“It was a summer of love, we didn’t know it was our last stand.”

History — never repeating, but rhyming and chiming in cycles of ragged harmony. So rosin up the bow, let’s go down to Languedoc….


Languedoc (Before the Fire and Steel) by Chris Floyd

From The Perfect Heresy, by Stephen O Shea:

“Languedoc, the great arc of land stretching from the Pyrenees to Provence and including such cities as Toulouse, Albi, Carcossone, Narbonne, Beziers, and Montpellier … Even its name reflects the chimerical. Languedoc is a contraction of langue d’oc, that is the language of yes — or rather, the languages in which the word yes is oc, not oui. … It was in the Occitan language that troubadour poetry first flowered in the twelfth century. In the fields and groves of Languedoc, love was discovered and the erotic rekindled. … The idea of fin’amors was a fresh, heady breeze of individual transcendence imbued with the spirit of medieval Languedoc. While beyond the Loire and the Rhine noblemen were still stirred by epics about the viscera dripping from Charlemagne’s sword, their counterparts in the sunny south were learning to count the ways. The ethos of amorous longing, so much at odds with the mix of rapine and piety that passed for normal behavior everywhere else, gave a different cast to Languedoc’s life of the mind.* …

[Centered in Languedoc,] the Cathar heresy, a pacifist brand of Christianity embracing tolerance and poverty, rose to prominence in the middle of the so-called renaissance¬† of the twelfth century, the time when Europe shook off the intellectual torpor that had afflicted it for hundreds of years ….

The god deserving of Cathar worship was a god of light … this god, unconcerned with the material, simply didn’t care if you got into bed before getting married, had a Jew or Muslim for a friend, treated men and women as equals, or did anything else that was contrary to the teachings of the medieval Church. …. Even a cursory description of the Cathar faith gives an idea of how seditious the heresy was. If its tenets were true, the sacrements of the Church became null and void, for the very good reason that the Church itself was a hoax. …

Neither was the rest of society spared the revolutionary ramifications of Cathar thought. This was particularly true of the movement’s treatment of women. The medieval sexual status quo would have been undermined if everybody believed, as the Cathars did, that a nobleman in one life might be a milkmaid in the next, or that women were fit to be spiritual leaders. … With startling ease, the Cathar preacher could portray medieval society as a fanciful and illegitimate house of cards.

…Catharism was, in short, perfect heresy to the powers-that-were, and it consequently inspired a loathing that knew few bounds. … “Kill them all, God will know his own.” The sole catchphrase of the Cathar conflict to be handed down to posterity is attributed to Arnold Amaury, the monk who led the Albigensian Crusade [against the Cathars]. A chronicler reported that Arnold voiced this command outside the Mediterranean trading town of Beziers on July 22, 1209, when his crusading warriors, on the verge of storming the city having breached its defenses, turned to him for advice on distinguishing Catholic believer from Cathar heretic. The monk’s simple instructions were followed and the entire population — 20,000 or so — indiscriminately murdered. …

Even in an era commonly regarded as barbarous …. the campaign against the Cathars and their supporters stands out for its stark cruelty … two decades of salutary slaughter …. By then the Inquisition had developed the techniques that would torment Catholic Europe and Latin America for centuries to come and, in the process, provide the model for latter-day totalitarian control of the individual conscience. By the middle of the fourteenth century, the Inquisition had razed any residual trace of the … heresy from the landscape of Christendom, and the Cathars of Languedoc had vanished.”

[*For more on the troubadours and their champion, Eleanor of Aquitane, and her rapacious, militarist, nation-pawning son, Richard the Lionheart, see Blondel’s Song, by David Boyle.]

“You feel the ocean heat when she whispers what she craves ….”

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