Cathars or Albigensians was the name given this particular heretical sect which flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries, mainly in Italy and regions of southern France. As with many of the heretical groups under study, the predominant source of information about them comes from the writings of their detractors, orthodox Christians. Cathars were dualists: they believed in both 'good' and 'evil' realms, associating the spiritual, intangible, and metaphysical with the 'good'; and, similarly, they equated material possesions and tangible belongings with 'evil'. As a result they led ascetic lifestyles; they acknowledged no sacraments, ate no meat, eggs, or cheese, and rejected the materiality of Jesus' birth, crucifixion, and death. The church's movement towards lavishness and grandeur in architecture and ceremony was repellent to Cathars; they preferred a simple, spiritual church. In the early thirteenth century some of them formed a conventional church under the leadership of Bishop Niketas.

Prior to the 12th century, the Catholic Church had no specific policy pertaining to heretics; it had always been up to each diocese. However, with the rise and growth of Catharism, the church assumed a formal and unilateral position against Cathars and other heretical groups. Beginning in the late 12th century, numerous military assaults were waged against known Cathars. Eventually, Pope Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against the Albigensians in 1209, and the resulting war, which brought most of southern France under the control of the French crown for the first time, effectively dismantled much of the regional Cathar infrastructure. The Inquisition, established thereafter, rooted out surviving practicing Cathars, so that at the turn of the 14th century, only fourteen prefects (the Cathar term for faithful and devout follower) remained.


Book of John the Evangelist--a text re-written by Cathars, demonstrative of their interpretations of the Bible. From the Legacy of the Cathars

Traditio, immersion in the parfait community, from the Lyons Ritual--narrative of a sacred Cathar ritual, illustrative of their distinctive ideology. From the Legacy of the Cathars

The Apparelhamentum--Cathar spiritual prayer, notable for its seperate interpretation of the Bible and refutation of the church. From the Legacy of the Cathars

Raynaldus: on the Accusations Against the Albigensians--mid-13th century narrative account of Cathar/Albigensian separatist ideology. From the Medieval Sourcebook

Bernard Gui on the Albigensians--narrative of heretical belief held by Cathars/Albigensians. From the Medieval Sourcebook

Bernard Gui: Inquisitorial Technique--description of inquisitorial methods used to expose Cathars/Albigensians. From the Medieval Sourcebook


The Cathars by Nicole Brogan--brief history of the Cathar/Albigensian ideology, movement, and persecution by the church.

An Age of Persecution: The Paulicans and Bogmoli--paper finds existence of Cathars/Albigensians in the 3rd century; summarizes Cathar beliefs, practices, and the Albigensian Crusade.

Bogomilism, Catharism and Later Gnosticizing Tendencies--comprehensive bibliography for works on heretical groups of this period. From the Gnostic Spiritual Library .


The Medieval Sourcebook--Large collection of documents relating to the Middle Ages

Land of Cathars, a natural world glorified by its history--site examining historical Cathar/Albigensian artifacts in France

Le-Guide: The Cathars and Chateau de Queribus--site contains 'Cathar Doctrine' and information for French tourists interested in Cathars/Albigensians

Catholics, Heretics, and Heresy by G.C.H. Nullens--on-line book, tracing the origins and developments of Cathars/Albigensians. Not an academic site.

The Gnostic Society Spiritual Library--comprehensive site for Gnostic inquiry, and modern day sect information

The Legacy of the Cathars--most extensive site for Cathar/Albigensians scriptures, studies, sources and other information

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