Transcript for Episode 387: Cathar Beliefs and Lifestyle

Table of Contents for this Episode

Category: French History

[00:00:00] Intro

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 387. Trois cent quatre-vingt sept. Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.

[00:00:37] Anout the Cathars and their strange religion

[00:00:37] Annie Sargent: Today, I have a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about the Cathars and their very strange beliefs.

[00:00:46] Annie Sargent: This now defunct religion was all the rage in the Middle Ages, especially in the Southwest of France. If you draw kind of a rough rectangular shape between Toulouse, Albi, Béziers, Perpignan, Foix, Carcassonne, and back to Toulouse, you have Cathar country. And you simply cannot understand the history of this part of France, if you don’t know anything about the Cathars.

[00:01:12] The beliefs this group held so dearly were so offensive to the Catholic Church, that there was a very bloody and horrible crusade against these people, starting in 1208. Today, we’ll mostly talk about the beliefs of the Cathars, because it’s fascinating and really, really strange, by today’s standards, anyway. And it’s the whole reason why the Catholic Church killed so many of them.

[00:01:38] Annie Sargent: Next week, we’ll discuss the Crusade and all the places you can visit in the Southwest linked to Cathar history.

[00:01:47] Sponsorship

[00:01:47] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my very popular itinerary consult and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. And you can browse all of that at Annie’s Boutique. And I want to make it clear that you can buy my GPS tours, either directly from the VoiceMap app or from my website.

[00:02:16] Annie Sargent: The advantage of getting them from my website is that I get to keep more of the money and also you get a very nice discount.

[00:02:34] Annie and Elyse talk about Cathar Theology

[00:02:34] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse!

[00:02:34] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie!

[00:02:35] Annie Sargent: We have a wonderful topic to talk about today. I’m very excited and I’m going to do more talking than normal, because we’re going to talk about the history of the beautiful ruin of… Beautiful ruin.

[00:02:49] Beautiful ruin, that’s a kind of oxymoron, but yes, it is actually beautiful.

[00:02:53] Annie Sargent: Of Montségur.

[00:02:54] Elyse Rivin: Montségur.

[00:02:55] Annie Sargent: Beautiful Montségur in the Southwest and a place where I’ve been a few times, and so have you. But since the major event there had to do with the Cathar religion, I’m going to do a little bit of discussion of their theology and their way of life first. Okay?

[00:03:16] Cathar = Purification and they did not call themselves by that name

[00:03:16] Annie Sargent: Now, first of all on the name Cathars. They did not call themselves Cathars.

[00:03:22] But Cathar means purification, and the whole point of their religion was a spiritual purification. So that’s why we’ve put this name on them.

[00:03:33] Elyse Rivin: I did notice, and doing some background research again, because it is, as you say, a very interesting and actually fascinating subject, that I thought the name Cathar was something that was actually only invented in the 20th century, but it’s not true. It was invented a lot longer ago, even though they themselves did not use that term for describing themselves.

[00:03:55] Elyse Rivin: They were basically a fundamentalist return to the beginning of Christianity movement.

[00:04:02] The basics of Cathar theology

[00:04:02] Annie Sargent: Kind of. In a way. Okay, so let’s talk about some of their ideas.

[00:04:08] Annie Sargent: The Cathars did not believe that God was omnipotent. So a basic tenet of most monotheistic religions, is that God is all-powerful, right? Well, they didn’t think God was all-powerful.

[00:04:26] Annie Sargent: They thought that God had a nemesis, the devil, Satan, and that Satan could win some fights. And if Satan can win, therefore God is not omnipotent. Okay? But fear not, at the end of time, God would win. That was the basic tenet of the religion.

[00:04:48] Elyse Rivin: Would you say that that’s the equivalent of talking about what now is called the Apocalypse, where there’s an end of time, that there’s a notion of end of time?

[00:04:57] Annie Sargent: I suppose.

[00:04:58] Elyse Rivin: It’s really interesting. Technically, they call that a dualism in Christianity. And that was very much what the Roman Catholic Church did not like.

[00:05:09] Annie Sargent: Right. That’s a biggie for them.

[00:05:10] Elyse Rivin: That was a biggie.

[00:05:11] Annie Sargent: Because this idea that God is not omnipotent has consequences. And one of the big ones is that in the Cathar point of view, it’s not God that created the earth and the stars and the people, it’s Satan that created all of this. God creates souls, Satan creates things.

[00:05:35] Materialistic

[00:05:35] Elyse Rivin: Ah, the material world!

[00:05:36] Annie Sargent: Exactly, it’s materialistic. So anything that is material is of Satan, including our bodies, our children’s bodies, all things in the world, all things that we can see around us.

[00:05:50] Annie Sargent: And all of these are phenomenon or manifestations of evil.

[00:05:56] Annie Sargent: The whole purpose of life is to return to a pure spirit form where there is no material of any sort. Okay? That’s the idea.

[00:06:08] Annie Sargent: The thing is, the devil cannot create souls in Cathar theology. Only God can create souls. And so the devil has to find a way to ensnare souls into the physical world.

[00:06:26] Annie Sargent: Okay? And that’s what happens at birth. So when people copulate and make children, they are participating in the devil’s plan. Okay? You’re making a face.

[00:06:39] Elyse Rivin: Yes, I do know that in the structure of this, you know, I’m not even sure if we can technically call it a full religion or a movement. I’m not even sure, I have no idea from a theological point of view, which is more correct to call it.

[00:06:54] Annie Sargent: I think it was a religion.

