Thursday, October 28, 2010


"Carcassonne." (Oct. 6th)  For me, this town has always been connected with persecution, brutal oppression, and the loss of so many lives, all for the cause of faith. In the early thirteenth century, Cathars took refuge behind its great walls, largely in vein, however, because the crusading army from the north lay siege to the city and claimed victory after only a few weeks.  Most students of history, or those interested in medieval or French history, are familiar with this story. Yet, what is also true about Carcassonne is that it continued to be a site of religious dissent in later years, and, consequently, remained a place of persecution.  Following the Albigensian Crusades, and after the town had been incorporated into the Kingdom of France, common lay people, popularly called "Beguins," both men and women who chose to live their lives humbly, in poverty, often practicing charity among the real poor, were likewise suspected in their faith, and many were burned in Carcassonne for the crime of "heretical depravity."  Mass burnings were often held during the Holy Week. The Beguins were followers of a branch of the Franciscan Order known as the "Spirituals", and many observed the "Third Rule of St. Francis". 
Front gates of Carcassonne

When Carcassonne was taken over by the crusading army from the north, the old Romanesque church within its walls was dismantled and rebuilt in the "Gothic" style - an architectural style that originated in the north (see right & below). Certainly, this reconstruction was intended to deliver a message to the people. However, only the apse was reconstructed because the northerners ran out of money! (Such interesting details come from Eric Crema guided tour of the church).  Usually, last wills and testaments  earmark pious legacies for such massive projects; in this way, the project can be sustained over many years. Clearly, in this case, the people did not contribute!
Church at Carcassonne

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