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The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages [Hardcover]

Sean Martin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Nov 2004
Catharism was the most successful heresy of the Middle Ages. The Cathars taught that the world is evil and must be transcended through a simple life of prayer, work, fasting and non-violence. They believed themselves to be the heirs of the true heritage of Christianity and completely rejected the Catholic Church and all its trappings, regarding it as the Church of Satan. Alarmed at the success of Catharism, the Church founded the Inquisition and launched the Albigensian Crusade to exterminate the heresy. Martin recounts the Cathars' story and the myths associated with them.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Essentials; First edition edition (1 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904048331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904048336
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sean Martin is the author of the bestselling The Knights Templar: The History and Myths of the Legendary Military Order (2nd edition, 2009), and has appeared in a number of Templar-related TV programmes, including The Trial of the Knights Templar (Channel 5) and The Templars' Lost Treasure (National Geographic).

His other books include The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics (2nd edition, 2010), The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (2005) and Andrei Tarkovsky (new edition, 2011), a study of the great Russian director. His latest book is New Waves in Cinema (2013).

As a filmmaker, he co-directed the documentary Lanterna Magicka: Bill Douglas and the Secret History of Cinema (2009, released on DVD and Blu-Ray by the BFI), the short film A Boat Retold, featuring writers Robert Macfarlane and Ian Stephen (2013), and the feature film Folie à Deux (2012).

He is also a poet, and won the 2011 Wigtown Poetry Prize. He lives in Edinburgh.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
89 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Introduction to Catharism 5 Jun 2005
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Sean Martin's book on The Cathars is a worthy follow-up to his best-selling book on the Templars. Like the Templars, Martin in this book recounts what we know of the Cathars, and also deals with the myths surrounding the sect (i.e. that they possessed the Holy Grail) without being judgmental about them.
Overall, the book takes a deeply sympathetic pro-Cathar view-point and differs from most other treatments of the subject by including chapters not only on the south of France, where Catharism what as its strongest and where the Albigensian Crusade took place, but also includes material on the Cathars in Italy and Bosnia. Martin also puts the heresy in the context of the development of dualism, and also of the church reforms of the High Middle Ages.
The book is easy to read and clearly written. All in all, a perfect introduction to the subject.
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cathars 27 July 2009
Format:Hardcover
By John Rodenbeck
I've lived in Cathar country 1987 and have watched this medieval sect, known then chiefly through the distinguished fiction of Zoë Oldenbourg, become both an international rage and a major local tourist commodity. I own 18 non-fiction titles specificallyabout them, including Otto Rahv's early study (1933), Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou (1978), which introduced important new material from the records of the Inquisition, and three recent books by Anne Brenon, the acknowledged doyenne of Cathar studies.
For my money, Sean Martin's The Cathars is by far the best of the lot. Though small and utterly readable, it is the widest in scope, treating the Cathars correctly as part of a far wider European movement and explaining in detail their beliefs and practices, as well as their unfortunate history, all without recourse to mere legend or to the amateur scholar's "presumably possible likelihood." Sean Martin is a poet and writes with a poet's trenchant conciseness, letting the mere facts have their own impact.
The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cathars 5 Jun 2009
Format:Hardcover
Having recently travelled to the Languedoc region, specifically researching Bernard Sermon 1210 of Le Bezu, I purchased this book to get a better insight into the Cathars. I found it a fascinating read and would recommend it to others.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful Itroduction 11 Dec 2009
Format:Hardcover
My son is a medieval historian and, after travelling in southern Grance, I asked him about the Cathar heresy. He recommended this book as a useful starting point for the general reader. It is a aasimple, but not simplistic, introduction to the nature of dualism and the ruthless crushing of the Cathars. Even today, as the author demonstrates, the Cathar rebellion and the crusades against it have shaped the hostility between nothern and southern France. For those who want to understand the nature of this heresy and its ruthless destruction, this is the book to start with.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lucid account 29 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book tells all the essential facts concerning the Cathars in a well written and lucid way. It doesn't go into unecessary detail but doesn't miss anything of importance to the general reader. As an introduction I would recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vital introduction to the Cathars 31 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book an ideal introduction to a subject I know little about. It is clearly written for non-academics like myself yet contains all the information you need to get a firm grasp of this difficult subject. It focuses upon the concept of dualism and the origins of Catharism and although it devotes most of the book to France, it also covers Italy in the final chapters. Recommended !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By magster
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having retired to the south west of France I recently read Rosemary Bailey's book on life in this region during WW2. It was an eye opener and revealed much about persecution,betrayal, belief and myth in this area. It was an excellent fictional read based on some factual evidence. Wanting to know more about the earlier history I found this little book.
It is essentially another book that communicates persecution, betrayal, belief and myth but grounded in fact. I was unable to put it down until finished. Being a scientist that relies on accuracy and precision this book provides just that. However as senior citizen with increasing memory loss it would have helped a little to have a time line line at the beginning to enable contextual referral.
A great read. Thanks
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History-Lite for the Age of Dan Brown 30 Aug 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a short book, just 164 pages of text (plus notes, chronology, a brief lexicon of "heretical" terms, suggestion for further reading, bibliography and index), written by Sean Martin, who is identified as a filmmaker, poet and writer.