[00:06:55] Elyse Rivin: It’s a religion, okay. I know that those people who decided to fully adhere,chose to give up all of these worldly activities, those were the people who decided basically to leave all the worldliness behind, but there were lots of other people who basically followed these ideas, but waited until later in life to give up all of this.

[00:07:22] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes. Yes. Hang on. Hang on. You’re going too far. I was getting there. I was getting there.

[00:07:26] Annie Sargent: So God created a lot of wonderful souls and they’re all in heaven and the devil lures Adam and Eve into having a carnal union and that’s how Satan steals souls from heaven. Okay?

[00:07:40] Annie Sargent: So the birth of a child, which we consider as a wonderful thing and a miracle of sorts, is actually an evil thing in the Cathar religion.

[00:07:48] Elyse Rivin: I hadn’t realized that.

[00:07:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, well, it is. Okay. Andthis new baby, his soul is imprisoned in a sack of protoplasm.

[00:07:59] Annie Sargent: Okay? Because being inprisoned in a body, that’s actually the spiritual prison, is what it is, in their view. And so what do you do in the face of such odds? I mean, you are in prison, in a body of flesh and blood. What do you do?

[00:08:14] Elyse Rivin: You’re asking me?

[00:08:15] Annie Sargent: I’m asking you.

[00:08:16] Elyse Rivin: I haven’t got a clue.

[00:08:17] Annie Sargent: Well, you behave in a godly way, of course.

[00:08:21] Elyse Rivin: A godly way.

[00:08:22] Annie Sargent: A godly way.

[00:08:23] Annie Sargent: Yes. So a man who had led a just life, a good life, would be reincarnated in a body better suited for his further spiritual development.

[00:08:35] Elyse Rivin: This sounds very much like Buddhism.

[00:08:37] Annie Sargent: In a way it is. In a way it is. It borrows ideas from a lot of philosophies, I guess. So the man who leads a godly life will be reincarnated into a body that will allow him to go towards enlightenment, and a man who leads a criminal life, would be reborn in a body full of flaws, with hereditary vices, perhaps in the body of an animal even.

[00:09:06] Annie Sargent: That was seen as really going for the worst of the worst. In other words, Elyse, behave yourself.

[00:09:13] Elyse Rivin: It’s too late, Annie.

[00:09:15] Annie Sargent: In your next life, you might come back, I don’t know, crippled or something.

[00:09:18] Elyse Rivin: Please.

[00:09:19] Annie Sargent: Now this is a terrible idea.

[00:09:20] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, it really, it’s very interesting to me that it really sounds a lot like strict Hinduism and Buddhism, at the same time, this whole idea of reincarnation and your ultimate goal is to leave behind the material world.

[00:09:33] Elyse Rivin: How does this, now, I’m asking you this as a real genuine question. How does this conform to the idea of this being a Christian religion?

[00:09:41] Annie Sargent: Ah, wait, wait, I’m coming, I’m getting there. So I think it’s very bad that they would just assume that a person who has deformities or handicaps of any sort, it’s because they were evil in a previous life.

[00:09:56] Annie Sargent: I think that is just not right, but that’s how they saw things, okay? So how do you break this vicious cycle of birth and death and rebirth, and possibly into a better body or a worse body or whatever? Well, the only way for lost souls to go back to their blissful state of being a pure soul, without any sort of bodily incarnation is if a messenger from God comes down into the evil world, and on God’s behalf, frees their souls from the enslavement of the devil. So somebody has to come drag us out of this vicious cycle. And that messenger is…

[00:10:43] Annie Sargent: Exactly

[00:10:45] Annie Sargent: That’s how they are Christians.

[00:10:47] Elyse Rivin: That’s how they are Christians.

[00:10:48] Elyse Rivin: So, Christ is the messenger. So there’s no Trinity involved in this..

[00:10:53] Annie Sargent: Not really, no.

[00:10:55] Annie Sargent: Which did not make them all that more appealing to Catholics, but, okay.

[00:11:02] Who is Jesus in Cathar theology?

[00:11:02] Annie Sargent: So Jesus is the one who shows us the way towards a pure existence in the realm of God, which is purely metaphysical. Very, very meta.

[00:11:14] Very meta, very meta. But what’s fascinating is thatone could ask, and I would bet that people even listening would wonder if this sounds like what their religion was, why would so many people move from the Catholic Church to this new religion?

[00:11:34] Annie Sargent: I will tell you in a moment.Those those reasons, I do know. And I think that that’s what makes it fascinating because when you describe all this, it sounds like, really? Do you really want to move to a religion like this? But there were other aspects of it that were far more appealing.

[00:11:49] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, yes. But you’re jumping the gun. Wait, cool your jets!

[00:11:52] I’m sitting here waiting to get to the good part.

[00:11:55] Annie Sargent: Okay. So Jesus is the one who leads the souls back to heaven and an immaterial body, but it is unthinkable of course, that Jesus being as pure as He was, could take human form. Because that would mean that He was enslaved by the devil. Jesus had the appearance of being in the flesh and having a body, but it was a trick. Jesus remained a soul all along.

[00:12:24] Elyse Rivin: He was a hologram.

[00:12:25] Uh huh.

[00:12:30] Annie Sargent: He like the rest of us and needed to drink and eat and sleep, but this was a ruse by the devil. Are you following me?

[00:12:41] Elyse Rivin: I’m following you.

