Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom

Article excerpt

Mark Gregory Pegg, A Most Holy War: The Albigen sian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). xxii + 253 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-517131-0. £15.99.

As Mark Gregory Pegg suggests in his preface, the Albigensian crusade has become a decidedly sexy topic, thanks to its association with The Da Vinci Code and All That. The present volume seems to be intended as a conspiracy-free history of the crusade for a general authence. However, Pegg does start by arguing that the present academic consensus is entirely wrong, and that far from being a form of Manichean dualism, the Albigensian heresy was essentially a church reform movement with some doctrinal issues. In fact, he argues, it was not actually all that different from other contemporary heresies, such as Waldensianism; and he seeks to explain Albigensianism in terms of the particular social structure of Languedoc society. He suggests that the dualist element of Catharism was a construct of the church establishment, derived entirely from the ancient writings on heresy of the church Fathers, rather than from any direct knowledge of the Albigensian heresy itself. These are very interesting ideas which could potentially transform our ideas of the Albigensian crusade; unfortunately, however, they are not discussed in sufficient detail to present a fully convincing case. In particular, Pegg fails to address the question of why, if Albigensianism was not fundamentally different from other contemporary heresies, it was nevertheless portrayed in very different terms by the Catholic hierarchy. If they did base their portrayal of the Albigensians entirely on the writings of the church Fathers, why were not all heretics tarred with the same brush? …

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