This session explores different international perspectives on the Cathars in contemporary sources.
At a time in history when heresy was punished by fire and sword, Hildegard believed that heresy should be exterminated with loving reproofs and logical discussions. Hildegard found reason to denounce the heretical group, the Cathars. The Cathars preached a heretical doctrine that was not only anti-clerical and anti-sacramental, but also anti-Christian and anti-social. Hildegard ascribed the success of the Cathars to lack of pastoral care, condemning the German clergy for their effeminate weakness in the combat. ‘Hildegard’s role in condemning the early Cathars is more than a footnote in their history.’
During the second half of the 12th century the Roman church witnessed an upsurge in religious dissent, and heresy increasingly became a major concern. It was not until the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) that the church formulated a coherent policy in dealing with the acute rise of heresy. And one group in particular, the Cathars, unleashed a crisis in the medieval church. It was during this tumultuous era that Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1178) emerged, a figure whose voice was both unparalleled and unprecedented. She was the only woman of her age who was accepted as an authoritative voice on Christian doctrine. Her letters to Pope Eugene III (1145-1153) called papal attention to the Cathar threat; the reaction ultimately led to the Albigensian crusade under Innocent III.
Alan of Lille has been described by Peter Godman as ‘the intellectual policeman of the 13th century’ (Peter Godman, Silent Masters: Latin Literature and its Censors in the High Middle Ages , (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000) p. 295). Certainly a reading of his very-late-in-life De fide Catholica, or Contra hereticos would support this notion. In it he tries to assemble a mass of counter arguments against the opinions of the ‘heretics’ (most often ‘Manichaeans’, but occasionally mentioning the Cathars (Book 1, by far the largest book), the Wildness (Book 2), the Jews (Book 3) and Islam (Book 4). An accessible text has been before scholars of heresy for a long time – in Migne’s Patrologia Latina vol. 210 – and small portions have been available to students, in English translation, in Wakefield and Evans’s fine source book Heresies of the High Middle Ages (pp. 214-20 and 712-14). An Australian team (Hilbert Chiu, John Scott, and myself) have completed a first draft version of an annotated and introduced translation of the Migne text and we would like to publish this somewhere. In the present paper I want to present some of our findings in regard to the key problems of the text: why did he write the De fide and for whom? Where did he write it? How does the text relate to the teaching of theology in the second half of the 12th century? How important is his text as a statement of the Christian ‘answers’ to Catharism, Waldensianism, Judaism, and Islam? Our introduction to the translation will also deal with other questions regarding our perplexing record of Alan’s life, namely: does the text support Godman’s notion (above), or is Alan rather to be grouped with the ‘integument masters’ of an earlier age (see Willemien Otten, From Paradise to Paradigm: A Study of 12th-Century Humanism, (Leiden: Brill, 2004)). Was Alan really the same person as Alan of Tewkesbury (Lettres Familières: Alain de Lille (?), édition et commentaire par Françoise Hudry ; préface de Pascale Bourgain. 2003)? Why is Alan not mentioned in the major lists of masters at Paris in the 12th century (by John of Salisbury, the author of the Metamorphosis Goliae and William of Tyre)? As one who lived and taught right through the so-called ’12th-century Renaissance’ (born Lille in Flanders c. 1116-17, died Cîteaux 1202) and who handled two of its major topics expertly (rhetoric and theology), Alan and his De fide deserve new attention.