[00:12:42] Annie Sargent: Jesus made it look like He was made of flesh, but he wasn’t. Okay? Jesus was like a ghost who looks exactly like a human and behaved like a human, but He wasn’t really human. By the end of Jesus’s life, Satan caught on that this person, who was walking among us on the earth was different than all of his other human slaves, since we’re all slaves to the devil, really, because we have a body. So to deceive humanity further, Satan made it look like Jesus died on the cross. But being a non-fleshy body, Jesus could not suffer, die or be resurrected. He was a soul all along. He was a soul. Okay?

[00:13:32] Annie Sargent: It was a ruse to deceive the people into thinking that resurrection could save them, when in reality, following Jesus back to the realm of the spirit was the escape. Okay? The evil work of Satan is to make us believe in the resurrection. Are you with me, Elise?

[00:13:55] Elyse Rivin: I’m trying hard. I’m trying hard.

[00:13:58] Jesus brings Consolation

[00:13:58] Annie Sargent: Okay. So all Jesus had to do was bring a genuine soul to the earth, share the Holy Spirit, which is the only thing that can bring consolation to the souls dwelling in exile, away from heaven. Okay?

[00:14:15] Elyse Rivin: know the keyword here.

[00:14:17] Annie Sargent: Exactly, the keyword being consolation. The devil is very crafty. He substituted Jesus’s genuine path, which has to do with following the Holy Spirit, with a church of Satan. Where do you think the church of Satan is headquartered?

[00:14:35] Elyse Rivin: Roman Catholic Church.

[00:14:38] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:14:39] Church of Rome was evil

[00:14:39] Annie Sargent: The Church of Rome was the Great Beast, the Whore of all Babylon, full of blasphemy. Okay, if you read the Bible, the Whore of all Babylon means something. Full of blasphemy, never leading anyone back to heaven. This is a church where they believe that material rites and mechanical gestures can bring you to salvation. Washing a body with water and calling it baptism was ridiculous in the Cathar point of view, because water is of the devil.

[00:15:15] Elyse Rivin: Water is of the devil.

[00:15:16] Annie Sargent: Everything is of the devil, everything material’s of the devil.

[00:15:19] Elyse Rivin: Even flowers?

[00:15:20] Annie Sargent: Even flowers, even birds.

[00:15:23] Elyse Rivin: Goodness! This is not for us.

[00:15:27] Communion

[00:15:27] Annie Sargent: Taking communion cannot be the incarnation of the body of Christ or Christ would be the size of a mountain! You follow me, right? If the wafer is the body of Christ, then Christ would be the size of a mountain. The cross should not be an object of veneration, but rather should be seen as an instrument of torture, because it was the instrument of Jesus’ humiliation and it’s physical anyway, so it’s evil.

[00:15:56] Annie Sargent: Okay? If you bow in front of a cross.

[00:15:59] Elyse Rivin: Idolatry.

[00:16:01] Annie Sargent: Exactly, or to anything material, it’s idolatry, you’re bowing to the devil.

[00:16:06] The relics

[00:16:06] The relics are also of the devil because they are physical. So relics are evil.

[00:16:13] And also it’s well, it’s more complicated in the sense that the whole idea of the relics is veneration of a fetish, in a

[00:16:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah, It really is.

[00:16:21] Annie Sargent: So if you bow in front of a statue of a saint or his relic, you’re doing the work of Satan.

[00:16:27] Annie Sargent: The Virgin Mary was not the mother of Jesus, since Jesus wasn’t really born. You’re shaking your head. You’re like, okay, at this point, I’m like, I’ll take that, but.

[00:16:39] Elyse Rivin: Well, because I guess I understand that this is their theology, but I also know from a historical point of view, I don’t know if anybody knows exactly where this all developed and whatever, but this is also at a time when it is a fact that the Catholic Church was extremely corrupt.

[00:17:00] You’re jumping the gun again, it, let get there. Right, the Virgin Mary was also kind of a trick. She’s also a pure soul and she looks like she has a body, but she really didn’t have a body.

[00:17:18] Elyse Rivin: Oh, she also didn’t have a body.

[00:17:19] Annie Sargent: She also didn’t have a body, she’s like an angel or a hologram, like you said, you know, a manifestation heaven among us.

[00:17:27] Cathars were vegan

[00:17:27] Annie Sargent: So all of this leads to kind of a strange outlook on life, right? If marriage is a crime against the spirit, because it brings souls into an evil world,well that’s like, your religion is going to come to an end because nobody’s going to have children, right? Also, all murder, including killing animals, is a crime in the Cathar religion because by taking a life, a man deprives one soul of the chance of achieving reconciliation with the spirit. So cutting life short is a grave offense, even if it’s a bird or anything. So Cathars were strict vegans, consuming any food of animal origin was seen as tampering with God’s plan to let all living things try their luck at returning to a spiritual realm.

[00:18:22] The holiest of Cathars could not own anything. They would not swear an oath, which, you know, this is complicated at a time when chivalry is all about pledging allegiance to people. And so it was really complicated. It made their life difficult because, as soon as they refuse to take an oath, you knew they were Cathar.

[00:18:47] Or at least you knew that they had received the consolamentum, so there were different levels and I’ll get to that in a second. The Cathars were not supposed to own anything because it’s material, so you don’t want to own anything. You were supposed to give up all your worldly

[00:19:02] Elyse Rivin: My understanding was that they did have to work, but they shared everything that they had.

[00:19:06] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes.

[00:19:07] Elyse Rivin: That was a very good thing, actually.

[00:19:10] Consolamentum or spiritual death

[00:19:10] Yes. So those who have received the consolamentum were homeless, really. They lived of the generosity of their supporters. In their theology, there is no hell either because earth is hell. Anything that is not spirit is hell.

