Friday, November 01, 2013

Lavaur. Saint-Alain. Rome Did Not Prevail Here After All. Is That So?

Enough people cared about the brutal end of the Cathars in the Languedoc to keep representations of it in this church, Saint-Alain at the now-backwater town of Lavaur. See the paintings here.They preserve the crusades' brutal history, but are ignored.  So, ask:  Why does the West (us) reject from our cultural consciousness the idea the religous instutition that emerged triumphant in the middle ages, the Roman Catholic, until the Reformation; only did so by killing off and discrediting the opposition, and confiscating the estates and property of those who disagreed with institutioanl dogma.

Why should I care? I am not a devout institutional person. And burning alive hundreds of persons at once, one's erstwhile friends, neighbors, even relatives, as was not unusual on the pyres during the Albigensian Crusade. Yet the concept  that we would kill, yes slaughter, tens of thousands in order to kill off ideas, is surprisingly alien to our idea of ourselves. And that denial persists as we tut-tut slaughters of one religious group by another in other parts of the world, whether Sunni-Shia, Catholics-Protestants in the Thirty Years' War, etc. Name your culture, name your religious oppositions.  Number us in there.

Authenticity of photographs.  Would someone please follow up here. Go to Lavaur, knowing in advance what might be found. We were taken by surprise.  Why all the changes to the church since it was constructed in the 13th Century after the crusade had beaten out the Cathars, why was there no bishop here until 1317 unless this place still needed beating down; why all the changes since then documented inside the church on little posters that I photographed but now cannot read.  Someone, please preserve it.

  • In the photos we have, with amateur camera and battery trouble, my son and I swapped cameras and now find this photo mixed in with that, and jpg numbers jumbled.  Reaffirm please. Chronological numeration fails when two cameras are being tossed back and forth, and cards exchanged.

Some photographs look too gilt, in good condition, to have been in Lavaur. But depending on whose camera we used, that need not disqualify a photo as being Lavaur.  The subject matter is clear.  I need to go back to jpg numbers. 

The church contains many seemingly non-Catholic symbols.  Here is a heart, but with a dagger through it.  That is not the bleeding heart of Jesus, etc.  What is it? The Cathars were a people of paratge, of profound courtesy and respect for others.  See  Did the West destroy its own "heart" by killing off the ones who valued comity.  Those of us left: the killing ones?

On the pulpit: Who is this woman?  No idea. Cathars valued women, and women were at the highest level of "Parfaites" as the men also were "Parfaits" -- but not in a hierarchy, control sense. 

This prominence of a woman holding -- is that a book? does not look Catholic.  Did an element of Lavaur's Cathars persist?  Help, here.Putting outside information together suggests that this might be the Lady of Lavaur, whose castle was destroyed and she herself cast into a well by the crusaders, who then stoned her to death deep within.  Rosettes on side.  She is also known formally as Dame Giraude de Laurac.  What is she taking away?

Then, the ultimate Catholic, Queen in Crown, this altar clearly repaired, kept up, tidy, nice flowers.  But it looks very out of place, and faked.

If there is money for this nice altar, why not for the rest of the memorial?  You dare to ask? Still checking jpg numbers to verify the chronology.

This is the reason to memorialize history here.  Keep the memory so we never, ever let it happen again. Fat chance.  So did Rome give up here, resistance too strong even after centuries, and move itself and its bishop to Albi.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lavaur. Saint-Alain and Malignant Neglect. Visit Before It Falls Apart.

Church of Saint-Alain. 

Malignant Neglect. An Ugly Old War-Horse Fortress
Obfuscates a Violent History.

 Nice Jaquemart in the Clock Tower.

Saint-Alain, Lavaur, France. Rotting. Built 1244.  Bishopric 1317-1802.  Albigensian Crusade coverup and fall-out.

It took 600 years or so for the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity to feel secure enough in its power over Lavaur after its Albigensian Crusade here, to move the bishopric it had installed (in effect 1317 to 1802 or so) back over to the bigger, glitzier town, of Albi.  The bishopric here was detested, is that so, and it took all that time to suppress the dissent against the Pope and King.

Since the bishop's seat moved, intentional and malignant neglect of the history accelerated.  A lesson from Lavaur:  Memories fade over time.  With neglect, memories fade faster.  Let the building remain, rotting as it is, put a pretty park around, and hope eerybody will picnic themselves to death and ignore the truths inside.

