Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation

By Edward Peters | Go to book overview

IX
PEASANT CATHARS IN THE ARIÈGE IN THE EARLY FOURTEENTH CENTURY

Between 1318 and 1325 Jacques Fournier, Cistercian monk, former abbot of Fontfroide, bishop of Pamiers (and later Pope Benedict XII), conducted an inquisition in his diocese, located at the foot of the Pyrenees. Pamiers had been erected into a diocese by Pope Boniface VIII in 1295 particularly to check the lively surviving Catharism in the area. Fournier's inquisition was extremely thorough, and it kept superb records, which Fournier later in life had copied out and left in the papal library at Avignon after his papacy. Fournier's inquisitorial register was edited in 1965 by Jean Duvernoy and made an important contribution to our knowledge of late Catharism in the peasant communities of the diocese of Pamiers. It has been the subject of much scholarly research, but the greatest work to come from it is Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie's brilliant analysis of one community among the several that Fournier visited, Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 à 1324 ( Paris, 1975), which quickly became a best-seller in France and has been translated into English by Barbara Bray as Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error ( New York, 1979).

The question of the character of the religious culture of rural Europe has long been a matter of debate among historians and sociologists, and LeRoy Ladurie's work has contributed immensely to part of that debate. Had all of rural Europe become Christianized, or were the beliefs of parts of it an amalgam of residual paganism, half-understood Christian dogmas, and strains of contemporary heretical doctrines? The question has engaged not only historians of the late Middle Ages, but students of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well, and, as some of the materials printed here

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