Post-classical history


Mistake me not, I count not War a Wrong:

War is the Trade of Kings, that fight for Empire;

And better be a Lyon than a Sheep.

John Dryden, King Arthur

If there was a moment when the war on heresy was formally declared, it was May 1163. A council of the church, meeting at Tours under the presidency of Pope Alexander III and the patronage of Henry II, king of England and duke of Aquitaine, declared that:

In the district of Toulouse a damnable heresy has recently arisen, which, like a cancer gradually diffusing itself over the neighbouring places, has already infected vast numbers throughout Gascony and other provinces, and hiding itself like a serpent in its own folds, undermines the vineyard of the Lord the more grievously as it spreads secretly among simple folk. Therefore we command the bishops, and all God’s priests resident in those parts, to be vigilant, and to prohibit everybody, under pain of anathema, from sheltering the known followers of this heresy in their lands or presuming to protect them. Nor must they have dealings with them either in selling or buying, so that being excluded from all social transactions they will be compelled to renounce the errors of their ways. Anybody who contravenes this injunction will be included under its curse as an accomplice of their crime. If they are discovered by catholic princes, they are to be taken into custody and forfeit all their goods. And since they frequently assemble from different places at one hiding place, and have no reason to live together except their agreement in error, let all such hiding places be diligently sought out, and when discovered, forbidden under canonical censure.1

This was the most comprehensive measure that had yet been formulated against heresy. Previously it had been enough to direct that those who openly and pertinaciously rejected specified teachings or sacraments of the church should, in the words of Lateran II, be ‘cast out of the church as heretics, and restrained by the civil power’. Now the Council of Reims (1148) was followed, and sharpened, its targets extended beyond the heretics themselves and their followers. Those who protect them (that is, their lords) or had dealings with them are to be treated as accomplices, and subject to the same penalties. The clergy are to be proactive. It is no longer enough to wait for heretics to reveal themselves by preaching or evangelism. They must be searched out in their meetings and meeting places. Their followers are to be identified by reputation (‘known’). Any overt expression or sharing of heterodox views, however discreet or within however restricted a circle, is now to be treated as a declaration of dissent from the teaching of the church. Catholic princes who discover heretics must arrest them and confiscate their goods. Failure to uncover them will be proof not of their absence but of incompetence or connivance on the part of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities.


The singling out of the area of Toulouse (in partibus Tolosae) as the epicentre of ‘this damnable heresy’ was an ominously specific amendment of the Reims canon’s reference to ‘Gascony and Provence’. There had been rumours and assertions of heresy in the area before, but most of them had arisen in the context of readily, or at least plausibly, identifiable conflicts of one kind or another. Since Bernard’s mission in 1145 the bishop of Agen, in the frontier region between Aquitaine and the partes Tolosae, had given a church to the monks of La Grande Sauve to help them restore the faith of the village of Gontaud, in what looks like a response to the conditions of which Bernard had complained. Around 1160 the bishop of Périgueux gave the heresy of its inhabitants as his reason for attacking the castle at Gavaudan, also in the Agenais. Like the welcome that had been accorded to Henry of Lausanne and Peter of Bruys in their time, these incidents tended to confirm what everybody knew already. Between the Rhône and the Dordogne lay a fragmented and unruly region in which neither secular nor ecclesiastical authority was easily asserted. This was also true of other mountainous regions that were not singled out in the same way. Here, however, the competing claims and constantly shifting rivalries of many lords, among whom the counts of Toulouse (of the family of St Gilles) and the vicomtes of Béziers (the Trencavels) had the greatest pretensions and were the most persistent in mutual hostility, offered a standing temptation to their neighbours in Aragon, Aquitaine, France and even the empire. The vulnerability of the region to such intervention increased throughout the twelfth century, and more rapidly from its mid-point, as in each of the neighbouring kingdoms and principalities internal order was gradually asserted and with it the wealth, military capacity and ambition of its ruler increased.


