its first book (of five) is devoted to errors peculiar to the ‘Patarenes or Cathars’, it goes on to name and sometimes to discuss a long list of other heresies mentioned barely or not at all by others, including Predestinarians, Circumcisers, Speronists, Rebaptisers, Arnaldones, Corrucani, Milui, Levantes, Cappelletti ‘and the like’.9 Here the progressive narrowing of focus on to the Cathars and to a much lesser extent the Waldensians typical of these treatises (and of modern historiography) has not obscured the point made repeatedly above, that these cities were teeming with an infinite, even a bizarre, variety of religious opinions and ideas, and of more or less enduring groupings of people around them. Peter’s first concern, as any rational observer’s would be, was to make sense of them by relating them to an ordered context. He did so as a theologian, not as a historian or a sociologist. What mattered to him were the ideas themselves and their relation to catholic doctrine, viewed not historically but in the light of eternity, and therefore unchanging. The ephemeral, temporal circumstances of who held these beliefs, where they came from and when, were of no importance. Thus the Predestinarians ‘are second only to the Patarenes in the seriousness of their deviation’ – which says nothing about how many of either there are, where they are to be found, how long they have been around. Rather, in the systematic, scholastic way Peter divided the Predestinarians into four types, according to nuances of doctrine that he associated respectively with various ancient and biblical sources and rebuttals accordingly.

The most influential of these inquisitorial treatises, by Rainier Sacchoni, wastes no time on minnows: ‘Once there were many sects of heretics but they have now been almost destroyed. Two of importance, however, are still to be found, the Cathars or Patarini and the Leonistae or Poor Men of Lyon.’10 Rainier, yet another Piacenzan, had been a Cathar for seventeen years and occupied a leading position among them – he does not say of which persuasion – before joining the Dominicans. He had been the companion of Peter Martyr and narrowly escaped sharing his fate. His book, written in 1250 and widely circulated, survives in more than fifty manuscripts. His treatment of the Waldensians is brief and unimportant, but his account of the Cathars has been and remains more influential than any other. The essential point is stated promptly and unequivocally:

All Cathars believe that the devil made the world and everything in it, and that all the sacraments of the church, both that of baptism by water, which is material, and the others, do not help us to salvation, and are not true sacraments of Christ and his church but devilish frauds of a church of the wicked; they regard as mortal sins reproductive sex, the consumption of its fruits, meat, eggs and cheese, and the swearing of oaths; they deny purgatory.

They have four sacraments: the consolamentum or laying-on of hands, the breaking of bread, penance, and ordination.

There were several Cathar ‘churches’ whose followers could be identified by their differences from one another on details of these essential principles, which are therefore set out with great care. ‘Blame not me, dear readers, for giving them the name of churches,’ says Rainier, ‘but rather those who do so.’ He lists seven in Italy, three in the Languedoc, and six in Greece and the Balkans. The most numerous were the Albanenses, the Concorezzans and the Bagnolans. Theologically the crucial difference between them was that the Albanenses considered Satan to be an independent principle, like God eternal and uncreated, while the others thought, with variations on the theme, that he had been created by God and subsequently rebelled against him. Each ‘church’ had a bishop; the bishop had two assistants, his ‘elder and younger sons’, who might perform all his functions; succession from younger son to elder and from elder to bishop was automatic. These three were itinerant, but there was also a deacon in each city where they had followers. This is an organisation designed to withstand persecution: continuity can be maintained even if two of the three leaders are apprehended simultaneously. It is not a territorial organisation: the bishop’s authority is over all of his sect, wherever they may be, while followers of several sects may be found in the same city.

The nature of the bishop’s office as described by Rainier was different from that of his catholic counterpart. When a new younger son was needed, he was ‘chosen by all the prelates and their followers who are present at the meeting where the choice is made, and ordained by the bishop’. He was not appointed by his seniors, that is to say, but elected by the community, without distinction between prelates and others. While there were some differences between the ‘churches’ in consecrating the bishop himself, all of them replaced the ‘younger son’ in the same way. This confirms both the autonomy of these sects and the radical difference between the nature of their office and that of the catholic priesthood. It is, says Rainier, ‘a form of ordination obviously wrong’. Salvo Burci tells us why:

Your terms include ‘bishops’, ‘elder sons’, ‘younger sons’ and ‘deacons’. Where is the name of priest? The title priest is wanting among you … Therefore it does not seem that you are of the church of God.

