A Heresy for the 21st Century: The Cathars

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Dominic Guzmán and the Albigenses, 1480, Pedro Berruguete Dominic Guzmán and the Albigenses, 1480, Pedro Berruguete

Around the mid 12th Century the Catholic Church reported on the emergence of a new heresy: Catharism. Although Catharism shared many similarities in beliefs and organisational structure that it appears to be a descendant of other Gnostic heretical sects such as the Bogomils, Paulicians and others, all the way back to the Manichaeans in the 3rd Century, it would become for the Catholic Church the Great Heresy.

Although the first reports of Catharism was from Cologne, the heartlands of the heresy was the Languedoc, ruled at the time by  independent Counts. By the early 13th Century adherents of Catharism were said to outnumber Catholics in the region, a development that Pope Innocent III tried to combat by sending missionaries to debate with the leaders of the Cathars, the perfecti. Faced with the embarrassment of educated churchmen out-debated by humble, illiterate weavers (who…

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