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In the Land of the Cathari #

The Cathari (German: Katharer) were a Christian movement that thrived from the 12 th to the 14 th century, particular in SW France, Northern Spain (Catalonia), the Pyrenees (German: Pyrenäen) and southern Italy. One of the centers was the triangle Tolouse- Carcassonne- Albi and some nearby locations (mountains and mountain valleys).

In contrast to the Catholic Church, the Cathari had but one sacrament, the Consolamentum, or Consolation. This involved a brief spiritual ceremony to remove all sins from the believer and to induct the believer into the next higher level, ready for heaven. Contrary to the Roman Catholic sacrament of Penance, the Consolamentum could be taken only once. Thus, it was often received shortly before death to make sure that the person would be free of sin when dying.

The Cathari did not believe in the catholic church for various reasons: There was the moral decadence and corruption of papal administration and of priests, sinning and enjoying life, while paying little attention to the poor and sick. The Cathari did also not believe that god was almighty (since he allowed tragedies and atrocities).

The growing number of proponents of Chatharism with simpler rules made the Catholic Church increasingly nervous.

In 1198 pope Innocent III came to power and was bent on getting rid of the Cathari. Some semi-peaceful attempts failed. Eventually, two crusades were conducted against the Cathari. It came to the massacre of Beziers on July 22, 1209. This was the first major military action of the first Albigensian Crusade. 20.000 people, independent of age and sex, were killed by the Catholic crusaders, a first sign of how vicious the Cathari would be persecuted. They did continue to fight, many withdrawing to castles built in almost inaccessible places in the mountains.

The official war ended in the Treaty of Paris (1229), by which the king of France took most of the possessions and land of the house of Toulouse and of the Viscounts of Béziers and Carcassonne.

In spite of the wholesale massacre of Cathari during the war, Catharism was not yet extinguished. The Inquisition was established in 1234 to uproot the remaining Cathari. Operating in the south at Toulouse, Albi, Carcassonne and other towns during the whole of the 13th century, and a great part of the 14th, it succeeded in crushing Catharism as a popular movement and driving its remaining adherents underground. Cathari who refused to recant were hanged, or burnt at the stake.