The circling vultures received a formidable addition in 1152, when Count Henry of Anjou, without the customary permission of his lord, King Louis VII of France, married Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine, eight weeks after Louis himself had divorced her. Along with his wife Henry took over from Louis her hereditary claim to the county of Toulouse. Two years later he became king of England. Once he had established control over his new kingdom, Henry was in a position to pursue his claim on Toulouse. He struck up an alliance with Count Raymond Berengar of Barcelona, who was already at war with Raymond V of Toulouse and in league with Raymond Trencavel of Béziers. In 1159 he raised the largest army of his thirty-five-year reign and set out to seize Toulouse.

King Louis could hardly refuse to acknowledge a claim that he had himself asserted when Eleanor was his wife, but neither could he afford to ditch Raymond V, to whom he had married his sister in 1154, or allow Henry, already lord of Normandy, Anjou and (through Eleanor) Aquitaine, and in those capacities Louis’s vassal, to add Toulouse to his dominions. He therefore took personal charge of the defence of the city, presenting Henry with the unpalatable alternatives of launching a direct attack on his lord – not an example he dared set his own vassals – or abandoning the expedition. Henry withdrew, accepting the thinnest of face-saving mediations, but he was not a graceful loser. The pursuit of revenge guided much of his policy for the rest of his reign and part of his son Richard’s, in what William of Newburgh called ‘the forty-year war against Toulouse’. One consequence of his vendetta is that almost everything we read of the development of heresy in the region of Toulouse over the next twenty years comes from English sources, and especially from the two great chronicles of Roger of Howden, who was not only a fine historian but a widely travelled and well-trusted courtier of King Henry, in whose service he participated in several diplomatic missions.

The council at Tours was intended to rally Pope Alexander’s supporters against Frederick Barbarossa, who in turn was pressing Louis VII to withdraw his protection and recognition from Alexander. In preparing for it, the pope was equally in need of the co-operation of Henry II, who shared neither Louis’s personal piety nor his respect for ecclesiastical authority. Nevertheless, Alexander was not disappointed. Tours was Henry’s favourite city. He took an active interest in the preparation of the council, encouraging the bishops of all his lordships to be there, in marked contrast to his predecessor Stephen, who had forbidden English bishops to attend the Council of Reims in 1148. It is hardly fanciful to suspect his influence behind the pointed shaping of the canon against heresy to make it refer obviously and directly, though not quite explictly, to the count of Toulouse. Henry’s forebears had been well aware for the past century and a half, at least, how effectively a ruler could be undermined by the accusation of giving shelter to heresy, and how difficult it would be for a Capetian king whose own legitimacy was heavily dependent on his status as a defender of the faith to extend his protection to any of his vassals so accused.


Count Raymond could not afford to ignore, or be seen to ignore, the council’s decree. That would have exposed him to its provisions against those who sheltered heretics. Instead he tried, as Alphonse Jordan had done in 1145, to turn it to his advantage against his most dangerous local rivals, the Trencavels. In 1165 a meeting was held in their territory, at the fortified village of Lombers, between Albi and Castres. It was attended by all the great magnates of the region, secular and ecclesiastical, including the countess of Toulouse, the vicomtes of Béziers (Roger Trencavel) and of Lavaur, the archbishop of Narbonne, the bishops of Albi, Nîmes, Toulouse and Agde, several abbots and numerous other secular and ecclesiastical dignitaries. The record of the meeting is described as ‘a final judgement pronounced upon the arguments, disputes and attacks on the catholic faith’ which were pressed by ‘certain men who caused themselves to be known as boni homines (good men), and who were supported by the men of Lombers’. At the conclusion of the meeting the bishop of Albi pronounced his verdict: the boni homines were heretics, and the lords of Lombers must give them no further support on pain of forfeiting the fines that they had deposited in the bishop’s hands. His verdict was endorsed in turn by all the other grandees present, both laymen and clergy.2

Meetings such as this were normal in the region, but this is the only one of its kind known to have dealt with a heresy accusation. It was an arbitration, in which the case was laid before judges, or arbitrators, chosen by both sides in the dispute and mutually acceptable. It therefore reflects the absence of centralised power to investigate the business in question and compel the parties to accept the decision. This is not to be shrugged off as ‘anarchy’, still less as ‘disorder’. It shows that developments in the centralisation of ecclesiastical authority that had been going on in much of western Europe – among which the exclusion of laymen from ecclesiastical courts was an important element – had not taken hold here. Neither had the parallel and more or less contemporaneous centralisation of secular justice, today seen as a crucial stage in state formation, and in the later twelfth century most visible in the English and French monarchies but also to varying degrees in many other lordships, especially in northern Europe. There was nothing inevitable about this development, but its absence tempts modern observers to echo uncritically the contemporary characterisation of the lands to the south of the Loire as backward and unruly which was used to justify their conquest and occupation. The truth is more simply that the region maintained a political and institutional regime of a kind that had quite recently been much more widely familiar – and which lent itself much less easily to the persecution of heresy.