[00:19:31] Annie Sargent: Right? So in the end times when God finally wins, the tangible world will vanish, the Sun and the stars are going to be extinguished, the souls who hadn’t tried to escape their satanic form, flesh and blood, by converting to the true faith, would perish in this holocaust at the end times.

[00:19:57] Annie Sargent: And when it’s all gone, there’s nothing left, but souls and pure joy.

[00:20:03] Elyse Rivin: Which is really, really interestingly akin to certain evangelical movements today that talk about the end of time, the Apocalypse, it’s very similar.

[00:20:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah. You know, the crazy people wanted to go to the comet, whatever the comet Haley, there was a bunch of suicides.

[00:20:21] Elyse Rivin: No, but more than that, I know someone whose parents in England really do believe, they left the Church of England and they belong to some evangelical group, and they really believe that soon there will be the end of time and this is exactly the way they describe it, and they have become vegan.

[00:20:40] Elyse Rivin: So it’s very, very similar.

[00:20:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. Not that there’s anything wrong with being vegan per se, but it is, it has a spiritual element.

[00:20:48] Elyse Rivin: Element, yeah.


[00:20:49] Getting the Consolamentum at the end of one’s life

[00:20:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So the trick is, okay, you mentioned this before, but this religion only worked because there are different levels of faith. The vast majority of people did not get the consolamentum until very late in life.

[00:21:09] Elyse Rivin: As they were dying.

[00:21:10] Annie Sargent: As they were dying.

[00:21:11] Annie Sargent: So most people would live a perfectly average life, and then as they were getting old would ask for the consolamentum.

[00:21:22] Annie Sargent: And so at the end of their life, they would relinquish all of these things, eating meat, having children, all of that, bearing arms.

[00:21:33] Elyse Rivin: And the women would live, once they pass the stage, the women lived separately from the men.

[00:21:37] Becoming a Perfect

[00:21:37] Annie Sargent: Right. And they usually went around two by two, men together, women together, and they were at this point called the perfect. And once they became a perfect, well of course, if you’re that old, you weren’t supposed to go around preaching. You know, if you’re confined to your bed because you’re ill, then you’re not supposed, you can’t do it. But there were some younger people who, and in any religion you have fanatics, you know. This is the reality of life.

[00:22:05] Annie Sargent: So there were people in this religion who were, I guess, fanatical enough to ask for the consolamentum at a much younger age. And they were the ones who would go around, they usually wore black robes, they were rail thin because they ate very little. They sat with the people and talked to them, you know, which was very different from what the Catholic priests were doing.

[00:22:36] Regular people got the Melioramentum

[00:22:36] Annie Sargent: For regular people, all they had to do was, they had just one spiritual obligation, which is to get the Melioramentum. Milioramentum, meaning it’s from the root of ameliorate.

[00:22:52] Annie Sargent: Okay. They bowed three times before the assembled perfects, and they said, pray God to make a good Christian of me and bring me to a good end.

[00:23:04] Annie Sargent: And then the perfects would repeat, pray God that God make a good Christian of you and bring you to a good end.

[00:23:14] Annie Sargent: And this idea of bowing three times and saying this kind of magical phrase meant you were part of the flock. There was no baptismal record, there was nothing written. This meant I’m now part of this flock and in the Southwest of France, most people were in fact on this path.

[00:23:34] Annie Sargent: It’s just that they had to be really careful because the church all over France, the Catholic Church now, had a lot of power and it was not okay to believe in these heretical ideas.

[00:23:47] Why the Catholic Church wasn not okay with this

[00:23:47] Elyse Rivin: Well, of course it was not okay. You’re talking about it from a theological point of view, but also from the point of view of the Catholic Church, it meant there was no money coming into the church. It meant that they were losing their followers because the Church had both political and religious power. So by virtue of these people no longer coming to the church, they were really losing control over the region.

[00:24:13] Annie Sargent: So, the perfects, they lived among the people. They participated in the harvest, they participated in whenever there was a need of somebody helping out, they would do it. They were celibate, they owned nothing but the dark robes that characterize them, they were strict vegan. They didn’t fight or carry weapons of any sort. They went around two by two, with another perfect of the same gender.

[00:24:42] Perfects were like children

[00:24:42] Annie Sargent: If they needed protection, it was somebody else providing the protection. It was somebody else feeding them. It was somebody else, you know, they were like children. You know, when you’re a child, you need parents to protect you, to feed you, to house you.

[00:24:57] Annie Sargent: Well, it’s exactly the same for a perfect. It’s somebody who puts themselves in that situation, of complete, what’s the word I’m looking for, dependency. Yes, they were completely dependent

[00:25:09] Elyse Rivin: It’s like the yogis in India who, it’s even more aesthetic from their point of view. But these were welcomed, these were people who were the ultimate, extreme part of this religion. But from what I understand from reading, they were welcomed into people’s homes and people fed them without any problem, they helped because they help people, and they gave these people kind of a reassurance that at the end of their lives, they could also receive the consolamentum.

[00:25:39] Perfects lived in poverty and relied on the community

[00:25:39] Annie Sargent: And these are people who lived in poverty, there was no opulence, they never took advantage of the people, unlike the Catholic Church.

[00:25:48] Annie Sargent: So it’s a fair question to ask, why is such a nihilistic religion, how did it ever catch on? Why would you go from being a Catholic to being a Cathar when you have these crazy beliefs, all of a sudden?

[00:26:02] Why did people become Cathars?

