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89 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Introduction to Catharism
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...
Published on 5 Jun 2005

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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful Itroduction
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...
Published on 11 Dec 2009 by Dr. W. T. Riches


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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
This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (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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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cathars, 27 July 2009
This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (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 ZoŽ 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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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cathars, 5 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful Itroduction, 11 Dec 2009
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This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (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
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Mr. Brian Jutson (Yeovil, Somerset UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (Hardcover)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courage, persecution and the human spirit, 18 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (Hardcover)
Buying this was a result of reading Kate Mosse's 'Labyrinth' trilogy, set in the Languedoc, and wanting to know more of the Cathars. I chose this book as the most likely to give me an all-round summary of the subject and I was not disappointed. Sean Martin begins by outlining the belief-background of the Cathars, and this is perhaps the most complex part of the book to read, with its explanations of Dualism and other heresies. What follows though is a gripping and sometimes heart-breaking account of the Cathar story, their struggle for existence and their eventual demise.
Martin explains how the first wave of persecution came with the Albigensian Crusade (Mosse's theme), followed by the Inquisition, which virtually completed their extinction. He concludes with the story of how Catharism in its different incarnations spread to other parts of Europe, surviving longer there.
Readers may also wish to do what I did and go to Google Images and enter some of the place names in the book. Many of the Cathar sites are beautiful and impressive (Carcasonne) and a few are almost beyond belief (Montsegur).
The story of this non-aggressive group of believers and the vicious judgement that was brought down on them is deeply moving. They were violent and heartless days when human suffering, torture and death were of no account. Ethnic cleansing was not invented in the 20th century.
This is a concise book (170 pages) and you don't need an interest in religion to enjoy it. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in human history or who wants an insight into one of the most lurid and tragic periods of the past.
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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
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Amazon Customer (PLYMOUTH, DEVON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages, 30 May 2012
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This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (Hardcover)
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
By 
L. E. Cantrell (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (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. As Sean Martin might have written, Raymond Agulher, a Perfect and Cathar bishop, was captured at Montsegur and he was among the more than two hundred Perfect, including twenty-one Perfect consecrated at the last moment, who were burnt after the fall of the castle.

Sean Martin does not press his sources for more than they actually contain. An earlier Amazon US reviewer finds the discussion of Cathar "theology far too vague." It is vague in this book for the simple reason that we in the Twenty-first Century don't and can't know very much about it. The Cathars and their close theological relatives were stretched along an east-west axis that measured about 1500 miles. Their churches suffered through schisms, reorganizations and councils. Their theologians and written works perished, often in flames.

What little we do know of their beliefs is preserved in the works of the churchmen who debated them and the inquisitors who condemned them. Then as now, debaters and inquisitors hear only what they wish to hear. It is also probable that many Cathars were not very clear about their own beliefs. Eberwin of Cologne, an early debater, wrote that the Cathars condemned marriage, but he could not discover why, "either because they dared not reveal it or, more probably, they did not know." [Page 46]

Even as Martin does not strive to extract more from his sources than they contain, he is not critical of those sources that he does quote. He takes historical guidance from Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh without comment (!) and philosophical insight from Philip K. Dick (!!)

This is a short overview of the Cathars that is constructed, so far as I can see, entirely out of secondary and tertiary sources. For those who want no more than that, it is a satisfactory handbook. Those seeking a more scholarly approach should look elsewhere. For those seeking a highly readable popular account of the Cathars from a truly skilled writer, I suggest that you seek out Zoe Oldenburg's excellent "Massacre at Montsegur" from some used book source, for it appears to be out of print at the moment.

Four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guide for the opressed, 19 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages (Hardcover)
A useful look at how history treated other religious groups who dared to be different. To be read in our judgemental times.
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The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages
The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages by Sean Martin (Hardcover - 1 Nov 2004)
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