Here, the building is falling apart, inside and out. All the better to pretend nothing happened here, my dear.  There was a devastating and culture-changing and brutal crusade here, eliminating the opposition by killing and confiscation.  You have to go inside to find anything of what happened.  Even the places of old castles and the pyres and old abbeys predating the armageddon are gone.

This French tourism site pretends there was no Albigensian Crusade here, destroying the old Roman Catholic priory on or near this site.  It says Saint-Alain's history begins in 1317, when a bishop was installed here, see; and extends to 1802 when the show moved to big Albi. 

Rewriting the building's history. This building, however, was completed far earlier, in 1244, on the site of that earlier priory that had dated from 1098.

1.  Rewriting the killing, the pyres

Go inside and see the paintings of the martyrs, the Cathars who disagreed with the Catholic church's dogma and required rituals.  Imagine the wealth that flowed to the institutional militant church through the confiscations that established Roman Catholicism as dominant and The Only Only, on pain of death.  There had been a mass burning of 300-400 Cathars on the pyres here.

For an early 20th Century and sympathetic play about the murder of the "heretic" Cathars by the Crusaders, organize a little post-dinner-party reading,, as folk did after dinner then when there was no TV or ipads, and see who was good, helping the needy, and who was out there filling coffers and fixing power, see Migratory Patterns, Cultural Tales, Iron Pincers (the Cathar Crusades at Lavaur)

Find any substantive reference to the pyres and killings at Lavaur in any tour book, and you have done more than most will find.

2.  Paintings, frescoes even in this post-Crusader Cathedral, are rotting. 

For those who disagree with whether the Cathars as heretics defined by the definers with a self-interest in power, deserved to die for their autonomous beliefs, surely a memorial is worth keeping.  They foreshadowed all the independent thinkers to come, and died for it.  Chip away, old plaster on the Cathedral walls.  Does France care. Not a whit.

3.  The blues.

There is a dominance of blue here.  Cathar blue, from their lucrative trade in the woad plant that produced this wonderful blue (until indigo took over).  The conquerors profited greatly from confiscating the woad trade, and flaunted it here.

Other frescoes at Saint-Alain in Lavaur, still dominantly woad blue, are multi-colored and losing ground fast.

4.  The pulpit for the newly dominant Catholic priest-bishop is impressive still; but acquisitional and wealth-focused.  Not Cathar.

5.  Martyrs.

Above the confessional, that the Cathars never countenanced, see the deterioration of the area with the painting of the pyres of martyrs to the right.  Cathars never recognized as sacraments anything that Jesus did not enter into himself, is that so?  Marriage, then, is cultural, not sacramental; fine to have a baptism, and a "consolamentum" at your death, but skip the frills in between.. Is that so bad?  Yes, thundered the Pope and his minions, in their counting houses.

6.  Doors.

The doors at Saint-Alain remain wonderful, with the ever-present wee doorlet, the sortie-door, for fast escapes or entries or night-ventures.  Note the cross shape is not the Roman Catholic.  The Roman Catholics were not loved.  To gain acceptance, in this fort-church, they blended their requirements with the environment.

7.  Necessaries.

And, for the necessities of life, this is what the French think we deserve as tourists.  This is also known as a Turkish toilet.  Do an images search.  There are other names.  We found them all over Europe's eastern parts. Why here in France at Lavaur?

Is this what they think of Lavaur and those of us who inquire here?

8.  Woad blue.  Blue states! The heritage goes on!

Then look again at the woad blue.  This is pure Cathar, is it not. The autonomous thinkers against the machine.  Then look at the gates.  It is dangerous even to get too close here.

9.  And whose sarcophagus is this?  I recall no explanatory plaque, and ordinarily I try to photograph them to help with understanding later.

Is that burial thing something from an old past, and is that why I saw no explanation?

10.  At the altar, find fine arches, more blues, and it would take all 6 photos to lay them out here.  

Try one. Where are the crosses?  These look nondenominational, as would have been needed for this place to survive after what happened. Little flowers, rosettes, and rosettes are common symbols for Cathar ideas, see  

Did this place not become "Catholic" for those hundreds of years, and is the Cathar influence why this place is let die?

