- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: The University of Michigan Press (31 July 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0472064762
- ISBN-13: 978-0472064762
- Product Dimensions: 21 x 1.9 x 13.9 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 947,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Strayer's book is about 30 years old, and while his writing seems mostly accurate, he is inclined to make generalizations some contemporary historians might not. For example, he says a necessary condition for the growth of "heresy" is a set of fluid economic and social circumstances that lead to uncertainty about personal well-being as well as exposure to people with different ways of thinking. In other words, material conditions go a long way toward explaining a diversity of faiths.
Strayer says the feudalism of the north (France) was virtually nonexistent in Languedoc (Strayer calls it Occitania) and primogeniture was not the hereditary rule. At the death of the father, properties were split up amongst the sons, and the wealth and power of successive generations diluted. Often, the loss of noble wealth and power was augmented. One means was to become a member of the Roman Catholic clergy and the other was commerce. The redistribution of wealth and power led to a new social order where the cities became dominant.
Languedoc, lay at the end of a main trade route that ran through Italy and into the East, and by 1200, the area was more like Italy with it's independent cities based on commercial wealth, than the feudal north with it's huge rural estates owned by landed nobility. New ideas and new people settled in Occitania, bringing diverse religious practices. In addition to the Cathars, the area was home to Jews, Mohammadens, and Waldensians. Roman Catholic clergy soon found their limited authority challenged, and one thing led to another until the Pope launched two crusades to eliminate "heretical faiths" that infested Occitania. Most of Strayers's account is about the subsequent Albigensian crusades (Albi was one of the "heretical" cities).
While Strayer does not address the issue of heresy, Carol Lansing's Epilogue (59 pages) is an essay on heresy. She says the orthodox Catholics were unclear about their own orthodoxy, so determining someone else was herertical was quite a task. She concludes that for the most part, heretics were condemned by their actions, not their beliefs.
She says the Waldensians were orthodox and should not be confused with the Cathers who really had a completely different religion. Waldo, the leader of the Waldensians would have been thought another St. Francis of Assisi had he been born during Innocent's reign as Pope. He had the misfortune to be born 100 years to soon and thus perceived as a threat. Although they were persecuted, Waldensians still exist today, and were probably the first real Protestants.
The Cathers believed in a dualist God and Lansing describes several versions of their theology in her Epilogue. Her account makes their tenets seem very confused. She says, "people wove together their beliefs, drawing on the teachings and practices of the Roman clergy, the Cather perfects, their own families, and their communities, as well as their own speculation and experince."
I found both of these "essays" raised and addressed interesting points and recommend the book for anyone with a serious interest in this topic.
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