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This review is from: The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246 (Paperback)
The Albegensian Crusade. which was launched in 1209 and raged off and on for some twenty years, left more than a blood-soaked land behind it. The equivalent of today's terrorists, the real or imagined heretics, continued to be rooted out, culminating in the Great Inquisition of 1245-1246 when 5471 villagers in the Lauragais region south-east of Toulouse were called before the inquisitors. Mark Gregory Pegg peers into this remote past through a lens he well knows and well describes as foggy and fractured. The evidence for what happened at those "trials" is contained in 254 folios which are themselves fragments and a fifth of the register of testimonies. To make matters worse, these are not the originals, but copies of what may themselves have been copies of scribal abstracts, written in Medieval Latin, of the original testimony made in Occitan. With that caveat, Pegg still manages to evoke much of the terror spread through the region by these inquisitors. "Bon hommes" and "Bonne femmes" (designations of the local heretics) are not really the object of the investigations, but instead it's anyone who may have had the least contact with these creatures. Contact can mean anything, ranging from nodding to one of them in passing, to going to them for a cure from some illness. The questions are formulaic. The accused (and all are accused) struggle to give the answers they think their interrogators want. Some are called back over and over again. The end result are 209 punishments noted in these pages, just a fraction of what may have been listed in the original register, and they range, from wearing two yellow crosses to single out the minor offenders, to life in prison for the major ones. Burning at the stake is left for later tribunals. In sum, this is an intriguing portrait of a day and place where an all-powerful authority wreaked havoc with the lives of ordinary individuals. The end notes are voluminous, as is the bibliography, amounting to half of the volume. They do lend authenticity to what is obviously a carefully researched work, though one with limited translation of much of the Latin and Provençal included here.