11. Nomenclature.

The current Saint-Alain church (no longer a Cathedral) is named for a 7th Century Alan of Lavaur, assumed to be a bishop, see and whose feast day is November 25. Alan or Alain might also be Saint Armand of Maestricht (Netherlands??). See reference to a 6-7th C. Saint Alain at p xlviii at this 1750 Dictionary of the French Language, a google book  Regardless of lack of other corroborations, the name is there and presumably there was something marking his spot where something happened.  The place then became another Christian site. In 1098 here, a Benedictine priory (Abbaye de Soreze? spelling?) dedicated to Saint-Alain was constructed. Documentation of the priory as "Soreze" is so far only in Wikipedia. Start there.

12.  History recap, for newcomers to the topic.

Church and State  finally burned their last found Cathar "heretics" in about 1244 or 1255, depending on whether Pyrenees cave-hiders (were some merely walled in? ) and ongoing actions against individuals are counted. See  The priory apparently was destroyed during the Crusade.

In 1255, this new brick church was constructed on the old priory site.  The area had been locally memorialized, informally, to honor the three to four hundred "heretics" who perished in the pyres on this spot or nearby, here at Lavaur.  see Cathar-sympathetic overview at

Yet, with the devastation of the local Cathar castle and economic, social and religious structure, it was not until 1317 that the Catholic Church managed to install a bishop here, to uphold the confiscations and enforce the required dogma and hierarchy. Look up the "ancient diocese of Lavaur" for the chronology of bishops thereafter to 1802, when the show moved to Albi.

13. Gods of ruin.

Then, enter the gods of ruin, the obfuscation of how this place began, and sustained itself against contrary believers.

14.  More on doors.

Look at the wear here.  The entire door is worn into a concave shape.

Morew wear.  Another door, absolutely worn out.  No replacement. Just shove your way in.

Once in, look up.  More woad blue, and the cherubs signifying Renaissance frivolity in this very serious place.

Old designs, however, supersede the Renaissance and other pastings, and look more ancient. See again the rosette theme, the intertwinings instead of crosses.  Did they hire Cathar-thinkers to do the work, unawares

 Now for fresh air, away from the must.  Here is the bell-ringer, the Jaquemart.  During the 16th-17th centuries' religious wars, this time Catholics and Protestants (Cathars being the first Protestants??) in the melee, a prisoner was confined up there and told to ring the bells.  Somehow, he put together a mechanical figure to do his work, the Jaquemart did so, and the prisoner escaped with a laugh.  Believe that?

With so little available on the history of Saint-Alain before the imposition of the victor's Bishop in 1317, I photographed some of the displays.  With time and energy, I will put more up.

Catharism.  So few, but the ideal of autonomous thinking remains. FN 1


FN 1  Think back to the 11th Century, newcomers called Cathars arrived and Catharism -- antagonistic to the militant and regimented dogmatic institution that the Roman Church had become --  flourished, see   The route of their interpretation is ancient:  Paulicians, and Manicheans with their dualism -- a good God up there, and evil forces down here, etc.  Does that make sense?  It is indeed Biblical.  A matter of interperation. In response in 1208, however, King Philip Augustus and Pope Innocent III coordinated the Albigensian Crusade against Cathars, and confiscated their estates and property. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lavaur. Whare France Hides Its History: Church and State.

Why so few signs to Lavaur?
Neither institutional church nor state want you to go there.

Saint-Alain, former cathedral, Lavaur, France


Lavaur, in the Languedoc, has a long history.  To find it geographically, however, you have to peer closely at maps, and, once there, wander to find what you can that is not housed inside this old ex-cathedral. At home, dig. "They" do not want you here.   Both church and state say, keep moving. Nothing to see here.

The local castle here was destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade 1208-1244 or 1255 or so.  No trace remains. The local lord and lady (the virtuous and charitable Lady of Lavaur) were Cathars (a/k/a Albigensians, from Albi, a town where Cathars were commonplace).  She was cast into a well and stoned to death on the grounds of this church.  Hard to find.  We missed it although we looked and looked.