The meeting was presided over by the bishop of Albi, who delivered his verdict ‘after judges had been chosen and presented by each side’. Participation and attendance were voluntary – the boni homines came under safe conduct, and, they said, with the bishop’s promise that they would not be required to swear any oath. The bishop denied this, but he would hardly have been content with their voluntary attendance, on their own terms, if he had had the means to compel it. Although the participation of the boni homineswas no doubt secured by political pressure on their patrons, it remained essentially voluntary, a fact that lends a degree of credibility to what they said. They were questioned by Bishop Goslin of Lodève on a series of points designed to test their adherence to catholic teaching and discipline, from which it emerged that they did not accept the Old Testament as authoritative – only the gospels, the letters of Paul, the seven canonical epistles, the Acts and the Apocalypse; they would expound their faith only under compulsion; they were not prepared to discuss the necessity of infant baptism but would discuss the gospels and the epistles. On being asked where and by whom the body and blood of Christ should be consecrated and received, and if it mattered whether it was administered by a good or a bad man, they replied that ‘whoever takes it worthily is saved, if unworthily damned’ and that it might be consecrated by any worthy man, clerk or layman. To the question whether salvation was possible for the married they answered that ‘men and women are joined because of lust and fornication, as Paul said.’ They were questioned at length on penance and repentance – does repentance secure salvation, and in what circumstances? Is it enough to be contrite and confess? To whom should confession be made? Their reply: ‘James says only “Confess your sins to one another”, and confess to be saved. They did not wish to comment further.’ Finally, ‘they also said a good deal that they were not asked about’, especially on the prohibition of oaths by Christ and James, and quoted Paul on what kind of men should be ordained priest, and against wealth and ostentation in priests and bishops.

These responses were evasive and not unskilful. On confession, for instance, the boni homines knew just how far they could go in criticising current practice without committing themselves to a heresy. This is one of several points at which they questioned the authority for the bishops’ position, when they said that the gospels required only that sins should be confessed, not that confession should be followed by penance in the form of spiritual exercises and material gifts, as the church now demanded. Their position on the eucharist was one that had been definitively abandoned by the church only in the past twenty or thirty years. It looks as though they were willing formally to co-operate with the process but knew quite well that some of their views would be condemned if fully stated, and avoided giving that opportunity. In that case they were, in the church’s eyes, heretics, not simple believers who had got it wrong. But it does not follow that they would not have claimed for their faith the authority of traditional belief and practice, as opposed to the teachings of the bishops. Everything they said is of a piece with what had been preached by Henry of Lausanne and by Peter of Bruys. It had been cordially received because it was consistent with customary belief and practice in the region at the time, and indeed quite recently in many parts of Europe. Much of the interrogation hinged on points at which the church was innovating – especially here, where ‘reform’ had come, or was coming, very recently. When Bishop Goslin denounced them as heretics, theboni homines replied that ‘it was not they who were heretical but the bishop who had pronounced judgment upon them’, that he was ‘a ravening wolf, a hypocrite and a foe of God, and his judgement was dishonest’. They then turned to the assembled people and made a confession of faith that was wholly orthodox in respect of the trinity, the incarnation, baptism, confession, penance, marriage and the eucharist. But they refused to affirm this confession by oath as Goslin demanded (which confirms that its content was satisfactory), ‘because that would be contrary to the gospels and the epistles’ and their condemnation was pronounced, and approved by all the ecclesiastical and secular authorities present.


