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The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages Hardcover – 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
The book has the heft and feel of a television documentary. It provides a reasonably good, if shallow overview of the events that erupted into denunciation, crusade, massacre and burning from the mid-Twelfth to the early Fourteenth Century.
The book is consistently neutral in tone. It takes no sides, although there is a certain pervasive admiration for the behavior, if not for the theology of the Cathar Perfecti. Simon de Montfort, French father of the famous English Simon de Montfort, and an unmitigated villain of the first water, is mildly chided. No reader of whatever stripe is likely to be alienated by "The Cathars," save for those who simply cannot abide neutrality in anything.
The language of the book is as neutral as its content. Incidents of highest drama, such as the scandal at Verfeil, a village near Toulouse, in which the outraged and sputtering Saint Bernard was laughed out of town when he attempted to deliver a sermon against the Cathars, are treated in the flattest of tones, as is the famous siege and massacre at Montsegur.
The words of the book are as flattened as its tone. Names, wherever possible, are provided in their English forms: all Pierres, Pieros and Pedros, for example, become Peter. Latinisms are avoided if an English term can be twisted for service. This leads to the exasperating use of English Perfect as a stand-in for both Latin Perfectus and Perfecti.Read more ›
I have previously read about the Cathars, so was able to fill in some of the gaps in this book. Martin fails to present much depth in his writing of the theological nuances of the Cathars that make it a severe heresy of Christianity. I think he could have written more about their theology and why the Roman Catholic Church was so intent on wiping them out.
As Martin explains, the Cathars gained a sympathetic view then and now because of their asceticism and pietism. Their lifestyles and behavior exemplified many positive religious characteristics; however, their theology was heretical and misguided. Martin writes enough about it for readers to see where it differed from orthodox Christianity. I don't think theology is Martin's strong point, as he offers no value judgement on orthodox Christianity versus the heresies that sprouted.
Martin shows some of the political constructions of the middle ages that led to the ever-changing alliances between rulers and the Roman Catholic Church that determined the treatment of the Cathars in France. Here again Martin provides the basics but does not go into much depth about the relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and the leaders of France or from where the Inquisition got and sustained its power over people.Read more ›
As your introduction says: "Without lifting a sword, the Cathars posed a threat to Catholicism greater than the Muslims or Jews--or so the Church believed. " Yet, the Cathars posed no threat to the Catholic religion. They challenged the absurd claim of the Roman Catholic Church that it was -- and as the absurdity continues into our day is -- the "Only True Religion," while by every criteria of their shared "Christian" religion these "heretics" were far better men than the popes who ordered their murder.
I invite you to read this thin book, as an introduction to a visit to the community where I live -- the Languedoc, in the south west of France.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well researched and discusses the social and political perspectives which led to the Cathars competing strongly against the Roman Catholic Church.Published 3 days ago by Satisfied Customer
I had never heard of Cathars until I went to Southern France and saw their incredible castles. Very interesting look at their culture and religion. Read morePublished 6 days ago by G. Wittmann
Good history of the Cathars. Could have used a little less of Mr. Martin's Christain injections, but found it very enjoyable reading.Published 8 months ago by Calvin W. Wood
This is a definite history of the Cathars and as such was interesting for me. However, since I was looking more for an historical fiction I was a little disappointed that there... Read morePublished 10 months ago by A. Harper
Actually a very well done history book. Except that the author seems to have a rather a modernist liberal view of Christianity. So he seems to get what Christians believe wrong. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Michael A. Johnson
I visited the area where the Cathars were destroyed - the south of France, Albi, Bessiers, Toulouse. Read morePublished 18 months ago by AllanH
Outstanding introduction to a subject that has, for years, been buried. We should all read this book together and then take a second look at what is before us today.Published on May 9, 2013 by John M. Caldwell
The Cathars were a Christian manifestation who objected to the male authoritarian leadership of the church. Read morePublished on April 29, 2013 by Rev. David Price
The story of the Cathars and their suppression is interesting. However I have little knowledge on the subject. Read morePublished on April 14, 2013 by ThomasBagot