Was there an earlier Romanesque church structure here, on this site, before the Pope's Crusade (Simon de Montfort in charge here) destroyed it?  So far, we see only that this structure was built after the Crusader conquest, to firm up the winner's position  by a fortress.  Was this really newly constructed, or merely redone, as brick Gothic? It had been a bishopric.  Later the bishop's see (seat) moved to Albi. See

Lavaur was a focal area for 13th Century supposedly "heretic" activity (as defined by dogma) -- Cathars who became the target of a Papal and King crusade 1208-1244 or 1255 or so, depending on where the last survivors were said to be found.  The Cathars were well-educated as a whole, financially successful, their religious views grounded in scripture.  Their deaths were ordained because their rejection of hierarchies and force angered both church and state, both of which needed money and property.  Killing people off was the Maneur du Jour.

Cathars were autonomous thinkers who refused  to accept and defer to all the teachings of the Roman Church, set up their own system based on the same Biblical texts, and were virtually obliterated in the Pope's Albigensian Crusade (named for the city of Albi, nearby).

The church looks like a fort, as indeed it was -- to defend against the hatred of locals who had lived amicably with their Cathar neighbors for decades, centuries.  What church might have been on the site to serve local Christians, became occupied territory, literally, by a Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1317

Getting there:
  • There are signs for Carcassonne, and some evidence of the Crusade against the Cathars of that region in the 13trh Century; there are signs to Beziers (although the Crusader killings there are in very fine print inside, if at all -- we saw none).  Each of those is a cosmeticized, bland nod to what appears to be a well-honed, and effective cover-up of the real tale --how did the Roman branch of the Christian church come to dominate in Provence, specifically Languedoc here; as well as in Northern Europe?  By claims of heresy against existing Christians (and refusal to convert, as to the Northern groups), then crusades against the "heretics" of refuseniks who refused to follow the dogma of the Roman Church.  The Cathars interpreted the same scriptures in their own way, with fewer required "teachings", sacraments, etc.  That led to their murder, pyre-burnings, devastation and confiscation of the property of the prosperous persons in the region. Cathars, or Albigensians for the city of Albi where there were many of them. 
  • The first bishop in nearby Toulouse was in the year 215.  See Transactions, Ecclesiological Society/.  Was there an early, early bishop at Lavaur?

Find Lavaur anyway.

  •   There are a few direction signs, Lavaur this way.  Follow and follow, dip and turn, and finally see this sad, nearly derelict hulk, another of those brick fortresses that had to withstand the anger of the people, that was erected to commemorate the Roman Catholic victory; see .  It was a Roman Catholic bishopric from 1317-1790. The clock tower dates from 1515; and the smaller tower with the "jaquemart" -- the little man who swings out hourly to bang the gong -- dates from the 1600's. 
  • But, wait.  The first bishop was one Roger D'Armagnac in 1790? See at page 498.  If this was a bishopric from 1317-1790, see page 497, who were the intervening bishops, especially after the crusader conquest and killings?
  • The interior houses a fine 1600's painting (of what?) but supposedly there is nothing else of interest. This odd jumble at Lavaur was not the beginning of Christianity in Lavaur, however.  Lavaur had been a bishopric long before then, see Project Gutenberg book (search for Lavaur) at The Cathedrals of Southern France.
  • Challenge the idea that there is nothing of interest here.  Keep moving, folks?  No. Stop.  
  • This and other old Cathedrals were "suppressed" during the French Revolution;  earlier, the bishopric here had been moved to Albi, a more strategic and economically pivotal place for the assertion of power.
This church was decommissioned in the 13th Century (what is the word for that?). Why?  The place gets no publicity from the road -- just an ordinary sign that says Lavaur, that way.  It takes miles to get there, place is worn down, unkempt, uncared for, falling apart, dim, but its displays are readable. Architecture as weapon, means of control.  See


1.  The Cathedral of Lavaur's parishioners and other Cathar residents in the area of Tarn were killed off during Pope Innocent III's brutal Albigensian Crusade 1208-1244, sometimes dated 1209-1255, see Xenophon Groups site *,  Albigensian Crusade.  The charges were "heresy" -- although many Roman Catholic beliefs have tilted more and more back toward the Cathar, than away from them. See

2.  Lavaur's heraldry, the coat of arms of Lavaur (the fleur de lys signifies the French monarchy, but was that in effect at the time of the Crusade?), is not to be found easily, see Leave it out, as though it never was --  this is from Saint-Alain itself.