Thirteen years later, in 1178, Pope Alexander dispatched a mission to Toulouse, headed by his legate, Cardinal Peter of St Chrysogonus, and the abbot of Clairvaux, Henri de Marci. It was staffed by a strong contingent of experienced diplomats and administrators drawn largely from the court of Henry II, headed by Bishops Reginald Fitzjocelin of Bath and John ‘of the Beautiful Hands’ of Poitiers. Their military escort was led by Raymond of Toulouse and included the vicomte of Turenne, a vassal of Henry II and a powerful lord in the Limousin with a reputation for ferocity.

Henry and Louis VII were now acting in unison, if not exactly in harmony. Raymond of Toulouse had appealed to them, as his lords, to intervene, using the claim that heresy was rampant, to secure leverage against two rivals now threatening his position with renewed vigour. The city of Toulouse, which for much of the twelfth century had been asserting its independence of the count step by step, seeking to control its own revenues, its tolls and taxes, its administration and justice, had in 1176 taken the unprecedented step of electing its governing council (the boni homines, good men, now for the first time called consuls) without comital approval. One of them, Peter Maurand, was to be the most conspicuous casualty of the events that followed. Raymond’s other rival, Roger Trencavel, vicomte of Béziers, was the most prominent of the lords being drawn into alliance with Alfonso of Aragon in furtherance of his designs on Provence. A letter from Count Raymond (of questionable authenticity, as we shall see) to the abbot of Cîteaux, in 1177, claimed that he needed help because ‘my powers are inadequate to the task, for the more noble of my land are consumed with this heresy and with them a vast multitude of men, so that I dare not, nor am I able to, confront them’.3

This was an old game. It had recently been tried by the archbishop of Narbonne, who in 1173, threatened by a short-lived alliance between Henry II and Raymond of Toulouse, appealed to King Louis VII, unsuccessfully, for armed assistance because ‘in our diocese the ship of St Peter is so broken with the oppression of heretics that it is in danger of sinking’.4 But it was a dangerous one, and this time the results were catastrophic. The methods used by the mission to establish the presence and nature of heresy in Toulouse foreshadowed those that the inquisitors would later make familiar. The legates reported to the Lateran Council in the following year that

the plague was so strong in the land that the heretics had not only their own bishops and priests, but their own evangelists as well, who twisted and ignored the truth of the gospels, and made new gospels for themselves, who seduced the people and preached to them new doctrines drawn from their own evil hearts.5

This dramatically affirmed the region’s reputation as a land dominated by uncontrollable heretics – the twelfth-century equivalent of a failed state. In doing so, it helped to shape new measures against heresy and a new conviction of its universal, underground presence, and set in train the events that led to the Albigensian Crusade, the establishment of the papal inquisition and the subjugation of the lands of the count of Toulouse to the French crown.

The expectations of the legates were confirmed by the predictable hostility that greeted their party in Toulouse. As Henri de Marci described it, ‘as we entered the city [in late July or early August 1178], they mocked us as we travelled through the streets, making signs with their fingers, and calling us imposters, hypocrites and heretics.’ The mission quickly gained purchase, however, through the inquisitio, a device of Roman law and familiar to several members of the party since it had been much used by Henry II in asserting his judicial authority in England over the past two decades. There witnesses were put on oath ‘whether there be in their hundred or vill any man accused or notoriously supect of being a robber or murderer or thief, or anyone who is a receiver of robbers or murders or thieves’.6 Now

At the instruction of the legate the bishop and certain of the clergy, the consuls of the city and some other faithful men who had not been touched by any rumour of heresy were made to promise to give us in writing the names of everyone they knew who had been or might in the future become members or accomplices of the heresy, and to leave out nobody at all, for love or money … After a few days a very large number of names entered this catalogue.

It must be doubtful whether they all did so simply on religious grounds. The chance to settle scores and undermine rivals is unlikely to have been missed in a community experiencing all the opportunities and all the stresses of rapid commercial growth, including rapidly rising land prices and diverging fortunes, as well as political conflict with Count Raymond.

From the names collected in this way Peter Maurand, ‘great even among the ten greatest men of the city’ – that is, the consuls – was singled out as the principal heretic, though a layman and uneducated, and summoned before the legates. Maurand was the head of a leading family of the burgh, the settlement that had grown around the church of St Sernin outside the old city: the two had become effectively united only in recent decades. His wealth had been greatly enhanced, if not originally created, by speculation in land and rents and by moneylending, in part at the expense of the older noble families of the old city, who would have been closer to the count, their incomes more dependent on stagnating customary dues from the countryside.