In the early church bishops had been chosen by their communities. The principle that they still were had been used with considerable effect by the eleventh-century reformers but in practice soon evaporated thereafter. The election of the ‘younger son’ among the Cathars echoes the apostolic tradition of the early reform period to which Italian ‘Patarenes’ had clung so obstinately. It also implies that they rejected the crucial distinction that had become entrenched in the 1140s, when ordination was firmly defined as permanently endowing an individual with the power of conferring the sacraments and not simply appointing him to administer them, or to carry out other functions in the community. Cathar spiritual leaders were ministers, not priests.


‘All the Cathar churches accept one another, even though they hold different and contradictory doctrines, except the Albanensians and Concorezzans who damn one another in turn’, says Rainier Sacchoni, echoing Salvo Burci. Rainier’s list of Cathar churches includes that of France, ‘to be found in Verona and Lombardy’, and those of ‘Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne, with what was once the church of Agen, but is now almost destroyed’. By his time the church of France included many refugees, but it probably had not started that way; there had always been frequent and recently greatly increasing movement across the Alps, and migrants or itinerants naturally collected in communities based on religious as on other affinities. Persecution greatly increased the extent to which heretics in the Languedoc looked to Italy for shelter and support, and the need for secrecy enhanced self-consciousness and promoted formality of organisation.

Wherever they looked, the inquisitors found confirmation of their expectation that despite their acknowledged divisions the Cathars constituted a single enemy. ‘The inquisition’ of popular legend did not exist at any time in the middle ages. Each inquisitor was personally appointed and operated independently, at first for particular occasions, later with general responsibility in a designated area. There was no formal co-ordination between inquisitions, no central office or registry. But the mobility of the friars fostered the exchange of ideas and experience among them, and they habitually read and used each other’s records and treatises (or, as we might say, case notes). The uniformity of their procedures fostered a uniformity of observation. The same questions, posed in the same prescribed words, often evoked the same answers. Their common intellectual formation in the theology of the schools, with its growing emphasis on the reality of evil, nourished by the dedication of their order to the eradication of heresy and the cult of their martyred brethren, gave the Dominican inquisitors a formidable coherence of outlook and expectation soon matched by their Franciscan counterparts. In any case it was natural, if not inevitable, that there should have been many real resemblances between the innumerable bodies of believers that formed and re-formed throughout our period – for the most part, we must never forget, to be reintegrated in one way or another into the church. Since there is only a limited number of ways in which sects can operate, they tended to have a distinct family resemblance, stressing the story and teaching of the gospels and of St Paul, and favouring what they believed to be a literal adherence to their precepts, valuing simplicity of life and ritual, of which they needed to develop at least a minimum to express their community and mark the great transitions of life and death.

Heretics sought to imitate the lives and obey the teachings of the apostles, and a basis for everything they said and believed may be found in the New Testament. An Eckbert in Cologne, a Pier Seilha in Montauban, a Rainier Sacchoni in Piacenza, were quick to see in the laying-on of hands and the breaking of bread the heretical practices of which they had been warned by the church fathers, and especially by Augustine of Hippo. A long tradition of deeply erudite scholarship has traced those practices through the mists of late antiquity and the hidden valleys of the Balkans to emerge in our period as the consolamentum and the apparalamentum of a mythical ‘Cathar church’, the legatee and ultimate expression of a ‘dualist’ or ‘gnostic’ tradition. In its simplest forms (though certainly capable of endless elaboration by its devotees as well as its historians) it amounted to little more than obvious answers to frequently recurring questions, beginning with how a benevolent god could be responsible for evil. It was, and is, necessary to look no further than the opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles to find perfectly innocent precedents for how simple, comradely gestures may become the rituals through which the members of almost any community – certainly any spiritual community – express their fellowship and renew their solidarity.