Lavaur Coat of Arms:  Triple fleur de lys, midfield Cathar Cross, three-towered castle, water theme, and Cross-Anchor beneath.  Source:  display at Saint-Alain

The Cathar cross, midfield, is also seen on the Midi-Pyrenees heraldry, see Wikipedia; and Languedoc-Roussillon, see; but there is no explanation at either site of the Cathar connection or of the Langue d'Oc, the language of Oc or Occitan, the Cathar language. 
3.  French heritage sites ignore its past completely, see;
as does Wikipedia -- have to learn how to contribute there --  

At Lavaur, the Crusader Simon de Montfort attacked and overcame Lavaur, and an area chateau (owned by Lord Aimery de Montréal who had revolted against Montfort). De Montfort hung Lord Aimery and his knights; and burned some 300-400 Cathars, most on a pyre, or in fire pits. Lady Giralda de Laurac, sister to Lord Aimery, was cast into a well on Church property and stoned. At the very least. Meanwhile, Cathar Counts de Foix and Comminges attacked further crusaders from Germany who were on the way to assist de Montfort.

During Montfort's attack on Lavaur, the comtes de Foix and Comminges managed to attack a host from Germany that was coming to join the crusaders. Follow the clear timeline, the cast of characters, events, issues. The French king, Philippe II Auguste, had joined in the hunt for these "heretics" and implementation of Papal orders to wipe them out; and the Cathars were killed en masse.  Their their lands, titles, and property were confiscated and given to the coffers of the Pope's brand of Christianity (dogma and hierarchy and conformity) and of the King.  Both had been in need of lands and money in order to firm up their powers, so they acted in cahoots, a term perhaps from the French "cohort" or companions, confederates.

The ancient bishopric at Lavaur was moved to Albi.  Now the church is known, if at all, merely as yet another (yawn) French Heritage Monument.

What other information is easily available?  With some digging, find the Xenophon Groups site, above, and its clear timeline of people, events, issues.  Or find Cathar beliefs information in context at

Not much.  Even the current state of the building is not of easy record, see

*  Xenophon:  Ancient Greek philosopher and historian, soldier, writer, disciple of Socrates, particularly known for his accounts of life in Greece

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Albi. Other Albi. Palais de la Berbie; and Moorish Arches. Toulouse Lautrec. The Midground.

The Other Albi. 
France Suppresses its own History. Why?

There was Albi before the crusade against the Albigensians. First, the Moors who occupied this area. What happened then? What was it like?  All we see are some ruins of arches, now set in a garden.

The area before the Moors had been long-term Christian, a seat of bishops before the Catholic branch split from the rest of the Christians, the Orthodox, in 1057.s had earlier occupied this area. Upon expelling the Moors and splitting off from the rest of the christians, enter the militant church -- in need of money and territory and converts.  A crusade fit the bill: from 1208-1244ff the Albigensians were killed off, but where is the tribute in Albi to them?  

What happened then that the history is swept aside with labels, as though being a differing believer justifies in any scheme of morality the killing of that person. What was it like? Why don't we ask Why? Christian against Christian? Was the whole issue of this Crusade one of who dares challenge hierarchy and dogm, who controlled the idea of "Christianity" against all other interpretations?  Yes. Is that so.

Albi represents conflicting movements in history, but suppresses all but the one: the Victor, the Roman Branch of Christianity.

1. Palais de la Berbie,  Palais de la Berbie.  Palace of the Berbie. 

That palace, Palais de la Berbie, in Albi now houses the Toulouse Lautrec Museum. Excellent. 

A.  The name.

What is a Berbie? Palace of a Berbie. France hides the ball.  Run to translation sites.  No help. Berbie is Berbie, say the translation sites we find so far.  That is ridiculous.  Names have histories.  We finally found this:  Ironically, the "Berbie" comes from the Cathar-Languedoc Occitan language word for bishop.  See  If sites give that information freely, then they have to acknowledge that there was once a Christian culture, theology here, that was demolished.

What? Is that what France is doing, protecting the Church against its own history?

Albi.  This city, that suddenly has no history before 1208, is clearly a medieval crossroads between competing view of a Christian life.  It stands for the proposition that one branch of a religion, with enough force, can force its views on all contrary views.  There shall be one monolithic view of what Jesus said and meant.  Temporal force over spiritual merit.  Is that so?  If not, why need the force to   accomplish the dominance?

