Heresy, Inquisition and Life Cycle in Medieval Languedoc

Heresy, Inquisition and Life Cycle in Medieval Languedoc

Chris Sparks


York Medieval Press



A fresh examination of the Cathar heresy, using the records of inquisitorial tribunals to bring out new details of life at the time.
Religion amongst ordinary men and women in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages is the subject of this book. Focusing on laypeople attached to the Cathar movement, it investigates the interplay between heresy and orthodoxy, and between spiritual and secular concerns, in people's lives, charting the ways in which these developed through life cycle: childhood, youth, marriage and death.
This period was one of great upheaval in the region, brought about by the Church's response to the perceived threat of heresy, and the book also explores the effects of the Albigensian Crusaders and the inquisitors who followed in their wake. It draws on a large range of evidence, including civic and ecclesiastical legislation, contemporary literature and chronicle, and broader scholarship on the region, but its principal sources are the records of inquisitorial tribunals that operated between 1190 and 1330: transcripts of interview and sentencing which represent the closest thing that exists to an oral history of the period. The author teases out the vibrant detail with which these archives document people's lives, developing and illustrating his argument through the recounting of their stories.

Chris Sparks gained his doctorate from the University of York; he now works at Queen Mary University of London.

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April 2014
186 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages
ISBN: 9781903153529
Format: Hardback
York Medieval Press
BISAC REL033000, HIS037010, HIS013000
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This reviewer heartily agrees with Sparks's call to discard the artificial divide, perpetuated by modern historians, between "sacred and profane, religious and secular," as well as between "good men" and "believers," in favor of a more modulated and contextualized consideration of religion as lived, practiced, and believed in an individual, familial, and social context. SPECULUM

[P]resents convincing insights into the known facts about the Cathar heresy in southern France's Languedoc region. JOURNAL OF RELIGION

Sparks' bottom-up history unearths the Cathar beliefs and practices that rhythmed the everyday life of men and women in Languedoc from their birth to their death, and in doing so, exposes the complex social networks that sustained the Cathar faith and its leaders. CONFRATERNITAS

[A]n excellent, original book on a much discussed but still important topic of the European Middle Ages. As it covers most of the inquisitorial records of the Languedoc prior till 1320s it is also a compulsory reading and reference for those studying heresy and inquisition of the southern France-and wholeheartedly recommended to anyone interested in religion, laity, and life cycle in the Middle Ages. COMITATUS

Sparks' book provides a valuable survey of religious practice in the Languedoc, clearly demonstrating the impact that crusade and inquisition had on religious life and illustrating religious life in the Languedoc in all its messy complexity. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

This is a well-researched and nicely written book which collates a wealth of detail to offer a fresh perspective on the social and religious history of thirteenth and fourteenth-century France. In a historiography recently marked by debates over definition, and more recently ethics, Chris Sparks offers a diplomatic and cordial intervention. H-FRANCE

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