‘Trusting in his riches and his relations Maurand refused the first summons, making a haughty and false excuse for delay’, but under pressure from the count and others, ‘using threats as well as arguments’, he eventually appeared. He denied the accusation of heresy but was reluctant to swear to his denial – thus exposing himself to what would become a classic dilemma, for in the eyes of his accusers ‘such a refusal would be characteristic of that heresy’. Accordingly,

the relics of the saints were soon respectfully brought in and received with such solemn reverence and devotion that the faithful were moved to tears … During the chant which we sang with copious tears to invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit, manifest fear and paleness overcame Peter, and colour of face and courage of mind alike forsook him. When the Holy Ghost approached how could any spirit remain among its enemies? You could see him shaken as though by some paralytic disease, and deprived of speech and sense, though everyone said that he was so eloquent that he usually overcame all others in argument.

Maurand broke down and swore on oath that he would answer the legates truthfully about his beliefs. ‘Then an extraordinary thing happened, which gave great pleasure to the pious who were present’, says Henri de Marci. The bible on which Maurand had sworn was opened at random, and a text turned up which could be read as a denunciation of heretics. It was indeed extraordinary, since in other circumstances the practice of divination in this way was routinely denounced as improper and superstitious, but it pleased the crowd and racked up the pressure on Maurand, who broke down and confessed ‘that he held, by a new doctrine, that the holy bread of eternal life consecrated by a priest in the word of the Lord does not become the body of the Lord’.

The business was completed next day when Maurand, having negotiated through mediators the terms of his surrender, appeared at the church of St Sernin for sentence to be pronounced.

The crowd was so large and so dense that the legate could hardly celebrate the Mass without a crush. Before that enormous crowd Peter, now our man, was led naked and barefoot from the doorway of the church, being scourged by the bishop of Toulouse and the abbot of St Sernin until he prostrated himself at the feet of the lord legate on the steps of the altar. There, in face of the church, he abjured all heresy and pronounced a curse on all heretics and was reconciled with the sacraments of the church. All his possessions were confiscated and taken from him, and the penance was laid on him that he should depart as an exile from his native land within forty days, and spend three years at Jerusalem in the service of the poor. In the meantime he was to go round every church in Toulouse on each Lord’s day, naked and barefoot, with disciplinary scourges, to restore all the goods which he had taken from churches, to return all the interest which he had won by usury, to make amends for all the injuries that he had inflicted on the poor, and to rase to its foundations one of his castles which he had polluted with meetings of heretics.

The humiliation of Maurand served its immediate purpose, for ‘after he had been dealt with the lord legate sent for others to be examined, for a great number were known to him either through public suspicion or private accusation.’ It is not known whether Maurand carried out his promised pilgrimage, but he does not seem to have been permanently damaged. Certainly his family was not: his sons and their descendants continued to prosper and remained prominent in the affairs of the city throughout the thirteenth century despite regular condemnations as heretics and the losses that followed from them. ‘Although there were undoubtedly difficulties,’ their historian remarks, ‘this family was anything but ruined’ and by the end of the thirteenth century ‘had successfully weathered the storm’.7 Nor was the city’s growing independence checked. By 1202–5 the powers of the consuls had developed to the point where they could launch a series of local wars to assert its control over the surrounding countryside, in the manner of its Italian counterparts.

Having dealt with Toulouse, the mission turned its attention to the Trencavels. The bishop of Albi had been imprisoned by Roger of Béziers, probably over a dispute about the temporal revenues of his see. Henri de Marci, now returning to Cîteaux, accompanied a detachment led by Reginald of Bath and the vicomte of Turenne into Roger’s territory, which he saw, much as Bernard of Clairvaux had done before him, as ‘a damnable region which is like a cess-pit of evil, with all the scum of heresy flowing into it’. Roger retired to one of his more remote strongholds, but the party found his wife and a number of his followers at Castres. In spite of Henry’s forebodings, ‘although we were there in their lands, in their power since we were surrounded by heretics on every side, the word of the Lord which we showered on them in continual rebuke and exhortation was not obstructed’. The bishop was released, and on behalf of the legate and the kings of France and England Roger was excommunicated as ‘a traitor, a perjurer and a heretic, for having violated the peace and the personal safety of the bishop’. Thus the Trencavels were identified as the patrons par excellence of heresy, a reputation from which they would never recover, and their lands were exposed to the ambition of their enemies. As Henri put it, ‘A fine door is open to Christian princes to avenge the wounds of Christ.’


