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The Church And The Empire by D. J. Medley


[Sidenote: Cause of heresy.]

It was not until the thirteenth century that the Church had to face that spirit of scepticism or anti-religious feeling which is the chief bug-bear of modern Christianity. Her elaborate organisation and the gradual development of her own dogmatic position enabled her to deal with individual writers of a speculative turn like Berengar or Abailard. Nor were these in any sense anti-Christian. But they were the inciters to heresy; and a real danger to the Church lay in the filtering down of intellectual speculations to ignorant classes, by whom they would be transformed into weapons against the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Indeed, from the eleventh century onward the Church was constantly threatened by heresy of a popular kind, which tended to develop into schism. And for this she had to thank not only the growing materialisation of her doctrine, but even more the worldly life of her ministers. Unpalatable doctrines may commend themselves by the pure lives which profess to be founded on them; but evil doing carries no persuasion to others.

[Sidenote: Two kinds of heretics.]

It is a real difficulty that our sources of information of all the heretics of these centuries are chiefly the writings of their successful opponents -- the defenders of the orthodox faith. But much information remains to us from the admissions of her supporters as to the depraved condition of the Church at this period; so that we need not believe the allegations or their opponents that a chief inducement to join heretical sects lay in the greater scope for the indulgence of sin. Charges of immorality against opponents were the stock-in-trade of the controversialist, while the greatest authorities in the Church allow that heresy lived upon the scandals and negligences of the Church. Moreover, based as they were upon opposition to the existing organisation, the doctrines of the various sects had much in common. The Church did not distinguish between them, but excommunicated them all alike. If, however, we would understand the developments of opinion in the succeeding centuries, it is important to discriminate; and a clear distinction can be made between those opponents of the Church whose views were aimed against the development of an extreme sacerdotalism within the Church, and those who, going beyond this negative position, reproduced the Manichaan theories of an early age and threatened to raise a rival organisation to that of the Christian Church.

[Sidenote: Anti-sacerdotalists.]

The object which those who belonged to the first of these divisions set before themselves, was to get behind the elaborate organisation which the Church had built up and which, instead of being a help to lead man to God, had now become a hindrance by which the knowledge of God was actually obscured. They would therefore sweep away all this machinery and return to the Christianity of apostolic times. Their objection was primarily moral, but it soon became doctrinal; and among the heretics of this class there was revived the Donatist theory that the sacraments depend for their efficacy on the moral condition of those who administer them. The campaign of the Church reformers against clerical marriage seemed directly to support this view; but the canons which forbade any one to be present at a Mass performed by a married priest had to be explained away as a mere enforcement of discipline; and in 1230 Gregory IX definitely laid it down that the suspension of a priest living in mortal sin merely affects him as an individual and does not invalidate his office as regards others. But such declarations did nothing to meet the common feeling of the great incompatibility between the awful powers with which the Church clothed her ministers and the sinful lives led by a large proportion of the existing clerical body.

[Sidenote: Extreme examples.]

From an early period in the twelfth century sectaries of this class are found in several quarters. Two extreme instances are Tanchelm, who preached in the Netherlands between 1115 and 1124, and Eon de l'Etoile, who gathered round him a band of desperate characters in Brittany about 1148. They have been described as |two frantic enthusiasts,| and Eon was almost certainly insane. Eon was imprisoned and his band dispersed. But Tanchelm found a large following when he taught that the hierarchy was null and that tithes should not be paid. He came to an untimely end; but the influence of his doctrines continued so strong in Antwerp that St. Norbert came to the help of the local clergy and succeeded in obliterating all traces of the heresy.

[Sidenote: Petrobrusians and Henricians.]

It was in the south of France that this and all heresy assumed a more formidable shape. The population was very mixed; the feudal tie, whether to France, England, or the Emperor, was slight; there was more culture and luxury, the clergy were more careless of their duties, while Jews had greater privileges, than anywhere else in Europe. Moreover, the early teachers were men of education. Two such were Peter de Bruis (1106-26), a priest, and Henry of Lausanne (1116-48), an ex-monk of Cluny. Peter was burnt and Henry probably died in prison. Peter preached in the land known later as Dauphine; and the views of the Petrobrusians, as his followers were called, so continued to spread after his death that Peter the Venerable, the Abbot of Cluny, thought it worth while to write a tract in refutation of them. Henry was more formidable. He preached over all the south of France, was condemned as a heretic at the Council of Pisa (1134), but was released and resumed his preaching. As the bishops could not and the lay nobles would not do anything against him, the papal legate obtained the help of St. Bernard, who, although ill, preached at Albi and elsewhere with an effect which was much enhanced by the miracles which in popular belief accompanied his efforts. Henry declined a debate to which Bernard challenged him, and so became discredited, and shortly after he fell into the hands of his enemies.