[00:26:02] Annie Sargent: Well, they converted to the Cathar religion, because honestly, even though Catholics don’t believe that giving birth to a child is adding a lost soul to the devil’s column, it’s not like the Catholic Church is sex-positive either. You know, they didn’t encourage a healthy sex life either.

[00:26:23] Elyse Rivin: I was going to say that, but it has to do also with the fact thatfrom the Catholic point of view, sex is to produce children, basically. It has nothing to do with pleasure anyway, and women are not well-viewed by the Catholic Church either. Whereas in this religion, the women and the men could reach the state of being what would be the equivalent of a priesthood, if you want to call it.

[00:26:51] Annie Sargent: Also, the other thing is yes, and I’ll get back to the role of the women, because that’s really important as well.

[00:26:58] Catholics weren’t taught theology at all

[00:26:58] Annie Sargent: A Catholic priest back then, never read the Scriptures to the people. Mass was in Latin, which most people did not understand any better than we do now, as a matter of fact. you went to Mass out of obligation to take communion, to sit in a gorgeous building that represented the opulence of heaven. But it didn’t make sense logically, right?

[00:27:23] Regular people were not exposed to theology at all. In the Catholic Church, they looked at the Church art, and they knew that it was the story of this saint or that saint. Maybe they knew the story of a saint, but that’s not theology. That’s just stories of the saints that they knew. Teaching catechism in the Catholic Church is a pretty recent development, it only started 150 years ago or something like that. Before that, you were supposed to believe because you were in awe of the Catholic Church and its power, not it’s godliness, by the way. It’s power. Okay? You were afraid of the Church, is how it worked most places.

[00:28:07] Elyse Rivin: Most places people were afraid of the Church?

[00:28:08] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah. They were afraid that if a priest threatened you with excommunication, for whatever reason.

[00:28:15] Elyse Rivin: Isn’t that the function of Confession in the Catholic Church?

[00:28:18] There’s that, but there were a lot of priests and bishops and whatever, that were really abusers. Abusing in the sense of you’re going to go to hell.

[00:28:26] Yeah, they would threaten hell to get their way, so it was a power structure.

[00:28:30] Elyse Rivin: Right.

[00:28:31] Annie Sargent: When a Cathar preacher came around, he talked to the people in perfectly understandable Occitan, which is the language they they used at the time. They spoke about theology. Some preachers had the Bible and they could share it or bits of it anyway, with the people.

[00:28:50] Annie Sargent: So Cathars actually knew more about the Bible than Catholics. We have a tendency to think that because people lived long ago in the Middle Ages, that maybe they were dumb, but they were no dumber than we are. I find that a lot of people, especially teenagers, young teenagers, have more interest in spiritual things. Or maybe it happens later in life with different people.

[00:29:15] Annie Sargent: But I think it’s a natural aspiration to question, you know, the purpose of life.

[00:29:22] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah, I think it happens to a lot of people. It’s a natural part of life, I think. And so it’s good that,the Cathars actually fed that desire, people had to understand what the purpose of life is, where are we going, what is this existence all about?

[00:29:38] Cathars believed in equality

[00:29:38] Elyse Rivin: But it’s also at a time when society was very hierarchal. And so for a lot of people, like you say, it’s the Church that has a certain power, certain lords that have a certain power. So this is a religion that preaches basically in this kind of equality.

[00:29:55] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes, definitely. So what triggered the Catholic clergy against the Cathars was their absolute rejection of Catholic dogma, and many Cathars knew more about Catholic dogma than Catholics did themselves. Cathars rejected the Church’s symbols. They didn’t like the opulence of the Church, and you know who else didn’t like the opulence of the Church? Regular Catholics. You’re nodding your head.

[00:30:25] Elyse Rivin: Well, I’m not sure what you mean by regular

[00:30:27] Annie Sargent: Well, if you were a regular Catholic and you saw the wealth of the Church.

[00:30:32] Elyse Rivin: Right. Well, that was mostly the people who saw that. The people who lived in monasteries and convents, and there were thousands of them in that period, they were the ones who didn’t have to face the reality of a harsh life.

[00:30:46] Annie Sargent: Right. But if you were a regular Catholic, if you were a peasant, you could see that the Church lived in opulence, and you didn’t, you resented It’s natural.

[00:30:58] Elyse Rivin: But they still went to church until this movement came along.

[00:31:01] Annie Sargent: Still went to church, but there was a lot of resentment against the church among the people. And that helped the Cathars because when they showed up, they rejected the opulence of the Church, you could see that they were not opulent, you know? And so, I mean, some bishops in the Catholic Church had nothing to do with godliness. It was all about the power. The Archbishop of Narbonne, Berenger the second, he was so corrupt that even the Pope Innocent the third was revolted against his behavior. The Bishop of Toulouse, Raymond de Rabastens spent most of his life fighting against his own vassals rather than show any interest in preaching the Good Word. He was a Bishop.

[00:31:44] But except that, at that time, these bishops were often aristocratic sons, and they were basically appointed.

[00:31:51] Troubadours sang songs about evil Catholic leaders

[00:31:51] Annie Sargent: Right, right. But the troubadours, it was so bad that the troubadours composed songs about the debauched habits and the venality of all these prelates and whatever. And that went around the population, and at the same time, you have the bons hommes, which is another word for.

[00:32:08] Elyse Rivin: The good men and women.

[00:32:09] Annie Sargent: The good men and women. So the perfects, they went around in their black robes, most of them thin as rails.

