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Saint Dominic and the Albigensians in Albi (1207): Catholic and Catholic writings are thrown into the fire, but only the latter are burned ( Pedro Berruguete , around 1495).

The term Katharer (literally "the pure", from Greek καθαρός, katharós "pure") stands for the followers of the best-known and most radical heterodox current of medieval Christianity , which from the 12th to the 14th centuries mainly in southern France and Italy, Spain and Germany was common. Sometimes they are also called Albigensians (sometimes also: Albingensians) after the town of Albi in the south of France . The Cathars never developed a unified teaching system. All groups had only a radical dualism . Their way of life was characterized by anti-clerical , ascetic and property-rejecting attitudes. In the course of the Albigensian Crusade and other campaigns, as well as the Inquisition , the Cathars were persecuted as heretics and are considered to have been destroyed in 1400.


The derivation of the name 'Katharer' from the Greek καθαρός ( katharós "pure") is controversial today, as it has been established that the Cathars never called themselves that.

The term Cathars was for the old church originally not necessarily a negative heretics nomen , as the followers of the late antique movement of Novatians as katharoi ( the Pure ) and designated their namesake Novitian had exercised significant influence on the Trinitarian theology of the West.

The movement was first given the name Katharer in 1163 by the German monk Eckbert von Schönau , who brought together three groups of heretics from the old church:

  1. The aforementioned Novatian Katharoi , whose misconduct was judged only to be very minor at the Council of Nicaea in 325 after the charge of dividing the church ;
  2. the Manichaean catharistae , who, because of their dualism, were considered arch heretics ;
  3. and the Cathaphrygae , who spread throughout Phrygia and were a thorn in the side of the Church Fathers because they recognized the female diaconate.

The name Katharer entered the literature based on Eckbert von Schönau . The name was received through German research and heresy history and thus became common property. Later, the early scholastic Alanus ab Insulis identified the Cathars as obscene cat kissers and thus as servants of the devil, deriving from the Latin catus or cattus (“cat”) claiming that “they kiss the back of a cat, as it is said, in its shape Lucifer appears to them ”. Thus there were four cornerstones that from then on served to identify the Cathars in church polemics: church splitters, dualists, women friends and devil servants.

In northern France, they were given the names publicanus / populicanus / popelican (t) and piphli / les , in Italy they were called Pate Riner or Patarines . and in northern France they were called bougres , which means "Bulgarians" (which became a synonym for a zoophile ). In Occitania they were called tesseyres ("weavers") because of the handicraft they enjoyed.

The Cathars called themselves “Christians” and “good Christians” and above all “Friends of God”, a designation that was very often attested in the Languedoc of the 13th century and which is the literal translation of the Old Slavic “ bogo-mil ”.


Origins and prehistory

It is often assumed that the roots of Cathar teaching go back a long way; possible precursors could be eastern dualistic movements such as the Manicheans , Paulikians and the Mazdakites . But Michel Roquebert points out:

“Even without having revealed the secret of the origins, Catharism is no longer seen today as a direct heir [...] of Persian Manichaeism. The fact that the doctrine of the Cathars agrees in certain points with the religion of Mani does not mean that it is derived from it. The conceptual universe of the Cathar texts is fundamentally different from that of the Manichaean writings […]. In addition, certain Cathar beliefs date from before Mani. "

- Michel Roquebert : The Cathar Religion , p. 6.

In the 11th century, the money and commodity economy developed in Europe and the cities expanded. The aristocracy and clergy tried to adapt and make profits through taxes, tithe and credits. The losers were the rural population and the lower nobility and clergy, from whose ranks a counter-movement to the official church - similar to the later Waldensians  - was recruited. In 1022, itinerant preachers can be found in Orléans who rejected the material as impure and rejected the sacraments of the church, which was adapted to the economy of money and goods. Instead, they practiced the forgiveness of sins by the laying on of hands.

Influences from Gnostic ideas that Mani already took up are assumed; they could be traced back to "currents of early Christianity" that emerged in Southeastern Europe at the same time. , The independent education seems equally possible dualistic ideas as well as in the West, a dualistic interpretation of the Bible - z. B. the Corpus Johanneum - was not unknown. The similarities with the teaching of the Bogomils are striking . Although there have been close ties between these two movements, the presumption of a split between the Western Cathars and the Eastern Bogomils is controversial.

Diffusion, consolidation and bloom

The first occurrences in France are attested in the first third of the 11th century, for example in Vertus in Champagne (around the year 1000), Toulouse (1017), Orléans (1022) and Monteforte in Italy (1034). In the second half of the century, the Gregorian reforms caused a marked decline, but this was followed by a new upswing. The followers of the Catholic doctrine formed one of the largest religious lay movements of the Middle Ages and were considered to be the co-founders of the poverty movement . After 1100 the movement spread rapidly: “Antwerp, Leuven and Bruges from 1110 to 1115, Soissons 1114, Utrecht 1135, Liège 1135, Cologne [1143 ..], Besançon 1163, Trier 1164, Vézelay 1167, Arras 1172, Reims 1180 , Troyes 1200, London 1210, Strasbourg 1211. "

From 1155 onwards, Catharism spread in Italy. Within a few decades, the Italian Cathars split into several local churches, which maintained connections with the Bogomil churches in the east. Around 1200, among the Cathars in Concorezzo , the Concorezzensern , the supporters of the Cathar bishop Nazarius separated from those of Desiderius . Around 1230, the split Alba Waldensian in the schools of the followers of Belesmanza and Giovanni di Lugio the Cathar movement, in whose district Liber de duobus principiis , the book of the two principles , was born.