The tract of Peter the Venerable is practically the sole authority for the tenets of the Petrobrusians. According to this they were frankly anti-sacerdotal. Infant baptism was held to be useless, since it was performed with vicarious promises. Churches were useless, for the Church of God consists of the congregation of the faithful; the Cross, as being the instrument of Christ's torture, was a symbol to be destroyed rather than invoked; there was no real presence and no sacrifice in the Mass, for Christ's body was made and given once for all at the Last Supper; all offerings and prayers for the dead were useless, since each man would be judged on his own merits. Henry with his followers practically adopted these views and added attempts at social reform on Christian lines, especially in the matter of marriage, persuading courtesans to abandon their vicious life and promoting their union to some of his adherents.

[Sidenote: Waldenses.]

By far the most important body of these anti-sacerdotal heretics were the Waldenses. Their founder was Peter Waldo, whose name takes many forms -- Waldez, Waldus, Waldensis. He was a wealthy merchant of Lyons who, moved with religious feelings and himself ignorant, caused two priests to translate into the vernacular Romance the New Testament and a collection of extracts from the chief writers of the early Church known as Sentences. From a perusal of these he became convinced that the way to spiritual perfection lay through poverty. He divested himself of his wealth and, as a way of carrying out the gospel further, he began to preach (1170-80). He attracted men and women of the poorer classes, whom he used as missionaries; and the neglect of the pulpit by the clergy caused these lay preachers to find ready listeners in the streets and even in the churches of Lyons. According to the custom of the day they adopted a special dress; and the sandals (sabol) which they wore in imitation of the Apostles gave them the name of Insabbatati. They called themselves the Poor Men of Lyons -- Pauperes de Lugduno; Li Poure de Lyod. The Archbishop of Lyons excommunicated them; but Alexander III, at the request of Peter, allowed them to preach with permission of the priests. Their disregard of this proviso caused their excommunication by the Pope in 1184 and again in 1190; and from this time they began to repudiate the Church which limited their freedom, and to set up conventicles and an organisation of their own. The date of Peter's death is not known.

[Sidenote: Their Views.]

The strong missionary spirit of these sectaries spread their doctrines with extraordinary rapidity. They consisted almost entirely of poor folk scattered over an area extending from Aragon to Bohemia; and from place to place differences of organisation and doctrine are to be observed. But they were not Protestants in the modern sense, and, despite persecution, many continued to consider themselves members of the Church. Thus on such doctrinal points as the Real Presence, purgatory, the invocation of saints, in many places they long continued to believe in them with their own explanations, and their repudiation of the teaching of the Church was a matter of gradual accomplishment. It is true that in places they strove to set up their own organisation. But the tendency of the Waldenses was much rather towards a simplification of the existing organisation. The power of binding and loosing was entirely rejected: an apostolic life and not ordination was the entrance to the priesthood. In fact, a layman was qualified to perform all the priestly functions, not merely to baptise and to preach, but even to hear confession and to consecrate the Eucharist. Thus the whole penitential machinery of the Church was set aside. Their specially religious teaching was largely ethical, and by the testimony of their enemies their life and conduct were singularly pure and simple. The stories of abominable practices among them perhaps arose from the extreme asceticism of a sect which professed voluntary poverty; but they were no more true than the similar tales told of the early Christians. Nor shall we regard from the same point of view as the Churchmen of the day the charge brought against them on the ground of their intimate knowledge of the Scriptures. Of these they had their own vernacular translations, and large portions of them were committed to memory. But such translations spread broadcast views unfettered by the traditional interpretation of the Church, and the missionary zeal of the Waldenses was proof against the horrors of the Inquisition with its prison, torture-chamber, and stake.

[Sidenote: Cathari.]

The most formidable development of hostility to the Church came from the Manichaism of those who bore at various times and in different places the names of Cathari, Patarius, or Albigenses. The attraction of the Manichaan theory lay in its apparent explanation of the problem of evil. There exist side by side in the world a good principle and an evil principle. The latter is identifiable with matter and is the work of Satan. Hence sin consists in care for the material creation. It follows that all action tending to the reproduction of animal life is to be avoided, so that marriage was strongly discouraged. To the earlier views was added the doctrine of metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, which, acting as a means of reward and retribution, seemed fully to account for man's sufferings. These views together explain the avoidance as food by the Cathari of everything which was the result of animal propagation, and also the severity of the ascetic practices which were charged against them.