[00:32:16] Elyse Rivin: Humble

[00:32:16] Don’t worry about things, what matters is the spirit

[00:32:16] Elyse Rivin: Very, very humble. They subsisted on the generosity of the people. They were preaching a gospel of spiritual rebirth and to the people, this was like, they bought it because they were like, oh, as a matter of fact, I shouldn’t be so worried about not having things, because what matters is the spirit.

[00:32:39] Elyse Rivin: And so it really caught on very, very well. And in the Southwest of France, it was, you know, it was huge.

[00:32:48] Elyse Rivin: It’s amazing how it was, it was huge in the Southwest of France, right?

[00:32:51] The organization of the Cathar church

[00:32:51] Annie Sargent: The Cathar Church was not a church like the Catholic Church, but they did have an organization. What they did is they had a primary bishop and a secondary bishop in different areas.

[00:33:03] Annie Sargent: And once the primary bishop died, the secondary bishop would take over, and then the prefects would vote a new secondary bishop. Okay, so they had kind of a rotation like that. They had people that they trusted with money. So these were not people who had the consolamentum, but people who were on their way to the consolamentum and were trusted.

[00:33:24] The good works of the Cathar religion

[00:33:24] Annie Sargent: And so they could administer the riches because the Cathar Church, they needed money because they did good works. They had community homes where they taught the children. Education was very important for them. So they did schools, they did orphanages, they did hospitals. They had a lot of women who would receive the consolamentum and then their job for the rest of their lives was to take care of the sick.

[00:33:52] Elyse Rivin: And what’s fascinating is that it was very often women who were past childbirth age, and it was the wives of the Nobles.

[00:34:02] A lot of them were the first ones in the family to convert.

[00:34:05] Annie Sargent: Right. Well, in most religions, women are more dedicated than men, in many religion, and this was not any different. So very often it was the woman who would bring her husband into this way of thinking.

[00:34:18] And a lot of women, after their childbearing years, renounced family life and would go live in one of these common houses and take care of other people that way. Anyway, but they had already had the children, the children hopefully were old enough to be taken care of. So they had already lived the lives and, you know, the procreation part was done, kind of, for them.

[00:34:43] In the Southwest wealthy families became Cathars

[00:34:43] So, very wealthy men in the Southwest became Cathars and they gave up their riches to the Church. And that’s what helped fund all of these orphanages and good deeds. But the Cathars never erected splendid churches that we can visit today.

[00:35:01] Elyse Rivin: From what I understand, they didn’t really have churches. They would have a kind of meeting hall in the village and it was there that they would just invite people to come in and listen to them.

[00:35:12] Annie Sargent: Yes. And some buildings that had been Catholic Churches before, because imagine if you’re a priest in a tiny village where everybody is a Cathar, some of these priests just gave up and went somewhere else. Okay? And so the church then was used by Cathars to hold their meetings, but it’s not like they had a desire to build churches to the glory of God or whatever, because material doesn’t matter.

[00:35:35] Annie Sargent: We don’t want material.

[00:35:36] Elyse Rivin: And what’s interesting too, and this of course takes us to why it eventually became a major event in history, is that there were lords who did not really convert, but who allowed a lot of the people under them to convert. So they basically tolerated it. And so they also got into trouble for doing that at the same time. They didn’t necessarily convert themselves like the counts of Toulouse, the last two of them.

[00:36:01] Elyse Rivin: They didn’t convert, but they allowed this to propagate in their territory.

[00:36:06] Annie Sargent: Because for them, they actually agreed with all of it. They thought it was a very good way to live and they were totally okay with their people not paying attention to what the bishop had to say, you know.

[00:36:18] Elyse Rivin: Because it didn’t affect them, in a sense.

[00:36:20] Cathars were loved and Catholics were feared

[00:36:20] The Cathar Church, they had an organization, but it was not as strong as the organization of the Catholic Church. But they were well loved by everybody around, unlike the Catholic Church who was well hated by everybody around.

[00:36:36] Women in the Cathar church

[00:36:36] Annie Sargent: Now, one word about the place of women in the Church. Obviously, both men and women could receive the consolamentum. There were as many women as men and probably, possibly more women than men who were perfects. But to become a bishop, it was always men, because the people who were perfects were in a way very exposed. Now, that’s the excuse that they give.

[00:37:03] Annie Sargent: It might be wishful thinking, but the people who became bishops, they had a target on their backs, because they were very easy to recognize, because they were a perfect, and you could tell who was a perfect and who wasn’t. And they held meetings with all the people and they could not take an oath.

[00:37:22] Annie Sargent: So they were suspect. A lot of them were assassinated and things like that. So they say that’s why women never became bishops. Whatever. At any rate, the women preached just as often as the men and there wasn’t a theological reason to keep the women from positions of power in the Cathar Church.

[00:37:47] Annie Sargent: And there wasn’t much of a position of power in the Cathar Church anyway, but it just so happened that as far as we know, it was always men who were bishops.

[00:37:56] Elyse Rivin: However, what’s fascinating is that the women could be the ones to give the consolamentum to somebody, which means that they had that kind of an equality. Seems to me, because I was rereading it again. It is a fact that the first women to move to this new Church where often the women of the upper classes, because they were educated and they understood that this was a very new way of thinking, and by virtue of doing that as often happens I think, the people perhaps in their village, there’s an example of one of the towns near here, Lavaur, all of the people under them moved to the new Church as well. So they had, compared to what the Catholic Church offered, women had an enormous amount of influence.

[00:38:43] Annie Sargent: Yes well, and buy-in from the people as well. It’s impressive to me how much people liked the perfects who came around, be they men or women. They just liked having them.