The book has the heft and feel of a television documentary. It provides a reasonably good, if shallow overview of the events that erupted into denunciation, crusade, massacre and burning from the mid-Twelfth to the early Fourteenth Century.

The book is consistently neutral in tone. It takes no sides, although there is a certain pervasive admiration for the behavior, if not for the theology of the Cathar Perfecti. Simon de Montfort, French father of the famous English Simon de Montfort, and an unmitigated villain of the first water, is mildly chided. No reader of whatever stripe is likely to be alienated by "The Cathars," save for those who simply cannot abide neutrality in anything.

The language of the book is as neutral as its content. Incidents of highest drama, such as the scandal at Verfeil, a village near Toulouse, in which the outraged and sputtering Saint Bernard was laughed out of town when he attempted to deliver a sermon against the Cathars, are treated in the flattest of tones, as is the famous siege and massacre at Montsegur.

The words of the book are as flattened as its tone. Names, wherever possible, are provided in their English forms: all Pierres, Pieros and Pedros, for example, become Peter. Latinisms are avoided if an English term can be twisted for service. This leads to the exasperating use of English Perfect as a stand-in for both Latin Perfectus and Perfecti.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
an extremely good read which as a person with a little knowledge on the subject I found illuminating. Read more
Published 1 month ago by rick davies
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting book
this is a very interesting book about a partitioned reader I knew little bit about but it puts into context my only gripe is a little bit long
Published 5 months ago by william
3.0 out of 5 stars The Carhars
I have not read it, but hope to do shortly, I will let you know when I have read it.
Published 6 months ago by Mrs. S. Durden
5.0 out of 5 stars A book
Good tech stuff, helps clear ones historical hang ups in this area, quit a lot of words, but that is what a book is.
Published 7 months ago by cookey3971
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in time.
I only had heard about the Cathars in France - and this is what I was expecting to read about. However the cathars were all over the place for a lot longer time period than I... Read more
Published 8 months ago by barnton
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice history
Having read Kate Mosse and wanting more info on the Cathars I decided that this book was the one for me. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Rosajo
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and absorbing text
This reader came to the text having read some of the fictional accounts of Catharism. The truth is more powerful than the fiction. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mrs B
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I first learned of the Cathars after a trip to Beziers, where I heard the horrifying tale of Christians burning and murdering hundreds of other Christians sheltering in the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by jdan26
5.0 out of 5 stars finding one's Self
Having just finished reading this historical account of the Cathers, I find myself ,in a place of finding a place within myself that I did not know existed. For over 39
Published 9 months ago by Mrs Barbara Neville
4.0 out of 5 stars The Cathars
An erudite and extremely well researched volume. It makes one wonder to what degree dualism forms part of the beliefs of a the nine thousand different protestant churches... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Charlie
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