Albi, in support of that idea, also represents how other architectural structures, not just a fortress "church" , is erected to support the monolith:  a second structure buttressing that result:  The new Bishop's Palace. 

1.  The Palace, now a Museum

Since the 1200's-1300's, once the Crusade targets were dispensed with, this palace (this bigger barn) has been repurposed from the fortress in which the first post-Crusade Catholic Bishops resided, see

Then, again, don't.

 France has a way of ignoring the context of its places of interest, here that the only reason a new "Cathedral" and "Palace for the Bishop" was required was that the Crusade against the existing Christian community of Cathars, had won.  The Albigensians, the Cathars, had been killed off.  Tell us more clearly, France, that the first bishop installed after the killing, was an Inquisitor, or at least, one whose collaboration with the Inquisition made him undifferentiated from it.

Ask, what is heresy. Does it serve a deity, or temporal institutions who claim sole pipeline to divine will. France, your boundaries fostered a great slaughter. As you discuss the architecture of your tourist places, please acknowledge why these great building projects were needed. Pipedream: Reassess the entire issue of heresy.  Does that idea serve a deity, or a self-appointed enforcer of a cultural force for power.

There was much new construction in Albi after Rome's  Church's victory. 

Beginning in about 1250, with the fall of Montsegur and the last mass pyres of heretics cooling in 1244, the Church constructed this Palais de la Barbie near to Albi Cathedral, Saint Cecilia.  This was also a fortress, as much as the Cathedral itself. It was to be the residence of the new breed of bishops, although there had been bishops of the Christian Church in this area since the 5th century.

2.  The Moorish arches 

Moors. Muslims.  Moorish arches at the gardens at the Berbie Palace.

Moors occupied this area, invaded France and came here and to Toulouse.  Where is that history?  See

This historical period deserves its own museum, its own connection to history. Instead, there is an offhand tourist-book reference to Moorish arches near the Bishop's Palace, almost hoping no one will look back to see that era.

3.  As to the Bishop's Palace, all this new construction was designed to demarcate the difference between the area's long church history now seen as tainted by tolerance of Cathars; and the new regime that decimated them.  This had not been pagan territory.  Even the Bogomils, originating in the Balkans and many of whose ideas transported easily to France, were indeed Christian. The area here was centuries-old Christian traditions., but not one amenable to coercion by a rigid central authority. 

The first bishop here was Diogenianus from (est 406). A Benedictine abbey was founded nearby in 757, as was a parish church of Lautrec (time of Charlemagne) see  Hilaire Belloc, 1870-1953, laid out the position of the institutional church as to heresies attacking its dogma, hierarchy and truths, see online at

The Place Barbie.  Palais de la Berbie.  The walls are extraordinarily high and thick, as was needed for a power as unwelcome as the militant Church. The first bishops lived here, and it grew and became more sumptuous with gardens, and glamour.

4. Toulouse Lautrec Museum'

Why not permit photos? Is the purpose to prevent people from educating themselves and each other?

The Berbie Palace now houses the Toulouse Lautrec Museum, as Toulouse Lautrec was raised in this region, and of a noble family.  He was not a dwarf, but his legs did not grow properly due to a genetic-type defect, as I understand it.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Albi: Cathedral of Saint Cecilia. Sainte Cecile. Interior.

There is opulence that seems ill-fitting in Sainte Cecile, and there are indeed beautiful windows. Just get past, at Albi, the fortress exterior, and the four-poster porch. Saint Cecile herself is there in bloody effigy.

Why name this place after Saint Cecilia?  Cecilia, a legend with various anchor dates (Greek 2d-4th Century AD)  (nobody knows exactly when she lived, if she lived or was only legend), married the pagan Valerian.

On her wedding night, she told him that she had pledged her virginity to God and that an angel guarded her.  She put on sackcloth. See  Surprise, Valerian. A little deceit going on? Why not tell Valerian beforehand, poor gent.

Nonetheless, Valerian wanted proof; he wanted to see the angel, so went at her direction to see the Pope Urban.  Did he see the angel?  Not clear. However, Valerian is said to have converted, was baptized, and returned to Cecilia and both wear crowns and live chastely ever after.  She continues to convert people, the authorities have her arrested (why? for conversions?), and a dreadful, prolonged death-process begins and finally ends as intended.  A differing account is at the Unification Church's (name has changed now?) site at  Vet well.