[Sidenote: Their doctrines.]

In the sphere of doctrine the division between the Cathari and the Catholic Church was absolute. According to these sectaries Satan is the Jehovah of the Old Testament: hence all Scriptures before the Gospels are rejected. They accepted the New Testament, but regarded Christ as a phantasm and not a man. Thus the doctrine of the Real Presence had no meaning for them, indeed, they rejected the sacraments and all external and material manifestations of religion. Here, of course, they had much in common with the Waldenses, whom the Church confounded with them; and there seems little doubt that the way for the preaching of Catharism in the south of France was paved by the previous work of Peter de Bruis and, even more, of Henry of Lausanne. But the reasons for opposition to the Church were not the same among the Waldenses and the Cathari; and the latter soon parted company with the seekers after primitive Christianity by developing an organisation of their own. Thus as the Cathari grew in numbers and carried on a vigorous missionary work, their devotees tended to form themselves into a Church. At least two distinct Orders were recognised. The Perfected were a kind of spiritual aristocracy who renounced all property and were sworn to celibacy, while they submitted themselves to penances of such rigour that their lives were often endangered, if not shortened. Below them were the mass of believers who were allowed to marry and to live in the world, assimilating themselves so far as possible to the ideal set before them by the higher caste. From the Perfected were chosen officers with the names of bishop and deacon, the latter acting as assistants to the chief officers. The ritual was simple but definite, and the most characteristic ceremony was the Consolamentum, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, by which the believers were placed in communion with the Perfected and so became absolved from all sin. It was performed by the imposition of hands together with the blessing and kiss of peace given by any two of the Perfected. This was the process of |heretication,| the name given by the Inquisitors to admission into the Catharist Church; and, except in the case of the ministers, it was postponed until the believer lay upon his death-bed.

[Sidenote: Their effect.]

The charges of evil practices against the Cathari were perhaps no truer than similar accusations against the Waldenses, and their missionary zeal was proof against even death at the stake. Nevertheless there is no doubt that the cause of progress and civilisation lay with Catholicism rather than with its opponents. The asceticism of the Cathari would have resulted, if not in the extinction of the race, at least in the destruction of the family: their identification of matter with the work of Satan would have been a bar to attempts at material improvement. Moreover, if ever theirs had become the conquering faith, they would have developed a sacerdotal class as privileged as the Catholic priesthood. The movement has been aptly described as |not a revolt against the Church, but a renunciation of man's dominion over nature.|

[Sidenote: Their origin and spread.]

Whether the Catharist movement was spread westwards by the Paulicians who in the tenth century were transplanted from Armenia to Thrace, or sprang spontaneously from teachers who saw in the dualistic philosophy a condemnation, if not an explanation, of the materialisation of Christianity by the Church, may not be very certain; but there is no doubt that the Cathari of Western Europe always looked to the eastern side of the Adriatic as to the headquarters of their faith. In the eleventh century we hear of Cathari in certain places in North Italy, in France, and even in Germany; but although in Italy the name of Patarins came to be applied to the sect, we need trace no connection in the popular rising at Milan, which was stirred up by the Church reformers against the simony and clerical marriage practised by the Church of St. Ambrose. In the twelfth century the movement is heard of in an increasing number of places, in certain parts of France including Brittany, in Flanders among all classes, in the Rhine lands. Milan was supposed to be the headquarters in Italy. In England thirty persons of humble birth, probably from Flanders, were condemned in 1166, and an article was inserted in the Assize of Clarendon against them.

[Sidenote: Albigenses.]

But it was in the south of France that the Cathari, no less than the Waldenses, were chiefly to be found; with this difference, however -- that, whereas the Waldenses confined themselves chiefly to Provence and the valley of the Rhone, the Cathari were scattered over a much larger area, although their chief strength lay in the valley of the Garonne. The town of Albi gave them their name of Albigenses, and Toulouse was the chief centre of their influence. In 1119 Calixtus II condemned the heresy at its centre in Toulouse. In 1139, at the second Lateran Council, Innocent II called upon the secular power for the first time to assist in expelling from the Church those who professed heretical opinions. In 1163 Alexander III, at the great Council of Tours, demanded that secular princes should imprison them. But the futility of these measures appeared from the colloquy held in 1165 at Lombers, near Albi, between representatives of the Church and of the Albigenses before mutually chosen judges, for it made plain the boldness of the heretics and their claim of equality with the Church. Indeed, in 1167 they actually held a council of their own at St. Felix de Caraman, near Toulouse, at which the chief Bishop of the Catharists was brought from Constantinople to preside, while a number of bishops were appointed, and all the business transacted was that of an equal and rival organisation to the Church of Rome.

