Author(s): Rene Weis
In the 13th century, a group of heretics in southwest France, the Cathars, became a serious threat to the Catholic church. In several waves of repression, thousands of Cathars were killed. Yet so ardent was their faith that, early in the next century, the Cathars rose one last time.
Using the breathtakingly detailed and uniquely extant documentation from this period, and drawing on his intimate knowledge of the last Cathars' tracks and hiding places, many of which survive to this day, Ren? Weis tells the full story of this gripping historical episode.
Breathtaking ? hugely enriches our understanding of those last few years of the Cathar renaissance? ?Independent on Sunday
On Saturday 26th July 1320 B?atrice de Planisolles, an aristocratic woman in her mid-forties, appeared at an Inquisitorial hearing in the Episcopal palace of the ancient city of Pamiers in Languedoc. She had been summoned by the bishop of the see of Pamiers to answer charges of blasphemy, witchcraft and above all heresy. Her adversary on this summer weekend in the fourteenth century was a Cistercian by the name of Jacques Fournier?what particularly interested him was the contents of her bag which included a mirror, a knife, some dried bread, pieces of linen and an umbilical cord, all of which were signs to him that B?atrice was a Cathar.
Seven hundred years ago a tiny community in the Pyrenees, Montaillou became the setting for an extraordinary story. In several waves of brutal repression, the Inquisition cracked down on a small community of heretics known as the Cathars. The Cathars held dualistic, Manichean beliefs that the devil was co-eternal with God and that the material world and the flesh were his evil creation. To the established Catholic Church this was anathema. Attacked time and time again, thousands of Cathars were killed, with many burnt at the stake. And yet, those who survived rallied, and inspired by their fervent faith, rose again for one final confrontation in the village of Montaillou.
In the annals of European history, there is nothing quite like the story of Montaillou. Ren? Weis takes us back to a time of persecution and conflict, a time when a repressed but determined cast of players pitted their lives and wits against the torturers of the Inquisition. Sex, faith, adventure and courage all form a part of their astonishing story, and Ren? Weis's intimate study of the period brings them to life against a dramatic and detailed backdrop.
To do this Ren? Weis delved deep into the minutiae of the history and the landscape of the area, using fourteenth century manuscripts, especially the Registers of Jacques Fournier and other testimonies of the local people at the time of the Inquisition. He retraced and researched the Cathar?s medieval tracks, following the footsteps of the local families and the infamous Clergue family in particular. Pierre Clergue, was a member of one of the most predominate Cathar families at the centre of the story and the local priest who two-timed both the Cathars and the Church. The Clergue family ruled the area like a medieval Mafiosi and they are still its pre-eminent family today.
The memory of these events in modern Montaillou remains a source of endless fascination, now more than ever because the French government has just recently given the green light to a full archaeological exploration of the site. The Yellow Cross is a staggering account of Cathar twilight between 1290 and 1329, a true story of heroism, betrayal and defiance - a stranger than fiction medieval tale, told by a master of the art.
Ren? Weis was born in 1953. He is a professor of English Literature at UCL and the author of CRIMINAL JUSTICE: THE TRUE STORY OF EDITH THOMPSON, which was published to critical acclaim by Hamish Hamilton in 1988. Ren? Weis is available for interview and to write pieces about the Cathars.
Rene Weis was born in 1953. He is Professor of English Literature at UCL and the author of Criminal Justice: The True Story of Edith Thompson, first published in 1988 to critical acclaim.
The people of Montaillou; the steward, the chatelaine and the demon priest - 1291-1301; exodus to Lombardy - 1296; the last perfect's return - 1299-1300; betrayal and consolidation - 1300; Pierre Maury and the Cathars of Arques; Montaillou 1300-1305; the Cathars and Guillemette Maury - 1305-7; wedding-bells in Montaillou - 1307-8; the consolidation of Guillaume Guilabert -May 1308; the martyrs of Junac - 1308-10; the day the soldiers came - 8 September 1308; endgame, and a new beginning - 1309-16; Jacques Fournier, Bishop of Pamiers - 1317; from the Fenouilledes into Catalonia - 1307-14; Sant Mateu, Morella, Beceite and Montaillou again - 1315-18; the traitor, the perfect, a wedding and a divorce - 1318-20; the sting; Pamiers 1321-2; the last trials of Montaillou; inside Allemans prison in 1321; epilogue -Benoit XII and the "citoyens".