One of the commonest impulses in the emergence of these heretical communities was scepticism of the holiness of sacraments performed by manifestly unholy priests and of the validity of orders conferred by even less holy bishops. The earliest leaders of the reform, including the greatest reforming pope, had forbidden their followers to accept the sacraments from unworthy or improperly ordained priests. It is to be expected that the most serious of those who heeded these prohibitions should have evolved substitutes for the catholic sacraments, and that those substitutes often looked very much alike. The similarities among the heretics that catholic observers attributed to a common doctrine and organisation can be at least as well explained by common experience, and by a common history that began not in the mists of antiquity but in the upheavals of their own quite recent past.


The heretics too had their reasons for perceiving kinship rather than mere resemblance among themselves. All Christians are bound to believe that theirs is the one true church from which others have deviated, whether it is maintained by an unbroken succession of bishops from the apostles, as the catholic church insists, or in the spiritual sense preferred by those who hold that this church has betrayed, and thereby forfeited, its mandate. Whether their sense of kinship draws them together against the common foe, especially under the threat of persecution, or brings fratricidal bitterness to small but perceivedly crucial differences of doctrine or practice must depend a good deal on chance and personality.

An anonymous tract from the 1220s or ’30s, The Cathars of Lombardy, describes how its subjects tried, repeatedly but unsuccessfully, to heal the divisions among themselves.11 Their troubles began, it says, when Mark, their bishop over ‘the whole of Lombardy, Tuscany and the Marches’, accepted a fresh consolamentum from a visitor from Constantinople, named Nicetas, who told him that his original consolamentum, which he had received from Bulgarian heretics, was invalid. After Mark’s death, however, his followers heard from another visitor from ‘across the sea’ that Nicetas’s own consolamentum had not been valid because the man from whom he received it had been found with a woman. This caused some of them to withdraw their allegiance from Mark’s successor and choose a new leader. The two parties agreed to draw lots between their respective bishops. After much wrangling, including the deposition of one bishop who said he would not accept the result and the resignation of another because he thought that if chosen he would not be accepted, candidates were selected from each side and the lot fell upon Garattus – who was promptly reported by two witnesses to have slept with a woman. ‘Because of this there were many who maintained that he was unworthy of his rank, and therefore they no longer considered themselves bound by their promise of obedience to him.’ Followers of the heretics in several cities lost patience and chose their own bishops, so that ‘the community which had been divided into two parties was now dispersed into six.’ Another Dominican inquisitor, Anselm of Alessandria, provides further details.12 Mark, he says, was a gravedigger, a native of Colognio, near Concorezzo, who had originally been converted by a French notary and had converted others. It was the recommendation of Nicetas that they ought to have a bishop, and Mark died on the way to Bulgaria to be ordained by a bishop there. Yet further fragmentation was caused by a report that reached Lombardy that Nicetas also had been found to have slept with a woman, as indeed, said Nicholas of the March, who wanted to become a bishop, had Mark himself.

Only after rehearsing all this do these texts go on to describe the theological differences between the various factions that emerged from these disputes. They evoke the vulnerability to intrigue, or mere human frailty, of faith vested in personal sanctity, and the intensity of the quarrels by which groups founded on such faith (seeing at stake not just personal ambition but eternal salvation) are constantly riven. This volatility makes any description misleading because it must be momentary. Surviving texts, accurate or not, can never represent more than random stills from an endlessly complicated and rapidly moving film. The Cathars of Lombardy and the introductory part of Anselm of Alessandria’s treatise are neither precise nor consistent, internally or with each other, but they are informative. Their stories constitute not a historical record but a body of anecdote, founded on a myth of original unity, that circulated among these communities, growing more, not less, circumstantial and precise with the passage of time: Anselm wrote around 1270. They are contributions to a foundation legend, or origin myth, a genre that flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with the multiplication of new communities of every kind – families, cities, monasteries, devotees of particular shrines, as well as religious sects. Such stories often open in the mists of time, and in a distant, exotic place, to be plausibly if vaguely linked to the present with acknowledged fact – ‘A Persian named Mani once asked himself, “If there is a God, where does evil come from?”’ Anselm of Alessandria begins. ‘He preached around Dragovitsa, Bulgaria and Philadelphia … later the Greeks went there to trade … later the Franks went to Constantinople to conquer the land … and were converted.’