[Sidenote: Attempts at suppression.]

During the next ten years (1167-77), while the religious allegiance of Europe was divided by the schism in the Papacy, Catharism gained a great hold over all classes in Languedoc and Gascony. Raymond V of Toulouse, the sovereign of Languedoc, finding himself powerless to check it, appealed for help; but the Kings of France and England agreed to a joint expedition only to abandon it, and the papal mission sent in 1178, composed of the papal legate, several bishops, and the Abbot of Clairvaux, only made heroes of the few heretics whom they ventured to excommunicate. In 1179, at the third Lateran Council, Alexander III proclaimed a crusade against all enemies of the Church, among whom were included, for the first time, professing Christians. The Abbot of Clairvaux, as papal legate, raised a force and reduced to submission Roger, Viscount of Beziers, who openly protected heretics; but the crusading army melted away at the end of the time of enlistment, and the only result of the expedition was the exasperation produced by the devastation of the land. After this failure no real attempt was made to stop the spread of heresy until the accession of Innocent III, while the fall of Jerusalem in 1186 turned all crusading ardour in the direction of Palestine.

[Sidenote: Raymond VI of Toulouse.]

Meanwhile, in 1194 Raymond V had been succeeded by his son, Raymond VI, who, if he was not actually a heretic, was at least indifferent to the interests of the Catholic faith. Most of his barons favoured Catharism. He himself was surrounded by a gay and cultured court, and was popular with his subjects. At the same time the local clergy neglected their duties, the barons plundered the Church, and the heretics, without persecuting the Catholics, were gradually extinguishing them in the dominions of Toulouse. Immediately on his accession in 1198 Innocent III appointed commissioners to visit the heretical district; but the local bishop, from jealousy, would not help. Some effect, however, was produced when, acting on the suggestion of a Spanish prelate, Diego de Azevedo, Bishop of Osma, they dismissed their retinues and started on a preaching tour among the people. The Bishop was accompanied by the Canon Dominic, and this mission was the germ out of which shortly grew the great Dominican Order. But the Bishop went back to Spain, and twice the papal legate excommunicated Raymond VI because he would give no help. Once Raymond made his peace with the Church, but the second pronouncement against him was shortly followed by the murder of the legate Peter of Castelnau, who had made himself peculiarly obnoxious (1208). Raymond's complicity was never proved, but Innocent was getting impatient, and his commissioners had made up their minds that it was easier and quicker to exterminate the heretics than to convert them. Raymond and all concerned in the murder were excommunicated, and a crusade was proclaimed against them. Philip Augustus of France allowed his barons to go, but excused himself on the ground of his relations with John of England. Raymond hoped to avoid the threatening storm by another abject submission; but he was obliged to surrender his chief fortresses and to join in person the army which now assembled for the extirpation of heresy in his own lands.

[Sidenote: The Crusade.]

Although Raymond was thus forced to appear in the ranks of his enemies, a leader in resistance was found in his nephew, Raymond Roger, Viscount of Beziers (1209). But his capital Beziers was stormed by the crusading army under the legate, who, when asked how the soldiers could distinguish Catholics from heretics, is said to have replied, |Slay them all: God will know His own.| Then Carcassonne, deemed impregnable, was besieged, and the young Viscount, decoyed into the enemies' camp under pretence of negotiation, was kept a prisoner. He died, and the city was surrendered. The conquered territory was practically forced by the legate on Simon de Montfort, younger son of the Count of Evreux, who, through his mother, was also Earl of Leicester.

[Sidenote: Simon de Montfort.]

In 1211 the crusaders attacked Count Raymond's territories. He had never yet been tried for the murder of the legate, of which he was accused; and already Philip of France had warned the Pope that in any question of Raymond's forfeiture, it was for the French King as suzerain and not for the Pope to proclaim it. By a visit to Rome Raymond hoped that he had gained permission to purge himself from the impending charges; but at the last moment this was pronounced impossible, because in having failed to clear his lands of heresy, as he had promised to do, he was forsworn. In a war of sieges De Montfort's skill took from Raymond everything except Toulouse and Montauban. Raymond's brother-in-law, Pedro II of Aragon, now intervened; but when Innocent III, misled by his legates, refused a further offer of purgation on the part of Raymond, Pedro formally declared war against De Montfort. He invaded and laid siege to Muret; but his forces were defeated and he was killed (1213). So far Innocent III had avoided the recognition of De Montfort's conquests in Toulouse. But early in 1215 he ratified the act of the Council of Montpellier which had elected Simon de Montfort as lord of the whole conquered land. Raymond, although he had never yet been tried, was declared deposed for heresy; and the fourth Lateran Council, while confirming this decision, left a small portion of the territory still unconquered, for his son. It seems likely that Innocent would have been willing to deal fairly with the Count of Toulouse; but by this time there were too many interested in the ruin of the House of Toulouse, and the Pope was deliberately misled by his legates. Hence it came that a judgment which might, as it was expected that it would, have righted a great wrong, proved only a signal for revolt. Raymond and his son were welcomed back by an united people, and finally in 1218 Simon de Montfort was killed while besieging Toulouse.