Carcassonne , a former Cathar stronghold in Occitania

In Germany, the Cathars can be recorded for the first time in Cologne in 1143. By 1200 the movement had already covered large areas between the Rhine and the Pyrenees. Large communities had formed particularly in Occitania and Northern Italy. In 1167 there was a synod of the Cathars of southern France in St. Fèlix de Caraman . There the chairman Nicetas , probably a Bogomil priest from the Eastern Roman Empire , implemented a stronger dualism based on the Eastern model and suggested the formation of dioceses. The Catholic movement developed into its own church. In the most important Cathar region, the Languedoc in Occitania in the south of France, four dioceses were founded ( Albi , Agen , Toulouse , Carcassonne ). In the second important Cathar center in Northern Italy, particularly Lombardy , six dioceses were established.

The main area of ​​distribution of the Cathars was in the south of France, where they were very respected, especially at the courts in Occitania, etc. a. This is because in this region, apart from smaller princes, there was no higher authority, and the Catholic Church with its authentic morality and material modesty exerted a positive influence. In addition, the population in the areas controlled by the Cathars did not have to pay a tithe as church tax. In the early days of the movement, many members of the upper class - including the powerful Count of Toulouse  - sympathized with the Cathars. Cathars later appeared in other parts of Italy, in Sicily, the Rhineland, Austria, Spain, England and some Scandinavian countries.

Church's first countermeasures

For the church, the Cathars represented a dangerous and completely new threat. For the first time in Europe the attempt to establish an opposing church had been undertaken and regionally succeeded. In the eyes of the popes, the Cathar movement was considered heresy. Their theological standpoints were seen as absurd, if not diabolical. 1179 were the Cathars of Pope Alexander III. First convicted and excommunicated at the Third Lateran Council . Under Pope Lucius III. there was a renewed condemnation at the Council of Verona in 1184 in the Bull Ad Abolendam . Here, for the first time, concrete measures against so-called heretics were set out, such as the resolution that all bishops in their parishes should report heretics. However, this measure should prove to be unsuccessful (for a more detailed description see: Inquisition ). Pope Innocent III In the fight against the Cathars he initially took a new path: in 1206 he sent a group of Cistercian monks to the south of France, including Pierre de Castelnau , Diego de Acebo and the young Domingo de Guzman , to get the Cathars back through conversation and an amicable settlement to win for the Church. The monks there, like the perfecti / ae, should appear in simple clothing and humility . In the months that followed, the Cistercians in Occitania held disputes and sermons . In 1208, however, Pierre de Castelnau was murdered. Since Pope Innocent III. Seeing all attempts to become master of the Cathars failed, he called against them in the same year for a crusade , which began in 1209.

The downfall

In 1209 Cathars were expelled from Carcassonne .

The Occitan nobility was initially largely on the side of the Cathars, also because they were in opposition to the King of France Philip II . The Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229), which began against the Cathars under Simon IV. De Montfort and was conducted in several phases, caused devastating damage and great human suffering, such as the massacres in Béziers (1209), Minerve (1210) or Lavaur (1211) . Through the Albigensian Crusade and the relentless action of the Inquisition, the Roman Church destroyed the Cathar movement between 1209 and 1310.

View of the ruins of Montségur Castle

As a result, the crusade brought the military defeat of the Cathar allied princes and ultimately the incorporation of Occitania into the Kingdom of France , but not the complete extermination of the Cathars and their organization hoped for by the Holy See . Cathar bishop Guilhabert de Castres († 1241/42) had the mountain fortress of Montségur expanded after 1229. Nevertheless, the movement had been badly hit: the days of free religious practice were over, the support of the nobility was lost after the crusade. The popes and their supporters had meanwhile also begun to develop the inquisition procedure and were using this new instrument nationwide for the first time: The 1229 under Pope Gregory IX. The Synod of Toulouse that was convened created a dense network of inquisitorial investigations into the Occitan diocese.

In the meantime, the seemingly impregnable Cathar fortress of Montségur has developed into the main center ( caput ) and the last great refuge of the persecuted French Cathars. Their church leadership was also located here. In 1243, the French king's troops began to siege the castle . The Cathars had previously had their church funds brought to Italy, but rejected an offer of asylum from Italian Cathars. In March 1244, the defenders of Montségurs capitulated. Approx. 200 Cathars were burned on March 16, 1244 in the palisades of the fortress. The fall of Montségur marked the end of the Catholic Church organization in France.

Many Cathars also found refuge in the remote castle of Quéribus in the Corbières . Among them was the Catholic Bishop of the County of Razès , Benoît de Termes , who died in the fortress in 1233 or 1241. It is true that the castle was passed to the French King Louis IX in 1239 by the ruler of Aragon . sold, but in 1242 the Catalan Xacbert de Barbaira , a prominent figure of the southern French resistance, was commander of Quéribus. Although he was able to hold the castle until 1255, after a long siege by his former friend and comrade in arms, Olivier de Termes, he finally had to cede it to the French king. Quéribus had withstood eleven years longer than Montségur Castle.

In Italy, after the success of the Inquisition in the 1250s, the remaining Cathars had to retreat to northern Italy. Their fate is similar to that of their French co-religionists: they had chosen the fortress Sirmione on Lake Garda as their last refuge; a number of French Cathars who had fled were also staying here. In 1276 the castle was taken and the surviving Cathars, a total of 178 Perfecti, burned in the Verona Arena in 1278 .