1.  This choice of saint for Albi is odd because Cecilia embodies the great virtue of abstinence, despite marriage, and Cathars also valued abstinence, although they did not require it of everyone. Cecilia, however, did as she was told.  She was told to marry, and she did.

Cathars on marriage: Cathars rejected cultural "marriage" -- to Cathars, no such "sacrament" was ordained by God, see  Only those acts engaged in of record by Jesus, baptism, for example, could be a sacrament.  Others? See site.

2.  The elevation of Cecilia to sainthood, and to name her for the new Cathedral at Albi that was only built after the mass deaths of the Cathars, many of whom lived in Albi, looks like an affront to the Alibensians for another reason. 

Autonomy.  Is that the heresy? The Cathars valued autonomy in men and women, choice in what beliefs they held, Cathars also had the Bible, but interpreted it differently; and they engaged women in participation as leaders in their society in ways the militant male Church found to be anathema.  

3.  Irony:  Unintended consequences.  Cecilia is also patroness saint of the blind, see, so the association may be apt.  Does it take a blindness to history to revere the course of the Church as an institution going amok.  Or shall we just tote our bland guidebooks and look another way. Why get all heavy about history that is long gone? FN 1


FN 1

There still are Cathars.  See what they believe, at 

The stained glass inside.  Do a search for stained glass Sainte Cecile Albi.  The individual feature suggest actual human patrons of the new regime were used as models. Pay to play. 

Review history.  Any stained glass can be pretty, and is itself a diversion. Look at the context here before going inside. Consider why the outside is a fortress, and fierce. The Roman Church had defeated, after some 40 years, the Cathars and Albigensians, deemed heretic because of their beliefs that indeed stemmed from the same texts as the Roman version. From about 1208-1244, the Cathars were hounded, killed, burned on pyres, and their property confiscated.  Their views were a matter of interpretation, which group cherry-picked what ideas. That is all heresy was to the emerging militant church.  A matter of cherry-picking. 

And, to glorify the individual sponsors of this enterprise, see all the heraldry and secular symbols echoing about.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Albi - Lipstick on a Violent History. Post-Albigensian Crusade Cathedral of St. Cecilia.

The Cathedral at Albi
Masks  the Horror of its Time.

Fortress Cecilia.
The Ugliest Cathedral in the World. 
Any competitors?

Arrive at Albi after spending significant time, even as an amateur, studying mainstream medieval church and state history:  the combined effort of the Crusades.  Explore the context of this place in history. Does the story here in Albi exemplify a common religious and secular institutional response to groups in their borders, whose influence is autonomous. What is the reaction when groups grow who are not dependent on those institutions.  Entrench, force, exterminate or at least, marginalize the dissenter.  

Worse, set up an Inquisitor as First Bishop of the place when the Cathar pyres finally went cold. Bernard de Castanet 1240-1317.  He had not even been born when the conflagrations began.  He was no theologian at all, but a man with friends in clerical circles. There is a fictionalized novel about him, unread at this house to date. You vet. See  He built this Cathedral, that can house 6000 souls in case of attack -- evidence that this church and its crusade ideas were not wanted, were hated, and many Cathar sympathizers sought to rid themselves of this invading forces at the time.  Although not a formal "Inquisitor," his record of collaboration and active support appears to have cleared the way for him to spearhead the absolutist theology of the church, click on translate at  FN 1

1.  Albi was a center for prosperous, established Cathars, also known as Albigensians.  The crusade of church and state against them extended from 1208 through the fall of Montsegur in 1244.  

2.  What counts most about the defeat of the Cathars?  Was it that the riches of the Cathars, who had been castle lords, business and farming successes, peacefully living with their neighbors, were confiscated.  Was this new wealth the real victory for institutional Church and State?  The Roman Church had severed from the Orthodox Christians, the Pope needed lands and funds for wars, but was this the most important victory?  

More important to the expansion of the militant church was its imposition of lemmmingness.  Conformity of thought. A follower mindset.  Do what we say, think what we say to think, and you, lowly individual, will be safe.  Veer from the line, and you will probably die at our hands.

