|Doctrines|| ||The term "Cathars"
derives from the Greek word Katheroi and means "Pure Ones". The Cathars
professed a theological dualism in which two coequal divine principles,
one good and one evil, struggled against each other from eternity. They
believed all matter to be evil because it was created by Satan, the
principle of evil. The soul, which has its origins in the realm of the
good God, is trapped within the material body.|
In order to liberate the soul, and thereby to achieve salvation, it was necessary to undergo a ceremony known as the consolamentum. After a probationary year of fasting and instruction the believer would be baptised by those who had already received the consolamentum. S/he would then make a vow to be celibate, not to own property, not to go to war and not to eat any food that that resulted from coition. Having received baptism the believer would acquire the title of "Perfect" and be allowed to recite the Lord's Prayer. Those who died without receiving the consolamentum would be reincarnated, only attaining salvation when their soul was purified of all material elements.
Such doctrines necessitated the reinterpretation of the Bible. Much of the Old Testament was viewed with suspicion or even discarded. The doctrine of the incarnation was rejected. Instead Jesus was regarded as an angel whose sufferings and death were only apparent.
|History|| ||The origins of the Cathar
movement lie in the missionary work of the Bogomils, a dualistic sect that
emerged in south eastern Europe in the 11th century. During the 12th
century the doctrines of the Bogomils were brought to western Europe by
missionaries and soldiers returning from the second crusade (1147-49). In
about 1150 the first Cathar bishopric was established in France. A few
years later two more bishoprics were set up in the regions of Albi and
Lombardy. By the end of the 12th century the Cathars had eleven
bishoprics - five in France and six in Italy.|
Such was the perceived threat posed by Cathar doctrine to the mainstream church that in 1209 Pope Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against the Cathars. There followed twenty years of ruinous warfare, during which cities and provinces throughout the south of France were devastated. In one of the worst episodes of the war almost the entire population of Toulouse, both Cathar and Catholic, were massacred. Resistance continued until 1243 when the Cathar fortress of Montsegur in the Pyrenees was captured and destroyed. Those who refused to renounce their beliefs were often tortured or put to death by fire. In spite of continued persecution the Cathar movement continued through the 14th century, only disappearing in the 15th century.
|Symbols|| ||The belief that all matter
was evil discouraged the Cathars from using symbols, including the
sacramental bread and wine and baptism by water. However, certain
ritualistic actions could be interpreted as of symbolic significance.
During the consolamentum the candidates were baptised by the laying on of
hands, signifying the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Perfect were
distinguished from other Cathars by the black clothes they wore.|
|Adherents|| ||No contemporary
movement had no headquarters. It was dominant in the regions surrounding
Toulouse in the south of France.|