The last Cathars

Memorial stone at Montségur

Since the 1290s there was a short-lived revival of Catharism in the south of France, whose beliefs had remained alive in parts of the population. The movement was initiated by the brothers Peter (Pèire) and Wilhelm (Guilhèm) Auterii (French Autier), who trained in Italy and returned to the Languedoc as Catholic pastors and missionaries. Within a decade they built a functioning underground church with a total of around 1000 followers in at least 125 locations, which were looked after by wandering wanderers. After initially almost undisturbed development, they came into the focus of the Dominican-led Inquisition of Toulouse, initially under Gottfried d'Ablis and later under the Inquisitor Bernard Gui . All leaders of the movement, including the Autier brothers, were captured and burned between 1309 and 1312.

When tracking down the last of the Cathar followers, who stayed in remote Pyrenean valleys , especially in the county of Foix , including the mountain village of Montaillou , the competitive situation between the Dominican-led Inquisition in Carcassonne, which was considered corrupt and inefficient, and the after re-established and reformed episcopal inquisition under the bishop of Pamiers , the Cistercian Jacques Fournier (later Pope Benedict XII ), according to the prescriptions of the Council of Vienne . Until about 1325 it was possible Fournier using an effective investigation concept that on a systematic spying and denunciation , psychologically skillful interrogation of the suspects in the substantial absence of physical torture was based and meticulous record keeping to uncover any remaining hiding Cathar followers and even into exile in Aragon fled Occitan Cathar seize. The last southern French Perfectus Belibasta was captured by Fournier in 1321 and burned at the stake in Villerouge-Termenès in the Archdiocese of Narbonne , from which it came.

The last known arrest of a Cathar is documented for 1342 in Florence . Until the early modern period , people were occasionally persecuted who had been brought into the vicinity of Catharism by the authorities.


The teaching of the Cathars is to be differentiated in terms of time and region. There were many different groups within the Cathars, especially in later times, so that one cannot speak of a uniform teaching. All groups, however, shared a common dualistic basic conviction, according to which only the spiritual world on the other side was God-created, while the earthly-material world was seen as the product of an evil principle. Their dualistic form of Christianity was influenced by the Balkan Bogomils . The Cathars had direct connections to the Bogomils: The Interrogatio Johannis , an apocryphal script of Bogomil origin, was given to the Italian Cathar Bishop Nazarius of Bogomils from Bulgaria.

In the New Testament , the gospel of John played a prominent role for them. The life of the Cathar was designed to bring the good in man (the soul ) from the evil world to heaven. Catharism was a redemption religion and was based on revelation . His holy book was the New Testament , his only prayer the Pater Noster .

The Cathars saw themselves as the "true" Christian Church. Her goal was the liberation of the soul by attaining the consolamentum (see below). The Cathars also differed from the Christian church of that time in their rejection of the Old Testament of the Bible , in which they saw the creator god of an evil world described. There were many Bible quotes in their sermons, and the interpretation was often not closely tied to the text, which can also be seen in the Bible translations.

Apart from a fundamentally dualistic world view and the rejection of the Old Testament, it is hardly possible to find common theological statements about the catharic teaching for all subgroups. The Cathars were and are gladly placed in the traditions of Manichaeism and Gnosis . However, a direct connection cannot be proven, although theological parallels are evident.

Cult and religious practice

The Cathar priests (both men and women) preached and worshiped in the vernacular, not the traditional church language , Latin , and thereby reached large sections of the population. Poverty, modesty, and celibacy (including sexuality) were seen as desirable and contributed to the movement's popularity, while the Roman Church was rejected because of the way many of its officials lived.

The core of the Cathar cult is based on the Bogomil tradition, which manifests itself primarily in the fact that the forgiveness of sins could only take place through acceptance into the Cathar Church. In their ritual life, the Cathars knew a number of other ritual acts in addition to their only sacrament-like rite, the baptism of the spirit ( Consolamentum ).

The consolamentum

The baptism of the Spirit or Consolamentum (Latin: "Consolation", according to Romans 1:12 and Colossians 2.2) was the decisive step to become a member of the Cathar Church and the only access to salvation. If women or men wanted to receive the Consolamentum, they were required to prepare for the life of a Cathar in a kind of novitiate . After the baptism of the Spirit by the laying on of hands, the new member of the Movement had to live the remainder of the Cathar life to gain salvation. Anyone who had received the Consolamentum once could pass it on, i.e. accept other people into the Catholic Church and thus save their souls.

The consolamentum was carried out in a solemn act in which - under the direction of the bishop or the oldest Cathar of the community or the surrounding area - all Cathars who had already received the consolamentum took part. The Cathars who were accepted into the inner circle of the Catholic Church were called Perfecti or Perfectae ( perfect ones ). The delivery of the Consolamentum took place after the forgiveness of sins and the delivery of the Our Father to the novices , by placing the Gospel of John on the head of the candidate. One after the other, those present touched the head of the novice and thus transmitted the spirit of knowledge to him. If a Perfectus committed a sin, not only was his consolamentum obsolete, but also those spirit baptisms that had been given by the sinner.