On its way to Albi, Henri’s party was approached by two men, Raymond de Baimac and Bernard Raymond, who said that they had been unjustly treated by Raymond of Toulouse and asked to be allowed to come under safe conduct to the city – from which, we must infer, they had been expelled as heretics – to defend their faith. It was agreed that they should do so and, whatever the outcome, would be allowed to return safely to their homes. The examination, presided over by Peter of St Chrysogonus, took place in the cathedral church of St Etienne, before the count of Toulouse and about three hundred other clerks and laymen. The two men had prepared a written statement, which they read aloud. It denied the usual charges, affirming their acceptance of the eucharist and the capacity of priests to confer it irrespective of their personal conduct, of baptism, marriage and the legitimacy of sex within marriage. It acknowledged that priests and the cult of the saints should be treated with respect, that tithes and first fruits should be paid and alms given to the church and the poor. In a handsomely comprehensive abjuration of anticlericalism that says a good deal about the state of opinion in the region Raymond and Bernard also ‘agreed that archbishops, bishops, priests, monks, canons, hermits, Templars, and Hospitallers can be saved’. The new element in their statement, with which it opened, was that ‘They said that there were not two principles, and confessed clearly and firmly, in public before us and the others we have mentioned, that one supreme God created everything, both visible and invisible, and that this was proved by the scriptures, the evangelists and the apostles.’

After the two men were questioned, with no result that Peter thought worth recording, the party adjourned to the nearby church of St Jacques, where ‘an enormous crowd of people gathered, behaving as though they expected some great spectacle.’ The two again read out their statement and affirmed ‘in the hearing of all the people, that they believed in their hearts what they said with their lips, and had never preached anything against it’.

At this the count of Toulouse and many other clerks and laymen immediately convicted them as manifest liars. Some of those present steadfastly maintained that they had heard from some of the heretics that there are two gods, one good and one evil: the good god had created everything invisible and everything that could not be changed or corrupted, while the evil one created the sky, the earth, man, and other visible things. Others said that they had heard them preach that the body of Christ could not be conferred through the ministry of priests who were unworthy or guilty of any crime. Many testified that they had heard them deny that a man and his wife could be saved if they slept together. Others firmly said to their face that they had heard from them that the baptism of children is ineffectual, and heard them proclaim other blasphemies against God, the church and the catholic faith so appalling that we would prefer not to specify them.

The result was inevitable. ‘Before the people, who applauded continually, and booed them vigorously, we lit candles, and with the bishop of Poitiers and the other clerics who had assisted us throughout declared them excommunicate, both them and their master the devil.’


‘That there are two gods, one good and one evil: the good god had created everything invisible and everything that could not be changed or corrupted, while the evil one created the sky, the earth, man, and other visible things’ is an unmistakable and unambiguous statement of theological dualism, the clearest and most uncompromising that we have yet encountered. Peter of St Chrysogonus and Henri de Marci were confident that they had amply confirmed the presence of a flourishing, well-entrenched and well-organised dualist heresy in what the council of Tours had called the partes Tolosae, that Peter Maurand, Raymond de Baimac and Bernard Raymond were among its leaders, and that it was gaining ground at an alarming pace. ‘It was the general opinion in the city of Toulouse’, concluded Henri, ‘that if our visit had been three years later we would hardly have found anyone there who would call upon the name of Christ.’

This assessment played a large part in shaping the decisions of the Third Lateran Council in the following year (1179), and has been accepted effectively without question ever since. That acceptance, however, has owed a great deal to hindsight. The conviction that such a heresy existed, that it was well established and that its secret dissemination lay behind the most radical expressions of religious dissent, especially in the lands of the count of Toulouse, gained ground very rapidly after the Third Lateran Council. Yet the foundations on which it rested, and still rests, remain fragile. They must be carefully tested against the strictly contemporary evidence, not least because once the stereotype of a sinister, diabolically inspired underground movement had taken hold it distracted attention, then and now, from alternative sources of the dissent that it purported to account for.