[Sidenote: A war of aggression.]

De Montfort's son could make no headway against a people in arms. But in 1222 Raymond VI and Philip of France vainly tried to promote a peaceful settlement between Amaury de Montfort and Raymond VII. Amaury, despairing of success, offered his claims to the French King, and in 1223 Philip's successor, Louis VIII, overpersuaded by the Pope, accepted them. The young Count Raymond vainly endeavoured to ward off the threatened invasion and showed every desire to be reconciled with the Church. There was scarcely any longer a pretence of religious war. From the first it had been largely a war of races, promoted by northern jealousy at the wealth and civilisation of the south and by a desire for the completion of the Frank conquest of Gaul. Thus from the beginning of hostilities the whole population of the south, Catholic as well as heretic, had stood together in resistance to the crusading army, and despite his tergiversations Raymond VI had never lost their affection and support. The war lasted for three years (1226-9); Louis VIII led an expedition southwards, which for some inexplicable reason turned back before it had achieved complete success; and after his death the Queen-Regent, Blanche of Castile, with the encouragement of Pope Gregory IX, came to terms with Raymond VII. By the Treaty of Meaux (1229) Count Raymond agreed to hunt down all heretics, to assume the cross as a penance, to give up at once about two-thirds of his lands, while the remainder was to go to his daughter, who was to be married to a French prince, with the ultimate reversion to the French Crown. In 1237 Jeanne of Toulouse was married to Alfonso, brother of Louis IX; in 1249, on the death of Raymond VII, they succeeded to his dominions, and on their death in 1271 without children Philip III annexed all their possessions to the dominions of the French Crown.

[Sidenote: Punishment for heresy.]

The question of the acquisition of territory was thus shown to be far more important than the suppression of heresy. But a university was established at Toulouse for the teaching of true philosophy, and the Inquisition was set up under the Dominicans for the suppression of false doctrine. The time had definitely gone by when the Church would rely upon methods of persuasion in dealing with heretics. And yet for a long time there was much hesitation among Churchmen. Even as late as 1145 St. Bernard pleads for reasoning rather than coercion. And the application of methods of coercion was equally tentative. At first the obstinate heretic was imprisoned or exiled and his property was confiscated. But the practice of burning a heretic alive was long the custom before it was adopted anywhere as positive law. Pedro II of Aragon, the champion of Raymond VI, first definitely legalised it (1197). In 1238 by the Edict of Cremona this became the recognised law of the Empire, and was afterwards embodied in the Sachsenspiegel and Schwabenspiegel, the municipal codes of Northern and Southern Germany respectively. The Etablissements of Louis IX (1270) recognised the practice for France. It is a tribute to English orthodoxy that the Act |de haeretico comburendo| was not passed until 1401.

[Sidenote: The secular arm.]

Early usage forbade the clergy to be concerned in judgments involving death or mutilation. This finds expression in the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164); and the fourth Lateran Council (1215) definitely forbade clerks to utter a judgment of blood or to be present at an execution. Thus the Church merely found a man a heretic and called upon the secular authority to punish him. It was impressed upon all secular potentates from highest to lowest that it was their business to obey the behests of the Church in the extirpation of heresy. Indeed, it may almost be said that the validity of this command of the Church was the principal point at issue in the Albigensian crusade; for Raymond's lands were declared forfeit merely because he would not take an active part in the punishment of his heretical subjects. Thus by the thirteenth century all hesitation as to the attitude of the Church towards heretics had entirely disappeared. As Innocent III lays it down, |faith is not to be kept with him who keeps not faith with God,| and Councils of this century declared that any temporal ruler who did not persecute heresy must be regarded as an accomplice and so as himself a heretic.

We cannot apply modern standards to the mediaeval feelings about heresy. The noblest and most saintly among clergy and laity alike were often the fiercest persecutors. Church and State were closely intermingled; heresy was a crime as well as a sin; the heretic was a rebel; mild measures only made him bolder; and in fear of the overthrow of the whole social system the rulers of State and Church combined to crush him.

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