After receiving the Consolamentum, the Perfecti had to lead a life full of privation. In addition to the prohibition of marriage and sexual relations, strict dietary regulations also had to be followed, e.g. B. the diet was always meatless; killing people, four-legged animals and birds was forbidden, and they were not allowed to curse, lie or take an oath, and they were obliged to work . Women, like men, could receive the consolamentum to be saved. However, the rite was slightly changed for women: they were not allowed to be touched during the ceremony. Therefore, a cloth was covered over them. Since the Cathars assumed that the soul was naturally male, the Cathars believed that when a perfecta died, its soul was returned to its original state - it became male. The perfecta became, according to the theory, an asexual being, her mind detached from the body and remembered its originally masculine state. Pregnant women were not allowed to be given a consolamentum because, according to the Cathars, they had a demon in their wombs. The Cathars generally rejected the conception of children ( antinatalism ), since Adam and Eve originally lived without sexuality and were seduced by the devil into the sin of reproduction.

The prayer

The Our Father given before the Consolamentum was the only prayer of the Cathars. The daily routine of the Cathars was determined by prayer. With the Consolamentum they received permission to pray the Lord's Prayer in various formulas, which was an expression of belonging to the ecclesia Dei ('Church of God').

The apparellamentum

Like the prayer mentioned above, the so-called apparellamentum was reserved for the professing Cathars. The Apparellamentum was a monthly penance service, which served to purify from the impairing influences on earthly life and to protect them from relapse into the state of sin; they confessed their wrongdoing to a deacon. Likewise, through the apparellamentum, submission to the Catholic community was accomplished.

The kiss of peace

The kiss of peace is directly related to the melioramentum (the honorary testimony ) and was primarily used to greet two perfecti or two perfectae among themselves, or to greet a believer, but only in the event that the kiss was based on the perfectus. So there were only kisses for peace among Cathars of the same sex. Instead of exchanging a kiss as a greeting, the Perfecta was touched by the Perfectus on the arm. Another, even better, solution for handing over the kiss of peace was to put the kiss on the Gospel of John and then hand it over to the woman.

Radical dualism

Around 1176, the Bogumil Bishop Niketas, as an envoy of the Drughunt Heretical Church of Constantinople, swore the leaders of the moderate Cathars in Languedoc to radical dualism . Deggau writes: “In the strict sense, one cannot speak of a morality with the radical dualism of the Cathars. For moral precepts were neither possible nor necessary for a perfect man [...]. He could no longer sin [...] Conversely, there could be no binding rules for the simple believer in the world of evil [...] There would only be rules of evil for evil. "

Food regulations and the blessing of bread

The rejection of reproduction as the work of the devil can, to a certain extent , justify the rejection of all foods that have arisen from reproduction, i.e. animal meat, fats and dairy products. A far stronger reason for the rejection of these dishes was the assumption that the souls of deceased people resided in the animal carcasses. Whoever killed an animal in order to eat it was in danger of committing the murder of an angel soul that had sought refuge in an animal body. Fish, on the other hand, were allowed to be consumed by the Cathars because they were of the opinion (which was widespread in the Middle Ages) that fish were not a product of procreation, but rather emerged from the water. In addition, drinking fermented beverages (especially wine) was prohibited. The bread blessing, which took place during a meal, was intended to commemorate and emulate Christ's example. However , the Cathars rejected the consideration of the host as the body of Christ: for them it was just a piece of bread.

The Melioramentum and the Credentes

The believers expressed their admiration for the Good Christian (Perfectus) through squats and bowing, the so-called melioramentum . In this way the outward turn to Catharism was attested. By submitting the Melioramentum, an ordinary person became a Creden, i.e. a follower of the Cathars. Although the Credentes were not considered members of the Catholic Church because they had not received the Consolamentum, the Melioramentum was a testimony that the Credentes would one day receive the Consolamentum. The melioramentum ceremony was performed by squatting three times in front of a perfectus and by asking for his blessing three times.

Although the Credentes had obligations to the Perfecti, the Melioramentum cannot be regarded as a commercial contract; rather it was an expression of close social and ideological ties to the Catholic Church and its representatives.

The Endura

Endura (lat. Abstinentia ) originally referred to the probationary period of at least 18 years old Cathar novices for the office of / the Perfectus / a. Here, the candidate had to fast for a year , after which he rose (sometimes after further examination time) through the consolamtorship and the cladding with a black robe in the circle of perfecti / ae. The Endura as fasting examination time gained a new meaning in the late period in a radical variant when it was linked to a special form of the consolamentum, the sick consolamentum : sick or dying people who only decided to join the consolamentum at the end of their life received, but no longer had the opportunity to live a strict ascetic life as perfecti / ae, were able to save their soul and achieve perfect dignity by not consuming any more food and thereby starving to death if they did not die beforehand . Performing this type of Endura also killed children for whom a longer fasting period was also out of the question.

The catharic hierarchy

The Catholic movement had already formed a fully organized church with its own hierarchy in the middle of the 12th century . The Catholic Church had dioceses, bishops and deacons and held councils on questions of faith. Up until the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229), the Cathars were able to expand their organization and, under the protection of the nobility and the goodwill of large sections of the population, practiced their religion largely freely and publicly for several decades in Occitania. Community houses were opened in many places as centers of prayer and as places to live and work for Perfecti and Perfectae. Although they actually lived in personal poverty, their organization, the Catholic Church, was able to generate a considerable fortune in this phase, above all through donations made in the course of the granting of the consolamentum on the sick or death bed (see above: Endura ) of the Community, often in the form of stately sums or the transfer of the entire inheritance. The movement thus had large quantities of fixed and movable goods. The Catholic Church, in which there was no ban on interest , was at times extremely rich - especially in southern France: The organization bought houses, vineyards or fields for its purposes, invested in the expansion of fortresses and gave large sums of money as bribes for officials of the opposing church out.