Origin myths blend memory with imagination, but also adapt it to present needs and expectations. Thus the anonymous treatise confirms that the various Cathar sects grew from the influence of many particular, local leaders and preachers. It describes them at a time when some of them were trying to cope with the problems characteristic of such groups – most obviously of succession to the original leaders or their chosen successors – and to join together in the face of persecution. In response more regular procedures were devised and memories were elaborated to legitimate both the procedures themselves and the leaders they produced. Anselm of Alessandria’s more sophisticated account draws on the familiar scholastic description of the nature and origin of the Manichaean heresy to place the hierarchy of the Cathars in a line of succession from very early times, mirroring that of the catholic church. In this it reflects recent development among the sects themselves, some of which do appear to have evolved an episcopal hierarchy and an articulate dualist theology by the second half of the thirteenth century. Greater precision would be illusory. The blend is too finely mixed and too volatile to lend itself to retrospective distinction between a kernel of truth and a husk of legend. Nor can we make a clear distinction between the contributions to it of heretics and inquisitors – several of whom were heretics turned inquisitors. It served the needs of both and emerged not so much from conscious invention or even direct interrogation as from the confrontation, but also the convergence, of their respective cultures.


The place of Bulgaria and Constantinople in the origin myth raises the question of the extent and nature of relations between heresy in the Latin and Greek worlds. We cannot say how far these memories were real or invented, how far they preserved or reflected real contacts, momentary or continuing, between real people. Conscious as we are of the lack of mobility in the early medieval world, of the constraints that bound the great majority of the population to the land, the very low levels of exchange and urbanisation, the difficulties and dangers of travel, it is easy to forget how much movement there actually was. Some of the most important historical research and thinking of recent years has shown that we have greatly underestimated the extent and influence of long-distance contacts, especially across and around the Mediterranean but also between the Mediterranean lands and northern Europe, in the centuries between the waning of Roman power and the beginning of this book. From around the millennium such contacts grew exponentially in number, variety and regularity. A great many – missionary work, letters and visits between churches and ecclesiastical authorities, pilgrimage, the exchange of relics – were wholly or partly religious in nature. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of evangelism in the dissemination of ideas, and of the itinerant preacher, the archetypal outsider, in prompting the questioning of habits of life and deference long accepted as simply how things are.

For just the same reasons outsiders were easily blamed when things went wrong, and the distance from which they had come and the obscurity of their origins were easily inflated by gossip and memory. That a heresy that had appeared in the west originated ‘in Greece and other lands’ was first asserted by Eberwin of Steinfeld in 1147. The claim is by no means impossible – but there is no evidence to corroborate it, and Eberwin had his own reasons for making it, and for obscuring rather than clarifying the real origins and inspiration of the ‘heretics’ he was describing. The plausibility of his assertion was enhanced by the fact that for almost a century since one of the great architects of the papal reform, Cardinal Humbert, had excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople in 1054, the Byzantine world had been represented in the west as a source of heresy and corruption. The intensity of such propaganda was ratcheted up again in the aftermath of the sack of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204 and the subsequent imposition of papal authority on the Greek church. By the 1220s, when Conrad of Porto repeated Eberwin’s story of a heretical pope in the Balkans, heretics in the west were occasionally called ‘Bulgars’. The Cathars of Lombardy gave western dualism a Bulgarian source and introduced a disruptive visitor from Constantinople to renew the connection. Manuscripts containing legends and rituals associated with the Bulgarian Bogomil heretics circulated in northern Italy and in Provence, but none can be confidently dated before the middle of the thirteenth century. This tends to confirm that the interest of some western heretics in the legends or teachings of their eastern counterparts was not simply an invention of inquisitors or schoolmen, but it says nothing about the nature or extent of relations between the two, still less how they had arisen, or how long ago. The earliest and best evidence we have of the actual presence of heretics from one side on the soil of the other is that for Italian heretics in Constantinople in the 1170s.13


‘The Cathars of Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne subscribe to the errors of Balasinanza and the old Albanenses’, says Rainier Sacchoni, referring to the Lombard sect which believed that the devil was absolute, eternal and uncreated, and to one of their recent leaders. In saying that the Lombards sent for advice on how to resolve their differences from a heretical bishop ‘beyond the mountains’ The Cathars of Lombardy suggests identity between Cathars in Italy and the good men in the Languedoc. This is the first such explicit assertion since the Lateran decree of 1179. The identity it asserts is of belief, not of history, organisation or association. To the inquisitors, of course, belief was what mattered, but historians cannot take it for granted that these were in any other sense ‘the same heresy’. As we have seen, there are good reasons for doubting the accuracy of the inquisitors’ assumptions about the beliefs of the good men and their followers. Even if Rainier was right about their doctrines, it is perfectly possible for similar, even identical beliefs, based ultimately on the same passages of the same scriptures, to arise quite independently of one another. They are not by themselves evidence of connection, either in space or time, between the people who held them.