[00:38:57] Elyse Rivin: Well, they talked to them.

[00:38:59] Elyse Rivin: I mean they really talked, they didn’t look down at them. They didn’t preach down at them.

[00:39:03] Annie Sargent: So I know I said at the beginning that we were going to talk about the Montségur, but we’ve been talking 42 minutes already. Is there really time to talk about Montségur?

[00:39:13] Elyse Rivin: I think we have to talk about Montségur.

[00:39:15] Annie Sargent: Okay, can you do it in 5-10 minutes?

[00:39:17] Elyse Rivin: No.

[00:39:17] Annie Sargent: Right, so maybe we need to do it in a different episode.

[00:39:22] Elyse Rivin: Well, in that case, the episode has to really be about the whole war, the war and the end of the war, which is Montségur.

[00:39:29] I mean, you’ve just spent all this time talking about what this movement was, which very important in the history of the Southwest .

[00:39:36] The Cathar movement lasted about 100 years before they were all killed

[00:39:36] Elyse Rivin: The ultimate upshot of this is that as an event in history, it lasted for not more than approximately 100 years. And the reason why, we sort of set the terrain for that, which has had to do with the fact that the Catholic Church was so opposed to it. But there’s a whole, very long history because here in the Southwest, it isn’t simply that there was this movement with this religion.

[00:40:01] The next episode is going to be about the crusade against the Cathars

[00:40:01] Elyse Rivin: It’s that there was a major war in this area, that in the end totally wiped out this religion.

[00:40:08] Annie Sargent: It was a crusade.

[00:40:09] Elyse Rivin: It was a crusade, and the crusade took over 25 years and ultimately really, took 40 something years, before they really managed to almost completely eliminate everybody that ever had moved into this new religion.

[00:40:25] Elyse Rivin: And it’s very crucial I think, for anybody who’s going to be a tourist who comes to the Southwest and who wants to understand, I think, first to understand why this was Cathar country, and then to know why some of these places are so fascinating to visit. So maybe what we should do is do the second chapter being, places to go that talk about this history and why.

[00:40:49] Annie Sargent: Right, I think it deserves its own episode.

[00:40:51] Elyse Rivin: It deserves its own episode.

[00:40:53] Cathars didn’t leave behind churches

[00:40:53] Annie Sargent: Because there are a lot of places in the Southwest of France where we remember the Cathars, but we don’t have churches. But what we have is chateaus that are in ruins for the most part.

[00:41:06] Elyse Rivin: And also there are places where, because there has been documentation and most of the documentation has been rediscovered in the 20th century.

[00:41:16] Elyse Rivin: There are now places where you can go, and I’ve done some visits in a few of them, where even though there’s no structure left, you can walk around the streets and tell the story. And the story is absolutely fascinating.

[00:41:28] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:41:29] Elyse Rivin: Because there were places where the entire town lived through this experience, and when was this?

[00:41:36] Elyse Rivin: Well, this was in the very beginning of the 1200s, so we’re talking about 800 years ago.

[00:41:41] Annie Sargent: And it was all very well documented, because there were plenty of letters going back and forth, the Pope writing to the bishop saying, hey, you got to take control of the situation, and you know, there’s a bunch of documentation, so yeah, we will do a different episode on the crusade against the Cathars.

[00:42:01] Elyse Rivin: I think the episode is really so the crusade and the history of the Inquisition, which is really what this was all about. And the final scenes of battle, in a sense in this crusade, which have marked this area.

[00:42:17] Annie Sargent: Okay. Well, sorry folks, I thought we could do it all in one hour, but no, we can’t. It’s too long. There’s so much to tell.

[00:42:24] Elyse Rivin: It’s really, the history of the Southwest.

[00:42:27] Cathar country is where nature and history are mingled into one

[00:42:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah, come to the Southwest folks, it’s fascinating, it’s a place of beauty and a lot of these places are still very natural. This is the opportunity to take a hike and go up to these chateaus and really enjoy nature and history, all mingled into one.

[00:42:47] Elyse Rivin: Okay. So we have to talk about the places and the crusade.

[00:42:50] Annie Sargent: Yes. All right Elyse, thank you very much.

[00:42:53] Elyse Rivin: Thank you Annie.

[00:42:54] Elyse Rivin: Au revoir !

[00:42:55] Thank you Patrons and Donors!

[00:42:55] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that, you can see them at That’s P A T R E O N. Join Us no spaces or dashes. Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time, you are amazing, and a shout out this week to new patrons, Jeanie Aday, Erlin Liang, Carole Vogler, Judy Dennis, who is a new patron from Australia. Wonderful, because I don’t have a lot of patrons from Australia. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:43:48] Annie Sargent: This week, I published a video of me reacting to your comments about dogs in France. You know, dog poop, we love dogs, we want to pet dogs, we want to bring our dogs, that kind of thing. There’s so much to say about that. Patrons, log into Patreon or to watch that video.

[00:44:09] Annie Sargent: My thanks also to Michael Robinson and Jean Kunkle for sending in a one-time donation by using the green button on any page on Join Us in France that says, Tip Your Guide.

[00:44:23] Annie Sargent: Jean, should I say Jean or Jean? I’m not sure. I think I’ll say Jean, because that’s how I say it. He wrote, I’ve been back from Paris for two weeks now, and I wanted to thank you for all your help. The podcast, walking tours, Facebook page, and itinerary review. I cannot imagine going to France without them. Can you do some other countries now?

[00:44:49] Annie Sargent: Oh, I’m not done with France, so give it some time.