The structure of the Cathar Church clearly shows how the Cathar religious practice developed: Due to its strict hierarchy, it had only a small top, the bishops and their deputies, and led from these to a broad base, the Credentes and sympathizers. Its tight organization gave the Catholic Church great effectiveness and clout. In the dispute with the Inquisition , however, they came to a disadvantage because, after the elimination of their ruling elites, the Cathars hardly had any decentralized structures “underground”, such as the Waldensians who were also persecuted . To the Roman Catholic Church, the Cathars seemed all the more dangerous because of their “opposing church”, which they had erected as a mirror image of their rival.

The bishop and his deputies

The bishop did not have as far-reaching tasks in the Catholic Church as a bishop did in the Roman Catholic Church. His primary right was to take the first place in all rites of the Cathars, for example when giving consolamentum or breaking bread. Otherwise, he was not granted any other rights reserved only for him, such as priestly ordination or confirmation, so that the Catholic bishop was basically only the parish council, who also had to take care of visiting the individual parishes.

The episcopate was held only by men.

In the early days of the Catholic Church, the bishop was still elected by the community, but in the 13th century the churchization of the Catholic movement had become so prevalent that the bishop of a diocese could only be ordained by his own kind.

At the side of the bishop stood his two deputies: the older and the younger "son" ( filius major and filius minor ). Both represented the bishop in his absence and toured the congregations as his representatives. The actual pastoral care, however, was taken over by the deacon. The duties of a bishop and also a deacon could only be taken over by persons who had received the consolamentum.

The deacon

The duties of a deacon in a Catholic community were more diverse than that of the bishop. He did not have the right to be the first to donate the consolamentum or to break the bread, but his job was to intervene in the event of ambiguities or doubts among the church members, to reconsolidate those who had committed a sin, and that To perform apparellamentum.

Another obligation of the deacon was to lead Cathar convents, which can also be called guest houses for Cathars. This task was also done by women; however, women were not allowed to preach. In the women's convents, which were under the direction of a woman, the sermons were given either by the Catholic bishop or - in most cases - by the deacon of the community.

The tasks of a deacon, which were connected with travel, could not be taken over by women, since it was not possible for women, especially after the Albigensian Crusade and during the Inquisition, to travel alone without attracting attention.

The Perfecti

The Perfecti (feminine form: Perfectae , meaning of the word: Latin 'perfect'), also referred to as “good people”, formed the hard core of the actual members of the Catholic Church. They were allowed to pray the Our Father and give the Consolamentum. They led a chaste and simple to ascetic way of life in personal poverty with many fasting rules and stood in front of the believers (Credentes), in whom they awakened a “remarkable devotion”, “in the powerful tradition of martyrdom”. The Perfecti / ae transferred their possessions to the community of their church when they entered. At no time have there been more than ten thousand perfecti; it can even be surmised that the number of perfects did not exceed four thousand. When the Perfecti / ae weren't traveling to preach or in their church, they lived in their own houses owned by the community.

A perfecta was only allowed to donate the consolamentum in the presence of a deacon.

The initiates

One step below the Perfecti were the initiates. The initiates were believers who sought to receive the consolamentum. As already mentioned, the handover of the consolamentum consisted of two parts, namely the handover of the Our Father and the actual baptism of the Spirit, which did not have to be carried out promptly. An initiate had the right to pray the Lord's Prayer, so was on the verge of being raised to the status of a good person. Before that, however, he had to prove himself morally over a longer period of time - so even an initiate had to live according to the moral principles of the Catholic Church.

The credentes

Believers did not yet feel able to lead the strictly prescriptive life of a perfect. But they were close to the Catholic Church and testified to this through the Melioramentum. It was thanks to this group, also known as Credentes, that the Catharian counter-church did not become an elitist monastic church isolated from the world, but a movement with masses. The number of followers of the Catholic Church is estimated at "several hundred thousand".

The Credentes did not belong to the Catholic Church and for this reason did not have to follow the religious rules that the Perfecti had to observe. One of the most important tasks of the Credentes was to take care of the perfect and also to hide them at the time of the Inquisition and the Albigensian Crusade.

At the end of their life the Credentes were granted the consolamentum , i. that is, they were redeemed from the sinful world. After the consolamentum had been granted, the patient was only allowed to receive water, since worldly food would have canceled the effect. The receipt of the consolamentum thus amounted to a death sentence (see above: Endura).


The downfall of the Cathars inspired the creation of legends in which, similar to the case of the Templar Order , a connection was made with the Holy Grail , which was therefore kept hidden by the Cathars on Montségur. Corresponding conspiracy theories are widely spread in fiction and trivial literature, cf. The Holy Grail and its heirs , Prieuré de Sion and much more. The archivist Jules Doinel (1842–1902) founded the first Gnostic church of modern times, which he represented as the direct successor of the Cathar ecclesia Dei , legitimized by spiritist transmission of the spirit . Napoléon Peyrat was the first author to dedicate himself to Montségur as the “holy mountain” of the Cathars and gave the Cathars a politically instrumentalized profile as freedom fighters .