There had been no trace of theological dualism in the answers of the boni homines at Lombers or, more importantly, in the questions put to them. Only the question about marriage could be thought even to hint at it, but the elevation of celibacy was probably the commonest single point of agreement in all ascetic and spiritual traditions. There was nothing about the eating of meat, an obvious traditional test of the ‘Manichee’, as with those who had been hanged at Goslar in 1052 for refusing to kill a chicken. They were not asked about Christ’s assumption of human flesh, denial of which had been described by Eckbert of Schönau as a key ‘Cathar’ belief. This was a point of much contemporary interest because of the centrality of the eucharist to current catholic theological and pastoral preoccupations. The publicani examined at Oxford in the same year (1165) had been asked about it, and answered correctly. The question about the eucharist at Lombers, confined to the manner of its administration and the quality of the minister, seems to assume that the boni homines would not deny the incarnation of Christ per se. In short, there was nothing on that occasion to suggest that this interrogation was designed to detect or expose theological dualism, and there were surprising omissions if theological dualism was suspected. The boni homines echoed what had been preached a generation earlier by Henry and Peter of Bruys, a pre-Gregorian Christianity characterised by intense local loyalties, by resentment of the increased social distance between clergy and people that came with reform, of the growing demands for both money and deference as rural parishes began to be organised, for priests to be appointed and tithes collected from the laymen who had previously appropriated them, and for the services and disciplines of the church, including the regular administration of the sacraments, to be enforced.

Raymond V’s letter of 1177 to the abbot of Cîteaux, as we have it from the English monk Gervase of Canterbury writing about ten years later, says that the heretics in Toulouse ‘speak of two principles’. If the letter was authentic and unedited, however, it is surprising that neither the letter itself nor this point in it was mentioned by Roger of Howden, our fullest and best-informed source on these events, who was directly involved in the preparation of the mission of 1178 and may have accompanied it.

The assumption that dualist heresy was widespread in the region by this time, and that it had originated in the Balkans, was buttressed in the second half of the twentieth century by the conclusion of a distinguished scholar, ably reinforced by another, that despite many internal inconsistencies a document dating from the 1220s, at the earliest, contained an authentic account of a ‘council’ held by the heretics at St Félix de Caraman (now St Félix de Lauragais), 20 kilometres south-east of Toulouse, ostensibly in 1167. It describes how, under the direction of an emissary from Constantinople, they appointed bishops – including the Bernard Raymond who was excommunicated in 1178 – to lead their followers in dioceses coterminous with the catholic ones. Since the document in question is, at best, a product of the years after the Albigensian Crusade, when the religious history of the region was largely rewritten, or at any rate re-imagined, by the heretics as well as by their persecutors, it will be considered and its testimony evaluated at the appropriate point below (see p. 289).

The reports of Henri de Marci and Peter of St Chrysogonus assume, although they do not say, that Peter Maurand’s heresy was the same as that of Raymond de Baimac and Bernard Raymond. The most serious heresy of which Maurand was convicted was denial of the eucharist, and that is what the oath he took (which has been discovered and identified) required him to abjure. If the legate did not require Maurand to abjure belief in two principles, it was because he saw no reason to. Conversely, that Raymond and Bernard found it necessary to deny it suggests that they were conscious of the accusation. Yet in describing how the indignant witnesses who had heard them preach ‘convicted them as manifest liars’, Peter of St Chrysogonus made a clear though unobtrusive distinction between the general assertion, that ‘some of those present steadfastly maintained that they had heard from some of the heretics that there are two gods’ (my emphasis) and what was specifically testified against Raymond and Bernard themselves, namely:

Others said that they had heard them preach that the body of Christ could not be conferred through the ministry of priests who were unworthy or guilty of any crime. Many testified that they had heard them deny that a man and his wife could be saved if they slept together. Others firmly said to their face that they had heard from them that the baptism of children is ineffectual.

