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A Summary of “Images of Catharism and the Historian's Task”

  • George H. Shriver (a1)


Only four decades ago one of the present leading medievalists in this country was not allowed to write a dissertation in the area of Catharism. In turning down the request, the director referred to the paucity of sources for undertaking such a study. In view of the materials currently available one nearly finds it unbelievable that such a delimited area of research has been given so much attention in the interim, in the manuscript finds, translation work, and multifold secondary source interpretations which have touched on everything from sex to song to diet! And whenever a topic in the field of history edges out biblical studies, contemporary theology, and the latest witless fad in religion in Time (the whole religion section, no less), perhaps it can be said that that topic has indeed arrived. Sparkling brilliance has been added to Catharism in the studies of the likes of Runciman, Söderberg, Borst, Dondaine, Manselli, Roché Nelli, Russell, and Wakefield. And yet, as is obvious, there are still unanswered questions and the necessity for continuing scholarship which will engage even more facets of Catharism.



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1. Lynn White, Jr. shared this interesting piece of information with his seminar in the summer of 1969 at the Southeastern Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Chapel Hill, N.C. He was the young graduate student forbidden to write on the Catharists at Harvard.

2. For an excellent summary see Daniel, Walther, “A Survey of Recent Research on the Albigensian Cathari,” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture, 34 (June, 1965), 146ff. Notations will be brief in this summary with the knowledge that this Walther article and the Wakefield volume afford extensive bibliographical assistance in relation to any part of the Catharist story.

3. As illustration, see Rene, Nelli, Ecritures Cathares (Paris, 1968) and the amazing translation project by Wakefield, and Evans, , Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York, 1969).

4. See Noonan, John T., Contraception (Cambridge, 1965), p. 179ff.

5. Among others, cf. Denis de, Rougemont, Love in the Western World (New York, 1956), passim.

6. Time, April 28, 1961, p. 54.

7. The Medieval Manichee (Cambridge, 1947).

8. La religion des Cathares (Uppsala, 1949).

9. Die Katharer (Stuttgart, 1953).

10. See Walther, passim.

11. ibid., 164–5.

12. L'Église Romaine et les Cathares Albigeois (Arques, 1957).

13. La vie quotidienne des Cathares, 1969.

14. Dissent and Reform in the Early Middle Ages (Los Angeles, 1965).

15. Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York, 1969).

16. “The Changing Past” in Frontiers of Knowledge (New York, 1956), p. 77.

17. Machina Ex Deo (Cambridge, 1968), pp. 910.

18. See Jeffrey, Russell's fine essay, “Interpretations of the Origins of Medieval Heresy,” Mediaeval Studies, 25 (1963), 26ff. For a ludicrous (though taken seriously by certain grass-roots folk) example see Carroll, J. M., The Trail of Blood (Lexington, 1931), passim.

19. Cf. Jacques, Madaule, The Albigensian Crusade (New York, 1967).

20. The Making of a Counter Culture (New York, 1968), p. 42.

21. Dissent and Reform…, p. 188ff.

22. Heresy in the Later Middle Ages (New York, 1967), II, 446, n. 1.

23. See Madaule, op. cit., passim, for example.

24. See Were Ancient Heresies Disguised Social Movements? (Phil., 1966).

25. ibid.., p. v.

26. See Russell, , “Interpretations of the Origins.‥”, 33.

27. Op. cit., 100.

28. Op. cit., 9.

29. ibid.., 10.

30. See Georges de, Lagarde, La naissance de l'esprit laique (Paris, 1956), I, 82ff.

31. Lynn White, Jr., for one, shares this opinion, though with more confidence in far Eastern filiation than I am willing to admit. For instance he sees the tenet of reincarnation as “presumably” received from India. See his Machina Ex Deo, p. 92.

32. See Wakefield, , #57, p. 468ff. for the complete liturgy.

33. I am indebted to Samuel S. Hill for these three descriptive elements.

34. See Wakefield, , #50, p. 323ff. Moneta is rather exercised to point out just which church is the true church in Catholic reaction. Also see #60 (A) from the Catharist side.

35. Wakefield, , #60 (A), p. 596ff.

36. Ibid., passim and especially #59.

37. See Runciman, passim.

38. Georges, Crespy, From Science to Theology (Nashville, 1968), p. 112.

39. See Walther, p. 163ff.

40. History of Christian Thought (New Tork, 1968), p. 149.

41. Wakefield, , #15, pp. 135–36.Nigg, W., The Heretics (New York, 1962), p. 189, erroneously takes one of these paragraphs out of context and makes of it a compliment by Bernard of the Catharists. In context, it is an attack on the hypocrisy of the Catharists. Also see Wakefield, , #38, p. 240ff.

42. Wakefield, , #49, p. 302ff.Also see #50, p. 308ff.

43. Machina Ex Deo, p. 101.

44. Ibid., p. 102.

45. See Daniel, Walther's fine article, “Were the Albigenses and Waldenses Forerunners of the Reformation?,” Andrews University Seminary Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, 181ff.Also see Lagarde, , I, 86.

46. Lynn, White, Machina…, p. 179.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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