The writer Nikolaus Lenau portrayed the Cathars as pioneers of political and intellectual freedom as early as the 19th century in his epic The Albigensians . This connection between politics, ideology and mythology increased in the period that followed and came to a head in the ideological claims of the Cathars fascist ideologies after the First World War, e.g. B. by the leading historian of Italian fascism , Gioacchino Volpe , who saw the Cathars in 1922 as a revolt of the popular soul and revolutionary class movement, and by the National Socialist politician and leading ideologist of the NSDAP , Alfred Rosenberg , who made the Cathars descendants of the Visigoths and too Germanic warriors against the Roman priesthood hyped. The interest of the National Socialists in the mythology of the Cathars during the German occupation of France in World War II was not only mentioned in popular, esoteric fictions , but also in serious reputable literature, e.g. B. in the Avignon Quintet by Lawrence Durrell (1912–1990). Otto Rahn's book on the Cathars was received within the SS . The Nazi rulers considered Rahn's research and work, in which he declared the Cathars to be the guardians of the Germanic people's soul, to be compatible with their ideological and propagandistic line.

A newly awakened interest in the Cathars has led to the fact that the "Land of the Cathars" and the Cathar castles are now visited by millions of tourists every year. Others, standing in the footsteps of Rahn, support small, politically right-wing, religious Neo-Cathar groups who consider Catharism to be the "national religion" of Occitania . Some smaller groups are explicitly neo-Nazis , others want to promote Occitan nationalism and are committed to secession of Languedoc from France.

Current research

New findings and research on the Cathars are still being published. The inquisition protocols of Montaillou and the surrounding area, which are unique due to their level of detail, were prepared by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie in the 1970s to reconstruct the daily life of the villagers at that time. In 2006 Marc Bogaerts wrote the overview De kathaarse Mythe about the most recent appropriations, which the Cathars understand as positive representatives of true Christianity and as martyrs and which they stylize against foreign occupation in parallel to national models.

The view, widespread by the Cathar researcher Arno Borst from 1953 and particularly overemphasized in German historiography, that the driving force and characteristic element of the Cathars were elements alien to the West, namely the dualistic legacy of Gnostics and Manichaeans, has been adopted by researchers in recent years weighted differently, especially in France, because the (primitive) Christian elements are considered to be more important. In particular, the research of Jean Duvernoy (1917-2010) and Anne Brenon (born November 14, 1945) confirm the Christian roots of the Cathars and attribute their designation as Manicheans to the anti-heretic polemics of Catholic authors.

The church historian Daniela Müller does not believe that there was a comprehensive religious community of the Cathars in the world at that time, but believes that a western emergence is possible.

A recent research argues that the Cathars were a later construct of their persecutors. It seems difficult to identify self-testimonies from Cathars before the Albigensian Wars. The persecuted did not really know what was being accused of them or their ancestors. The mediaevalist Jan Rüdiger describes his own change of opinion in a review and formulates the newly raised questions:

“The pyre with three hundred to four hundred victims is no longer evidence of an almost early Christian readiness for martyrdom, but arbitrary mass lynching by an unleashed crusader army? The history of medieval religions as a whole is no longer a sequence of heterodoxies against which the Roman 'official church' rubbed and shaped - but rather an internal church discursive process with ten thousand fold collateral damage in an unsuspecting lay population? And last but not least: A whole branch of medieval history without an object? "

Since 2004, this research direction, based on the studies of Monique Zerner and Jean-Louis Biget, has denied the existence of a Catholic Church at all. B. in the book of the Cathar researcher Mark Gregory Pegg , who explicitly states that there were no Cathars, especially in southern France. All information about the Cathars are fantasy products , including their name (“everything about the Cathar is utter fantasy, even down to their name”).

The sources

Four fragments still exist from the writings of the Cathars:

Two dogmatic treatises:

  • The Book of the Two Principles ( Liber de duobus principiis ) - Latin manuscript from around 1260, which is kept in Florence and originated in the vicinity of the school of the Cathar Giovanni di Lugio .
  • A Latin copy of an anonymous treatise discovered in Prague in 1939, which was written in the Languedoc at the beginning of the 13th century and whose author was possibly the "perfect" Barthélemy de Carcassonne.

Two ritual books for the liturgy:

  • The Latin ritual book from Florence.
  • The Occitan ritual book , which is kept in the Palais des Arts in Lyon together with the complete New Testament, which was translated into Occitan for the Cathars of Languedoc. Both documents date from around 1250.

There are also some apocrypha, i. H. Christian-inspired texts, which, however, were not recognized as canonical scriptures because they were not Orthodox; to be emphasized are:

  • The apparition of the Isaias , an old Bulgarian text used by the Bogomils.
  • The secret Lord's Supper , or questioning of John ( Interrogatio Johannis ) a Latin text that was transmitted to the Cathars in Italy and Languedoc around 1190 by the Bogomils.

Important are pamphlets on the basis of which the Catholic theologians analyzed and tried to refute Catharism:

“More than thirty such works are known; they were written at the end of the 12th and in the course of the 13th century [...] It would be foolish to think that they are arbitrarily distorting the teachings of the religion they oppose; rather, the authors warn their readers of the cheap slander and ridiculous accusations to which the Cathars were sometimes exposed. They are only interested in the main points of the doctrine, which they discuss with rigor but generally with great intellectual honesty [...] "

- Michel Roquebert: The Cathar religion. P. 4.