[00:44:54] Itinerary Consult

[00:44:54] Annie Sargent: Another way to support this podcast is to hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Here’s how it works, you purchase the service on, then you tell me about your dream trip to France and I help you craft the details. And after I’ve sent you the documents, you get a chance to read it and then we talk about it for an hour. It’s really a very good way to make sure that your ideas are going to work.

[00:45:19] Annie Sargent: Most of the time, the ideas people have are going to work, especially if they’ve been listening to the podcast for a while. Sometimes, I’m like, uh no, that’s not going to work.

[00:45:30] This week in French News

[00:45:30] Annie Sargent: This week in French news, well, last Sunday, Emmanuel Macron earned 58.5% of votes and was reelected for another five years as a president of France. I am so relieved, but lots of commentators still harp on that it’s really Le Pen who won because she did a little bit better in this election than the last or perhaps Mélenchon was really the big winner because he also did a little bit better than expected. So according to some, the losers are really the winners and that’s what we should be thinking and reading about.

[00:46:04] Annie Sargent: I can’t tell you how annoying that is to me. Perhaps they’re doing it because they’re sore that they lost, or maybe the press is really going full scavenger, reporting on the dead while ignoring the vibrant life going on around it. This is not new, but it seems they’re doing a lot more of it these days, even in France.

[00:46:26] Annie Sargent: And I have to say that the New York times is particularly egregious in this regard. Leading up to the election, they published article after article about Le Pen, completely ignoring Emmanuel Macron and his project for France.

[00:46:40] Annie Sargent: They did it with Trump as well. They wouldn’t shut up about every idiotic thought he ever uttered, while barely mentioning all the people who were running against him.

[00:46:51] The press has a choice, what they report on. They choose cheap headlines, time and time again, because it’s easier to come up with something alarmist and they hope that you’ll click on their articles. But you have a choice, what you click on as well. Please use it.

[00:47:10] Annie Sargent: At any rate, Macron is going to announce the new prime minister and it’s the job of that prime minister to lead the charge to get a majority in parliament for president. The elections for parliament are going to be held on June 12th and June 19th, two rounds again, and members of the parliament are elected for five years.

[00:47:34] Annie Sargent: I’ve been very happy with the job our current prime minister Jean Castex has done, but it’s time for new blood. I hope Macron picks Elisabeth Borne, our current labor minister, because she would be perfect in my view, but I mean, it’s not for me to pick, so we’ll know soon.

[00:47:54] Now, the new prime minister campaigns for the legislative elections, that’s hard to say. And if they don’t get the majority in parliament, the president is pushed into a cohabitation with whichever party got the most votes. So it’s possible to have the president of one party and a prime minister of an opposing party. It’s happened before under Jacques Chiraq. I don’t think it’s going to happen this time, but you know, time will tell.

[00:48:26] Annie’s personal update

[00:48:26] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, I’ve decided to hire an editor to produce the audio files and the transcripts for the podcast. This won’t change anything for you listeners, but it will be wonderful for me. And I’m looking forward to working with Cristian.

[00:48:42] Annie Sargent: And speaking of changes, big changes, I’m also looking into electric cars. What a strange new world it’s going to be! I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos explaining the whole electric car ecosystem. And no, I’m not getting a Tesla, too rich for my blood, but there are many other choices by now. I’ll try to test drive a few.

[00:49:07] Annie Sargent: You know, my husband and I are not the new-car-every-few-year kind of people. We usually buy used and drive them into the ground, but with an electric car, I’m not sure what’s the best way to go, new, used, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about it yet, so I’ll keep watching YouTube videos and getting some intelligence on the matter.

[00:49:29] I still have my eye on the Nissan Leaf. I know one of my listeners is a big fan and I understand, I drove it briefly, it was very nice. But you know, I’d like something a little bit bigger for family trips and dogs and things. Anyway, I’ll keep searching. But if you have tips, do let me know.

[00:49:47] Book recommendation: My Remarkable Journey

[00:49:47] Annie Sargent: I’ve also listened to a wonderful book this week, it’s called My Remarkable Journey. A biography of Katherine Johnson. The woman made famous by the movie, Hidden Figures, the black lady who was a NASA mathematician. They called them computers back then. What an inspiring story, and what a woman! I loved everything about the book, I recommend it.

[00:50:12] Annie Sargent: And as soon as I finished that, I started another one called, What It’s Like to Be a Dog, because I’m a simple person. It’s pretty good too, but not as inspiring as the history of Katherine Johnson.

[00:50:25] Annie Sargent: I’m getting itchy to go on a trip again, thinking about a few possibilities in the South of France, perhaps Saintes or Cognac, we’ll see, you’ll be the first to know.

[00:50:34] Annie Sargent: Show notes for this episode are on, the numeral, where you can see a recap of what we’ve discussed and also see the full transcript.

[00:50:46] Annie Sargent: And remember, the whole reason why I’m doing transcripts, well, not the only reason, but one of the reasons why I’m doing transcripts, is because they are wonderful. You can search the site and find something that you heard me or a guest mention, and you can’t just remember exactly, search the website. It’s all there.

[00:51:09] Annie Sargent: If you enjoy the show, introduce a friend to the podcast and tell them why you listen, help them listen. I swear, they will thank you because they’ll have a much better time in France.

[00:51:19] Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse and this time, it will be about the crusade against the Cathars. So part two of this episode.

[00:51:30] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together.

[00:51:40] Annie Sargent: Au-revoir!

[00:51:41] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2022 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No derivatives license. .

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Category: French History