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Massacre at Montsegur: A History of the Albigensian Crusade Paperback – August 28, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

About the Author

Zoe Oldenbourg was born in St Petersburg in 1916 and was educated at the Lycee Moliere and the Sorbonne in Paris. The author of a number of outstanding historical novels, including The World is Not Enough and The Cornerstone, which won the Prix Femina in 1953, her historical works include Catherine of Russia and Massacre at Montsegur.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (August 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842124285
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842124284
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on May 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
MASSACRE AT MONTSEGUR is a history of the church of Rome's persecution of `heretics' in Languedoc from early (1208) to mid (1244) 13th Century. First published in 1959 Oldenbourg's book remains current, and it is both scholarly and extremely readable. If you are new to the subject, MM is a good place to begin reading about the religious persecution carried out by the church of Rome against the Cathars and other "heretics" in Languedoc during the Middle Ages.
At the time of these persecutions, the church of Rome appears to have been Machiavellian to the core (do unto others before they do unto you whether those others be `heretical' Christian sects or other religions), militaristic, and absorbed by the acquisition of material goods. Oldenbourg does not discuss how Christianity evolved from a religion based on faith and love to one dominated by the seven deadly sins, but he suggests the introduction of the Dominican Inquisition, first carried out by the church of Rome against the people of Languedoc, forever altered the religion. The Inquisition used torture and murder as a means to an end, and is probably the first historical instance of police-state terrorism.
According to Oldenbourg, in the 13th Century, the Cathars appear to have been more Christ-like than many members of the church of Rome -- else why would so many have been attracted to their point of view. Although Oldenbourg's sympathies appear to have been with the Cathars, he makes a superb effort to understand the motivation and actions of the church of Rome which persecuted the Cathars until they no longer existed. I believe his writing is fair and impartial, no small task as the vast majority of the extant records on this subject come from the archives of the church of Rome.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this due to a broader interest in the period and theme it addresses: heresy, circa 1207-1244 AD, in southern France. The primary sources for the period seem to be somewhat limited and one-sided, history being written by the winners, etc., resulting in a less than fluid presentation, which starts off with considerable verve and enthusiasm, but somehow plods rather methodically toward the end. This is probably an easier period for a theologian to tackle than someone attempting to maintain historical credentials. The author initially takes a very supportive attitude toward the Albigensians - the Cathari - but of course they get wiped out in the end, more or less, so from a purely structural point of view, it is a difficult narrative position to sustain, and does not lead up to any sort of philosophical summation as to how this era of heresy emerged, what followed it, or what it meant in the larger history of western Europe. The book has an extensive collection of references to people and families, which would have been better presented in an appendix. I spent half my reading time studying maps, attempting to assemble a geographic continuity for the text - with mixed results. I suggest two French road maps for accompaniment, one at 1:1,000,000 and one at 1:600,000. The fortress of Montsegur would have benefitted from a scaled floor plan to accompany the speculations concerning its architecture. In general, I think the anti-Roman-Catholic theme which which the book starts could have been sustained throughout, and would have lent greater unity to the book. I read the entire book, and was informed by doing so, but I think a more consistent development of thematic material would have yielded a better and more emphatic book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well written and researched book which combines history with narrative. Although sources of the period are limited the author has approached the events of the Albegesian Crusade methodically and logically. Explaining the Cathar faith as well as the regional and national political influences and there variance with the Church of Rome add intrigue and bring to life the tightrope that the Counts of Toulose had to walk. Simon de Montforts role, activities and demise are well documented as is the role of he Dominicans, and their stubborn and dogmatic experience as Inquisitors. Finally the brutality towards, the stoicism of and the ultimate tradgedy and futile struggle of the Cathar faith against a seemingly omnipotent Roman Church illustrates all the personal attributes the make a good story. It's all here, from cowardice to heroism and from honesty to hypocrisy, that even today we see in the 3 Estates . A very good historical read and strongly recommended for those interested in the Crusades. The lack of maps would be my only criticism, but this could be easily remedied.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is more of a history of the Catholic Church than it is of the Albigensian Crusade and seems to have been told
more to embellish the Catholic Church rather than to elucidate the Cathar side of the evil done to the, so-called, Albigensians. I only
recommend this book if you are a devout Catholic who believes the Popes can do no wrong,
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Format: Paperback
This is the story of the last days of the Cathar religion, a gnostic sect wiped out in Europe in the Thirteenth Century. It is shocking to realize just how powerful and numerous the group was at its height. It is surprising the church did not crush the group sooner.

This is a much easier read than most books on the subject. The history is told more in the manner of a novel than an academic treatise. For that reason alone many will read through to the end who might otherwise quit early on.

I wish the author had gone into more detail about Cathar and Catholic belief. A comparison would have been fascinating. The book also ends rather abruptly after the seige of Montsegur. We are told that Catharism lived on, but also that it was soon eradicated. Just how it vanished from Europe could justify a last chapter.
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