While it may be the case that the doctrine of the two principles had been preached or professed in Toulouse, none of those examined in 1178 was directly accused or convicted of doing either. We certainly cannot exclude the possibility that the spectre, by now regularly deployed as target practice in the classrooms of Paris, had been raised by the legate’s party itself. As at Lombers, the propositions actually attributed to particular people were the ones most commonly advanced by all those accused of heresy in Latin Europe for the previous 150 years, with emphasis on the points that had become increasingly prominent and controversial with recent theological and pastoral developments – extreme personal abstinence, the eucharist, infant baptism, the role and purity of the clergy, the penitential system and the building and maintenance of churches.


Henri de Marci remarked in passing that the heretics in Toulouse ‘had not only their bishops and priests, but their own evangelists as well’. Neither legate refers to such organisation again, but it does appear that there had been a crystallisation of religious leadership since 1145. Nothing suggests that it came from outside the communities themselves. The fact that the spokesmen at Lombers are described as boni homines (bons oms, good men) has encouraged speculation that they already belonged to what became known in the region as ‘the heresy of the good men’, the ostensible objective of the Albigensian Crusade which was investigated by the inquisitors of the 1230s and ’40s. But the phrase was used of a great many others. When King Henry II fell ill in 1170 and believed that he was about to die, he demanded to be carried to the priory of Grandmont, in the Limousin, and buried at the feet of its founder, Stephen of Muret, because his sins were too lurid to be offset by the prayers of any guardians less holy than the boni homines of Grandmont. The writer who quotes Henry several times as referring in this way to these famous catholic monks is Roger of Howden, within a few pages of his careful summary of the meeting at Lombers and of his account of the papal mission to Toulouse in 1178. The phrasebonus homo (and correspondingly, if much less often, bona mulier or bona femina, good woman) crops up throughout the middle ages, and in many contexts. In the towns of our period, including Toulouse, it was a common synonym for consul – that is, the (often twelve) people chosen each year to oversee the government of the city – and for phrases like legalis homo, signifying a man in good legal standing, whose evidence would carry weight and who might be entrusted with civic responsibilities. Similar usages go back to the ninth century at least. During the eleventh century, in the villages of the south, the phrase lost its specific association with lordship and the conduct of legal business. It reappeared precisely in the period we are concerned with as a general honorific, which came to be used of almost anybody who was acting or being referred to in his capacity as a member of a group, including the village community itself. This does not mean that the boni homines constituted some sort of settled village elite. On the contrary, the phrase might refer to different people in different contexts, of varying degrees of formality. Its use of the spokesmen at Lombers tells us nothing whatever about them, though the confidence with which they stood up to the bishops may suggest that they were of some standing in their own communities.

The position in the city of Toulouse was rather different. As a consul, Peter Maurand was indeed a bonus homo in the most formal sense, and as a man of wealth and head of a leading bourgeois family he must have carried great weight in any group to which he belonged. It is too obvious that he was singled out for political reasons for any inference about his religious role, if he had one, to be justifiable. Nor is it certain that his beliefs were the same as those of Raymond de Baimac and Bernard Raymond. He was convicted of denying the real presence in the eucharist (that the consecrated bread became the body of Christ) altogether, they of holding that it would not be so in the hands of unworthy ministers. The distinction may seem a fine one to many modern readers, but it was not to twelfth-century catholics, and we may not assume that the legates overlooked it. It was quite as important, for example, as that between denying matrimony altogether and permitting it only between virgins which Eberwin of Steinfeld described between quarrelling sects in Cologne.

Raymond de Baimac and Bernard Raymond themselves were described by Peter of St Chrysogonus as falsi fratres (false brothers), implying that they were or had been members of a religious order – perhaps canons of St Sernin, which had been regularly involved in disputes with the count, and with other factions in the city. Anywhere else in Europe they would be described as enthusiastic reformers who had overstepped the mark, either politically or theologically. There is no reason to take a different view here, and no reason to doubt the judgement of the appalled Henri de Marci that ‘heretics ruled the people and lorded it over the clergy’ – that is, that religious affiliation was various and religious debate vigorous and open. Certainly the bishop lacked the power, if he had the inclination, to prevent it. It was in that, and in the venom with which accusations of heresy were exchanged among its bitterly competing factions and levelled against it by the predatory neighbours who meant to profit from those divisions, rather than in the ‘heresy’ itself, that the partes Tolosae differed from the more developed and more closely governed territories around them.

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