The last group of documents are the legal sources, i. H. the interrogations conducted by the Inquisition for almost a century from 1234 onwards. Almost 7,000 testimonies have been preserved, referring to over 1,000 “perfect ones” and around 40,000 devout Cathars. Among other:

  • Collection MS 4269 (National Library, Paris), it contains files from the Inquisition under Geoffroy d'Ablis in Carcassonne.
  • The register MS 4030 (Vatican Library) with the statements of the residents of Montaillou to the Inquisitor Jacques Fournier (later Pope Benedict XII., Avignon).
  • Files of the Sentences of the Inquisition of Pamiers (British Library, registry BM MS 4697) and the Liber Sententiarum Inquisitionis Tholosanae 1307-1323 (in the appendix to Philipp Limborch's Historia Inquisitionis , 1692).

Also preserved are:

  • Texts from a total of four larger Cathar sermons that were held in Arques around 1300.

See also



  • Lothar Baier : The great heresy: persecution and extermination of the Cathars by church and science . Wagenbach, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-8031-2410-7 .
  • Malcolm Barber: The Cathars. Heretic of the Middle Ages . Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-491-96220-0 .
  • Matthias Benad: Domus and religion in Montaillou. Tubingen 1990.
  • Arno Borst : The Cathars . A. Hiersemann Verlag, Stuttgart 1953, ISBN 3-7772-5301-4 .
  • Heinrich Fichtenau: Heretics and Professors: Heresy and Faith in Reason in the High Middle Ages. Munich, Beck 1992, ISBN 3-406-36458-6 .
  • Hans Jonas : Gnosis: The message of the strange god . Insel, Frankfurt 1999, ISBN 3-458-16944-X .
  • Franz Jung : Revolt against the fear of life. The Albigensians. Essay. Brinkmann & Bose, Berlin 1983, ISBN 3-922660-11-8 .
  • Reiner Klein: The Mysteries of the Cathars . Turn of the Era 2008, ISBN 978-3-934291-51-5 .
  • Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars . Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-89678-401-3 .
  • Malcolm Lambert: Heresy in the Middle Ages: From the Cathars to the Hussites . Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-89678-184-7 .
  • Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie : Montaillou - A village before the Inquisitor 1294 to 1324. (fr. 1975) Ullstein, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-548-26571-5 .
  • Jörg Oberste: Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2007, ISBN 978-3-534-15576-7 .
  • Jörg Oberste: The crusade against the Albigensians . Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-89678-464-1 .
  • Déodat Roché: The Cathar Movement: Origin and Nature . Verlag am Goetheanum, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-88455-714-9 .
  • Michel Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars. Translation by Rosi Hoffmann. Editions Loubatières, Portet-sur-Garonne 1988, ISBN 2-86266-102-8 .
  • Gerhard Rottenwöhrer: Catharism . 7 volumes (in 11 parts), Bock & Herchen, Bad Honnef 1982–2011, ISBN 3-88347-103-8 .
  • Kurt Rudolph: The Gnosis. Goettingen 1990.
  • Steven Runciman : Heresy and Christianity: Medieval Manichaeism . Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-7705-2498-5 .
  • Gerd Schwerhoff: The Inquisition: Persecution of Heretics in the Middle Ages and Modern Times . CH Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-50840-5 .
  • Joseph Szövérffy : Mary and the Heretics. A Cistercian hymn for the Albigensian War. In: Analecta Cisterciensia . 43: 223-232 (1987).
  • Pierre des Vaux-de-Cernay: Crusade against the Albigensians . Manesse, Zurich 1997, ISBN 3-7175-8228-3 (translation of the Historia Albigensis from Latin).
  • Ernst Werner, Martin Erbstößer: Clerics, Monks, Heretics: Religious Life in the High Middle Ages . Herder, Freiburg 1994, ISBN 3-451-04284-3 .
  • MP Steiner (ed.): Interrogatio Iohannis (The secret book of the Cathars, {Latin text and German translation} ) and Apokryphon Iohannis (The secret book of Johannes). With an introduction: The Birth of Christianity, and Its Significance in the 21st Century . Edition Oriflamme, Basel 2019, ISBN 9783907103050 .


  • Martin Aurell: Les Cathares devant l'histoire . Hydre Éd., Cahors 2005, ISBN 2-913703-57-7 .
  • Jacques Berlioz: "Tuez-les tous Dieu reconnaîtra les siens": the massacre de Béziers et the croisade des Albigeois vus par Césaire de Heisterbach . Loubatières, Portet-sur-Garonne 1994, ISBN 2-86266-215-1 .
  • Jean-Louis Biget, Hérésie et inquisition dans le Midi de la France , Paris, Picard, 2007 online .
  • Richard Bordes: Cathares et Vaudois en Périgord, Quercy et Agenais . Hydre Éd., Cahors 2005, ISBN 2-913703-30-5 .
  • Anne Brenon: Le Dico des cathares . Editions Milan, Paris 2000, ISBN 2-84113-817-8 .
  • Anne Brenon: Les Femmes cathares . Perrin, Paris 2004, ISBN 2-262-02269-0 .
  • Roger Caratini: Les cathares - de la gloire à la tragédie (1209-1244) . Archipelago, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-84187-589-X .
  • Jean Duvernoy: Le Catharisme: La religion des cathares (tome 1) . Ed. Private, Toulouse 1996, ISBN 2-7089-5326-5 .
  • Jean Duvernoy: L'Histoire des cathares (tome 2) . New edition. Ed. Private, Toulouse 2004, ISBN 2-7089-7523-4 .
  • Mark G. Pegg: Innocent III, les 'Pestilentiels Provençaux' et le paradigme épuisé du catharisme . In: Innocent III et le Midi (= Cahiers de Fanjeaux 50), 2015, pp. 277–307, online .
  • Michel Roquebert: Histoire des Cathares. Hérésie, Croisade, Inquisition du XIe au XIVe siècle . Perrin, Paris 1999, ISBN 2-262-01894-4 .


