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The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy of the Middle Ages

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  182 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Without lifting a sword, the Cathars posed a threat to Catholicism greater than the Muslims or Jews—or so the Church believed. The Cathars believed that matter was essentially evil—especially the human body—and that the material world had to be transcended through a simple life of prayer, work, fasting, and nonviolence. Today, the mystique surrounding the Cathars is as str ...more
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published February 9th 2009 by Chartwell Books, Inc. (first published 2004)
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Sep 09, 2015 Kiwi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Catharism was the most popular heresy of the Middle Ages, such was its success that the Catholic Church and its apologists referred to it as the Great Heresy. It combined a tradition of itinerant preachers with a very ascetic quality of life. The Cathars rejected the entire structure of Roman Catholic Church. They stated they were the only true Christians and developed an alternative religion, an alternative hierarchy, an alternative priesthood that attracted many adherents. The popes were obvio ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, religion
The history of the Cathars is another of the almost innumerable chapters in the vile history of the Catholic Church. They were a gnostic breakaway from mainstream Christianity that preached poverty, non-violence and enlightenment through the search for knowledge against the evil of matter. This threatened the establishment as an alternative to the greed the people of Italy and the south of France saw in the Church. The Cathars went further than that, preaching in their own tongues, rather than i ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it really liked it
This lovely little book deals with a heresy that has continued to echo in the modern world, as the Cathars have come to be associated with the "Holy Grail" mystery that has spawned so much popular fiction in our time. There is little of the Pythonesque here, though, and thankfully none of the "Holy Blood" silliness that spawned a recent series of films. The Cathars almost bridge the heretical gap between early Christianity and the Reformation, leaving the record of non-Orthodox, proto-democratic ...more
Lauren Albert
Jun 22, 2014 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
A basic history of the Cathars which begins with a history of dualism. The one weakness I saw was that the section on dualism just went on too long and much of it didn't have any direct connection to the Cathars except, of course, the sharing of a dualistic religion. It was a good introduction but you'd probably want something more in depth if it interested you. Be warned--if you look at books on the Cathars you're likely to find a lot of mumbo jumbo--at least Martin sticks to straight history.
Sep 17, 2013 Norman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great, easy to read, history of the Cathar movement, all the more poignant in the reading as we were living and travelling through Cathar country as I read the book.
May 21, 2008 Todd rated it it was amazing
The Cathars are my favorite band of heretics in Christian History, although it is imporant to note that the group Sean Martin's book deals with is not the only group to have gone by the name Cathar. However, the 12th and 13th century religion is the group most often thought of.

The book starts with a brief history of heterodox Christian beliefs prior to age of Constantine and then launches into a very readable account about the rise and fall of the only Christian Church to ever fully threaten the
Aug 15, 2015 Gill rated it really liked it
I found this book clear and straightforward about the Cathars. I knew a bit about them, but the book helped at putting things into their context.
I read Montaillou: Cathars and Catholics in a French Village 1294-1324 many years ago. This book makes me think it might be time for a re-read.
Apr 15, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
This is the best book on the Cathars I have read. It is about the religion and its history. Other books say they are about the Cathars but the books are just about the battles of the Albigensian Crusade and its politics. Other Cathar books are mystical new age books about secret eastern knowledge, the holy grail, the Knights Templar or Mary Magdalene. Other books say the Cathar belief were mysterious and sprang from nowhere. This book traces a straightforward chain from Paulicians, to Bogomils t ...more
James Duyck
Entertaining, and reasonably balanced, but I would have preferred more details on how reliable the sources are considered to be, and the there was some somewhat silly holy grail knight templar conspiracy stuff near the end.
Deianeira Jenkins
This book to be an excellent introduction to the history of the Cathars. It was a good read and I found it to be quite easy to understand. It explains the basics of the religion and then goes on to highlight the struggles and the persercution that the Cathars faced at the hands of a fearful Holy Catholic Church.
Fredrick Danysh
The Cathars is an early history of Christians and the Catholic Church as well as splinter groups that the Church considered heretics because of divergent beliefs such as Dualism, Gnosticism, and Elchasaites many which believed that Jesus was not necessarily a part of the Holy Trinity of the Church. This is a useful read for anyone wishing to explore the early history of Christianity.
May 12, 2015 Aga rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It is an introduction to the Cathar history but served in a vey bland way. The last chapter is somehow strange and I really would like to see more references to the facts presented there. I am disappointed.
Jim McIntosh
Nov 18, 2014 Jim McIntosh rated it really liked it
A good, and easy to read, introduction to the Cathar heresy and suppression by the French and Italian inquisitions.
Jan 02, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
Interesting, but could have been organized in such a way as to make it easier to understand. Also, I was not impressed with the credence the final section gave the holy trail myth.
While this book was interesting, I expected a book called "the cathars: their histories and myths" to be more about the cathars and less about the roman catholic church.
David Robertus
Dec 11, 2007 David Robertus rated it really liked it
Excellent history of what little is known, especially their roots in dualism and the Bogomil movement
May 07, 2016 Tina rated it really liked it
A good read. I would have rated higher, but there were a lot of spelling mistakes.
Nov 22, 2008 Jeff rated it really liked it
Very informative history of a very unusual religion.
Mar 23, 2009 Roy added it
Religious history.
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Author of bestsellers The Knights Templar: The History & Myths of the Legendary Military Order, The Gnostics: The First Christian Heretics and The Cathars: The Rise & Fall of the Great Heresy. My new book, A Short History of Disease, will be published in June 2015.
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