The Cathar Country

 

 

Catharism develops in the twelfth century. It is a dissidence of Christianity, claiming the same texts as the official Christian religion and basing itself on the New Testament. Proponents of this belief called themselves Bonshommes and Bonnesfemmes, while the name "Cathar" was given to them by the Roman Catholic Church.

Its dogma was organized around a vision of the Christ different from that of the Roman church, and advocating a return to the church model of early Christianity.

 

Catharism was a lifestyle choice, containing numerous convictions. It refuses hierarchy, honours, decorations and appearance. This belief is based on the existence of two superimposed worlds, the first one, spiritual and invisible, is God's creation, while the second, the material world, visible and corruptible, is the work of the Devil.

In this dualistic world view, human have a special position because they have a soul given by God, but embodied in a material body coming from  the Devil. This is why it is so difficult to be a human.

Proponents of Catharism believed in reincarnation of souls, irrespective of any material condition and sex of the person. One can be the King in this life, and in the next life the King's female servant. This leads to a perfect equality between the sexes, since it was only due to chance whether one was born man or woman, and this makes the Cathar religion one of the very few religions which  accord women and men equal rights and equal social position. Moreover, the material success of a person did not affect his/her human value.

While according to the worldview of Catholicism heaven is above and hell beneath the earth, for the followers of the Cathar religion hell is not below, but right here, on earth.

 

Catharism has been very successful in the region. Many residents and local lords converted to it, and women were the first to do so. Considered as heretic and politically (and financially) dangerous to the Catholic Church, Catharism suffered a violent and brutal armed repression from the early thirteenth century on. Driven by the Catholic Church, the King of France raised an army led by Simon de Montfort, who plundered, murdered and conquered the whole region, which at the time was not yet part of the Kingdom of France.

 

Armed repression was consistent with the Inquisition's judicial and religious repression: the Cathars were burned alive at the stake. The last Parfait, Bélibaste, died in 1321 at the stake in Villerouge-Termenès. He was born on Cubieres Cinoble, just 6 km away from here.

 

The followers of the Cathar religion lived throughout the South of France, from the south-west to Lombardy in Italy. What is now called "Pays Cathare, Cathar Country" is a registered trademark of the Aude department, which consists in an economic development based ont the main castles.

 

Most castles called 'Cathar castles', were border forts built following the Treaty of Corbeil in 1258, drawing a border between France and Aragon and which lasted 400 years.

The Cathars built no castles or even churches: they think everything material belongs to the Devil, and faith requires no physical embodiment.