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Catharism (from καθαροί, katharoi, "the pure") is a Christian dualist movement that thrived in some areas of Southern Europe, particularly northern Italy and southern France, between the 12th and 14th centuries. Cathar beliefs varied between communities because Catharism was initially taught by ascetic priests who had few set guidelines. The Cathars were a direct challenge to the Catholic Church, renouncing Catholic practices and dismissing it outright as the Church of Satan.

Catharism had its roots in the Paulician movement in Armenia and the Bogomils of Bulgaria, which took influences from the Paulicians. Though the term "Cathar" has been used for centuries to identify the movement, whether the movement identified itself with this name is debatable. In Cathar texts, the terms "Good Men" (Bons Hommes) or "Good Christians" are the common terms of self-identification. The idea of two Gods or principles, one being good the other evil, was central to Cathar beliefs. The good God was the God of the New Testament and the creator of the spiritual realm as opposed to the bad God who many Cathars identified as Satan creator of the physical world of the Old Testament. All visible matter was created by Satan, it was therefore tainted with sin, this even included the human body. Human souls were thought to be the genderless souls of Angels trapped within the physical creation of Satan cursed to be reincarnated until the Cathar faithful achieved salvation through a ritual called the Consolamentum. From the beginning of his reign, Pope Innocent III attempted to use diplomacy to end Catharism, but in the year 1208 Innocent's papal legate Pierre de Castelnau was murdered while returning to Rome after preaching the Catholic faith in southern France. With the option of sending Catholic missionaries and jurists extinguished, Pope Innocent III declared Pierre of Castelnau a martyr and launched the Albigensian Crusade.



From May 1243 to March 1244, the Cathar fortress of Montségur was besieged by the troops of the seneschal of Carcassonne and the archbishop of Narbonne. On March 16, 1244 a large and symbolically important massacre took place, where over 200 Cathar perfects were burned in an enormous fire at the prat des cramats near the foot of the castle. Moreover, the Church decreed chastisements against laymen suspected of sympathy with Cathars (Council of Narbonne, 1235; see the Bulla of Innocent IV Ad exstirpanda, 1252). Women were equals Women were treated as equals, because their physical form was irrelevant; their soul could have been a man's soul before, and it might once again become one.


Cathar Perfects were also vegans. They were required to avoid eating anything considered to be a by-product of sexual reproduction, including cheese, eggs, milk and butter. Having said this, they were allowed to eat fish, as little was then known about the mating habits of marine creatures which were generally believed to simply appear spontaneously in the sea.

Free love

The idea free love has appeared various times in history such as among the Cathars of Medieval France.

The last Cathars and Cathar influence

The last Cathar Perfect, Guillaume Bélibaste, was executed in 1321. Other movements, such as the Waldensians and the pantheistic Brethren of the Free Spirit survived into the 14th and 15th century, until they were gradually replaced by, or absorbed into, early Protestant sects, such as the Hussites.



In 1163 bedacht Eckbert von Schönau de term kathaar. Het woord ketter is verwant met Kathaar. Men geloofde indertijd dat de duivel op aarde zou verschijnen in de vorm van een kat. Duivelaanbidders zouden deze kat dan vereren door hem te kussen, vooral op zijn anus (Walter Map - diaken in Oxford in 1180).

Later history

After the suppression of Catharism, the descendants of Cathars were, in some southern French towns, required to live apart from the main town and its defenses. They thus retained a certain Cathar identity, although they were Catholic in religion. This practice of separation, though increasingly uncommon, finally ended during the French Revolution.

Any use of the term "Cathar" to refer to people after the suppression of Catharism in the fourteenth century is a cultural or ancestral reference, and has no religious implication. Nevertheless, interest in the Cathars, their history, legacy and beliefs continues. Also, the Cathars have been depicted in popular books such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail as a group of elite nobility somehow connected to "secrets" about the true nature of the Christian faith, although there is no critical proof of such secrets being kept.

The novel Flicker by Theodore Roszak, where Cathars are at the heart of a mystery involving the use of secretive film techniques used to influence modern culture.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Catharism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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