Postcard from St Paulet, France

The e-postman has delivered this postcard from the Languedoc region of South France.

Mark and I are away with family at the moment staying in a house just outside the village of St Paulet in southern France. It is very rural with fields full of sunflowers being harvested.

 On a morning run we found the site of a fortress upon which now stands a monument to the Cathar people of that place who died at the hands of Simon de Montfort in the 13th century.

During the 12th and 13th centuries throughout the Languedoc a version of Christianity, Catharism, developed. The Cathars based their beliefs on their understanding of the New Testament and claimed to preach the true message of Christ to humanity. Catharism would not accept that the material world of suffering and misfortune could be the work of a benevolent God.

 The Catholic authorities undertook a huge military operation against the Cathar “heresy”. Pope Innocent III, launching the crusade also passed a canon law giving the heretics’ property to whoever wished to take it. This was a financial and political encouragement to a religious war.

Mark, Sophie and Paul standing beneath the statue of Our Lady which takes centre stage in the local village.

 20 years of these crusades did not manage to crush Catharism and so an Inquisition took place. It is said it would be wrong to think that the Inquisition forced all Cathar people into exile or conversion, many apparently found refuge in the large number of dissident movements which gave rise in the 16th century to the Reformation.

The monument is up at the top of a hill and from it in the distance you can see the Pyrenees, there is a stillness there and I felt so moved that hundreds of years later people made the effort to mark this place where so many were murdered for their beliefs. This for me is a ” thin place” and here I prayed for the Cathar people and all victims of religious persecution. 

Paul Pritchard

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
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