Communication there was. The inquisitors of Toulouse questioned people systematically about how good men were concealed and contrived to move from place to place. Their registers record that heretics travelled constantly between the two regions for many reasons, and that some of them shared a good deal in the way of contacts and networks of support, and had been doing so for some time. How often such arrangements overrode the doctrinal difference that led the French exiles in Italy (who did not agree with the Albanensians) and those whom Rainier called the ‘Cathars’ of the Languedoc to ‘damn one another in turn’ we can only guess. Such contacts and connections offer a vivid account of an active heretical underground, or undergrounds, in the middle of the thirteenth century and suggest that it had a longer history, but they say nothing about either the structures or the formation of the various groups of believers on either side of the Alps, and not that they had a common origin.

The inquisitorial registers tend to confirm the conclusions of earlier chapters about the emergence of the good men. In the 1230s they were still firmly entrenched among the noble families of the ruling elites of the cities, the crusade notwithstanding. In Montauban those families had demonstrably maintained their positions since the foundation of the town in the 1140s, and in Toulouse probably from about the same time. It seems likely that this was the outcome of a regrouping of noble families prompted by the fragmentation of landholdings and the rapid inflation of the first half of the twelfth century, which combined drastically to erode incomes from land and rents from rural property. In the larger towns this regrouping produced the patrician elites from which the consulates arose, in the fortified villages the petty knighthood of whose constraints and difficulties we have heard so much. The disparity between the two would have been much less at first than it became with time and growth.

Clear signs of religious division also appeared in the 1140s, both in Toulouse and in the villages. It would be naïve to deny a connection with the crisis of the noble families, although we cannot discern its nature. Its most obvious source is resentment, articulated by apostolic preachers, of the increasing material demands and social intrusiveness of the church that resulted from reforming initiatives. Durand of Bredon was installed as abbot of Moissac when it was placed under Cluny in 1048. Under him and his successors Moissac acquired extensive territories as far afield as Roussillon, Catalonia and the Périgord, and undertook extensive building programmes so that, as a later abbot wrote, ‘churches now stand where the boar once roamed the woods’. A new abbey church was consecrated in 1063, and rebuilt in the latest style between 1115 and 1130. The cloister, its sculptures among the great masterpieces of Romanesque art, was completed in 1100. Correspondingly, even inescapably, the abbey was continually and bitterly embroiled in disputes over property with other churches and with the regional nobility. Even more divisive were the new monastic foundations. Grandeselve and Bellesperche, probably founded by Gerald of Salles, were incorporated in the 1140s into the Cistercian order, which by the 1170s had acquired or founded some forty houses between the Rhône and the Garonne. Contrary to the image promoted by their origin myth, which presented them as accepting only unoccupied land, the Cistercians disrupted existing patterns of cultivation and livestock management throughout the region in order to impose their own.14

In this context the religious thrust of apostolic preaching such as that of Henry of Lausanne was conservative, especially in the countryside – to resist the growing demands and pretensions, the sacramental innovations and the liturgical elaborations of the monks and urban clergy and stick with traditional patterns of simple communal piety. At what point persistence in doing so became what the monks and later the inquisitors identified as heresy, and as dualist heresy, it is impossible to say. There was probably no sudden moment of intrusion or conversion. We have no origin myth for heresy in this region that might reflect such an episode or turning point earlier than the one manufactured in the 1220s which is described above. More likely is a gradual polarisation, leading to the emergence of the good men as spokesmen of the recalcitrant, first visible at Lombers in 1166. The crystallisation of the ritual expression of their values and leadership, still more of its theological underpinning (if there was one) in the progressive demonisation of catholic power and material wealth, is beyond our view. That is not a reason to accept at face value the construction put upon it by their enemies.

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