-‘We have relatives among them and we see them living lives of perfection.’
They were known as ‘The Pure’ (the translation of the Greek ‘katharoi’ or Cathars), the followers of this Christian movement inspired by gnostic thought that arose in southern France and Northern Italy in the late Middle Ages. Persecuted by the Catholic Church, they were finally defeated by the Church in the middle of the 13th century, though the Cathars had won the sympathy of the population. In fact, when exhorted to join in the persecution of the Cathars, a member of a Catholic military order answered: ‘We cannot. We have been reared in their midst. We have relatives among them and we see them living lives of perfection.’ The legacy of the Cathars continues to inspire to this day and has even led to the rise of a neo-Cathar movement in the south of France.