Publication details

Forming Identity and Legitimizing Leadership: Why the 12th-13th Century Narratives about the History of Cathar Groups are Not Pure Polemical Fantasy

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Year of publication 2013
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Several texts from the 12th and 13th centuries (Ebervin of Steinfeld's letter to St. Bernard, 1143/1147; De heresi catharorum, 1190/1215; Charter of Niquinta, 1220s?; Tractatus de hereticis, 1250/1280) depict the beginnings of various dissident groups labeled Cathar by some modern scholars. These narratives have been studied mostly as either historical facts or polemical fictions. In this paper, I try to refine this sharp division. In the light of current discussions on the "invention of heresy", and in line with Peter Biller's article "Goodbye to Waldensianism?" (Past and Present, 192, 2006, 3-33), I argue that there are good reasons not to consider these narratives mono-vocal polemical fables, as Jean-Louis Biget has claimed following (and slightly simplifying) Gabriele Zanella's thoughts, but a poly-vocal narrative trying to make sense of Cathar groups also using their own narratives. This view deliberately counters the current deconstructionist trend, eye-opening in many ways but ideological when transformed into a dogma sweeping away what interpretive historical work should continue to be, i.e. the patient and open-minded reading of sources.
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