  • Jesus Avila Granados: La mitología cátara: símbolos y pilares del catarismo occitano . mr ed., Madrid 2005, ISBN 84-270-3126-2 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Katharer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. St Dominic and the Albigenses in the WEB Gallery of Art .
  2. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 334.
  3. ^ So the German dictionary by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm , Leipzig 1865, article "Heretic" , and still Wolfgang Pfeifer et al .: Etymological dictionary of German. 8th edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-32511-9 , article “Heretic”, p. 650.
  4. Michel Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars. Editions Loubatières, Portet-sur-Garonne 1988, p. 7.
  5. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 335ff, p. 351.
  6. Gerhard Rottenwöhrer: "The Cathars: What they believed, how they lived." Section The foreign names .
  7. Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars. P. 7.
  8. ^ Daniela Müller: Cathars. In: Theological Real Encyclopedia. (TRE), Volume 18, Berlin 1989, pp. 21ff.
  9. Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars. , P. 24.
  10. ^ Matthias Benad: Domus and religion in Montaillou. Tübingen 1990, 12ff.
  11. ^ A b Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 162.
  12. ^ Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars , p. 24.
  13. Arno Borst: The Cathars. 1992, p. 75.
  14. Arno Borst: The Cathars. 1992, p. 77.
  15. Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 44f.
  16. “In Austria, heretics are mentioned for the first time around 1207, when Duke Leopold VI. pointed out the need to found a diocese in Vienna. For 1210, the Klosterneuburg Annals report that the Duke had executed numerous Paterener (including Cathars) who had found numerous followers after the torture. This suggests a certain spread. As emerges from the later events, the extermination of the sect is unlikely to have succeeded. ”( Friedrich Schragl : Geschichte der Diözese St. Pölten. Verlag Niederösterreichisches Pressehaus, St. Pölten / Vienna 1985, ISBN 3-85326-737-8 , p . 52; limited preview in Google Book search)
  17. Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 167 and p. 183.
  18. See also: Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars . P. 22.
  19. Schwerhoff: The Inquisition. 2004, p. 39.
  20. Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 308.
  21. ^ Daniela Müller: Cathars. In: Theological Real Encyclopedia. (TRE), Volume 18, Berlin 1989, p. 334.
  22. Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 60.
  23. Roquebert: The religion of the Cathars. P. 2.
  24. Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 33 and p. 81.
  25. Also the philosopher Hans Jonas reminds in his text "Gnosis" (see lit.) that the teaching of the Cathars shows close connections to Gnosis.
  26. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 165, p. 169.
  27. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 169.
  28. Malcolm Barber: The Cathars. Heretic of the Middle Ages . Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-491-96220-0 . P. 57.
  29. Hans-Georg Deggau: A short history of the Cathars. Herder publishing house, Freiburg i. Breisgau 2005, p. 77.
  30. Arno Borst : The Cathars . 2nd Edition. Herder Verlag, Freiburg i.Br. 1992, ISBN 3-451-04025-5 , p. 145.
  31. Arno Borst: The Cathars . 2nd Edition. Herder Verlag, Freiburg i.Br. 1992, ISBN 3-451-04025-5 , pp. 146f.
  32. a b Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 25.
  33. For example the Council of Mirepoix 1206, cf. Malcolm Lambert: History of the Cathars. 2001, p. 62.
  34. Arno Borst: The Cathars. 1992, pp. 86 and 98.
  35. Arno Borst: The Cathars. 1992, p. 151.
  36. ^ A b Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Montaillou. A village before the Inquisitor 1294 to 1324.
  37. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 342ff.
  38. ^ A b Massimo Introvigne : Neo-Catharism. In: Wouter J. Hanegraaff (Ed.): Dictionary of Gnosis & Western Esotericism . Brill, Leiden / Boston 2005, Vol. 1, p. 827.
  39. Rüdiger Sünner : Black Sun. Unleashing and abuse of myths in National Socialism and right esotericism (= Herder spectrum. Vol. 5205). Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) a. a. 2001, ISBN 3-451-05205-9 . P. 132.
  40. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. S. 348, S. 350.
  41. Marc Bogaerts: De kathaarse myth. In: Kathaarse Kronieken 9 2006, pp. 5-56.
  42. ^ Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. p. 124, p. 164, p. 334.
  43. ^ A b Daniela Müller: Heretic and Church: Observations from two millennia. Lit-Verlag 2014. pp. 172f.
  44. Jan Rüdiger: Review of: Sennis, Antonio (Ed.): Cathars in Question. Woodbridge 2016. In: H-Soz-Kult, July 5, 2017. July 4, 2017, accessed July 4, 2017 .
  45. ^ Mark Gregory Pegg: A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom . 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-517131-0
  46. Supplement to the first and entry of the second writing literally after: Michel Roquebert: Die Religion der Katharer. Editions Loubatières. Portet-sur-Garonne 1988, p. 2.
  47. The information in the previous version of the section has been preserved as far as possible. All additions verbatim after M. Roquebert, pp. 2 and 4. The Cathar sermons are not mentioned there. Roquebert also refers to: René Nelli: Ecritures cathares. Planète, 1968. (The full writings of the Cathars, translated into French.)