22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Great Introduction to the Life of the Medieval Cathars.,
This review is from: Perfect Heresy: the Revolutionary Life and Spectacular Death (Hardcover)
In my library I have three books that cover the Crusade to destroy the Cathars in Southern France. This is one of the first I read and I found it be very enjoyable. In around 264 pages the author, Stephen O'Shea, gives you a decent overview of the life and death of these so-called 'heretics'. The author also supplies numerous notes and a decent bibliography along with a guide to recommended reading. There are a number of small black & white illustrations within the narrative but it would have been nice to see a few colour photographs of the locations visited by the author during the preparation of this book.
The story of the Crusade against the Cathars is truly horrifying in some places. The atrocities carried out by men of God against a peaceful population all in the name of religion is outstanding. During the Albigensian Crusade in 1209 Catholic Knights stormed the village of Beziers. Before breaching the walls they asked their spiritual leader, Arnold Amaury, how could they distinguish Catholic occupants from the heretics. His reply was "Kill them all, God will know his own."
That one line sums up this terrifying period of French history. The continual battles, sieges and murders where followed by the Inquisition where friend betrayed friend, family betrayed family, all just to survive under the 'just' rule of the Catholic Church. We read about that famous French Knight, Simon de Montfort and we find out that in reality he wasn't all that nice! We read about ordinary people, the true heroes of this story, just trying to survive and elk out a living during extraordinary times.
The narrative flowed along and you found yourself drawn into the story with the occasional tourist guide information. This is a great introduction to this period and it should appeal to all that enjoy good historical writing. I would also recommended Jonathan Sumption's 'The Albigensian Crusade' and Zoe Oldenbourg's 'The Massacre at Montsegur'.