2.  How did the militant church entrench?

Architectural help in forcing conformity, consolidation.  See the Cathedral fortress here at Albi.

How to convince the populace that this outside set of powers were now in charge, and could not be challenged.  Build fortresses.  Dominate the view. Where there is brick, the fortresses will be squat.  Where there is stone, the fortresses will intimidate by high steeples and towers, visible on a clear day, forever.  shock and awe 

2.1  The Four Poster.  

And, for a bit of frill,to divert the attention from force, affix a dippy entrance with the gew-gaws.  The locals, however, called that lacy applique the "four-poster."

The Baldaquin Porch.  The Four Poster, stuck like a gross afterthought on the fortress, carries more significance than merely powers in bed with one another.  Church and State, the flow of officials from one realm into another.  This was constructed after the initial construction of Bernard de Castanet.

The first Bishop was also the man who built this Cathedral, Bernard de Castanet.  He was no theologian, but had friends in clerical places, and was from a line of knights of the Languedoc, but not Cathar.  He hailed, as I recall, from Montpelier, a lawyer, or professor of civil law.  And he was an Inquisitor by collaboration, if not by appointment.  

His  mission:  Fight Cathar heresy and re-impose the Churh's authority against the claims of Albi's city elite.

Put an enforcer in charge of the theology, to ensure no-one challenges the authority of this militant church. But the people retained their anger, and in appeasement, this ornate silly porch was added to soften the blow.  Did it? the Castanet coat of arms is a red ground, with white castle outline building on it.  Am looking at all our stained glass window photos to see if I see it.  There is much heraldry about the windows inside.

  • The Four Poster carries another significance.  On Saint Luke's Day (see ox, below), young women were to massage various aromatics onto their bodies so they might envision their future husbands.  See the stlukerchamilton site above. Analogies, happenstance, all adding to the melee of militant christianity.

Which entry is this at Albi Cathedral.  Go up the stairs and right out the other side.  Vacant. My recollection is dizzied with all the fluff.

2.2  Look further at the imagery of the Ox for legitimacy of this new militant church.

The ox at Albi Cathedral.  The ox is the symbol for Luke, one of the Four Evangelists of traditional Christianity.  Luke is also the patron saint of butchers. The aptness gathers momentum for the ox as the symbol for the butchery of the Albigensian Crusade effort, is that so. This ox just looks sad.

This Ox also is not winged, as other representations of Luke's symbol are winged.  Why no wings?  Were they irreparably clipped, hacked off, by recent history? No theological soaring, reference to Christ's Sacrifice, here.

2.3  Lacework inside the Four-Poster: This Ox is also apt for  this location at a place of lacy portals.  Luke is the patron saint of lace-makers, among other interests  See  Saints piled on saints.  Overkill of supposed authority for what had transpired. Lacework and architectural trappings of the Roman Empire. .

3.  What was the victory of the militant Church after these Crusades in Provence, the Languedoc? Their real victory was over the mind: the forcing of a force-field mindset.

And presto:  Emerges a population of lemmings, in fear.  After the conflagrations of 1208 through the fall of Montsegur in 1244, the real victory for the church, and state, was more than acquisition of new riches from confiscating the wealth of the Languedoc. The cemented mindset became this:  Do what the Power says, think what the Power says to think, and you will be fine. Any who do not will be in jeopardy.  

4.  Study the history of the crusades era, to test the theory.  

See for example, but that conveniently refers only to Eastern crusades, ignoring completely the crusades in Europe, the Albigensian and the Northern Crusades. 

This alternate chronology is more accurate.  It expands analysis of mindset and action to the centuries immediately before the major crusade cluster in the East, see 753 AD ff at  What was Charlemagne's role in examplifying the kill-the-nonbeliever mindset, as at Sachsenhain.  As the Germanic tribes continued to fight against the Franks and Rome, enter the first Wendish Crusade, part of the Northern Crusades, in 1147.

And, in 1312, the crusade against the Templars. 
  • Templars, originally seen as partners in the Crusades to the East, grew in power and autonomy, and this led them into the church's ire through civil and religious inquisitions and torture of Templars in 1312.  A steady militant march forcing conformity on pain of death, imposed painfully


 The experience of seeing Albi for the first time will not be of awe and wonder and admiration at the massiveness of the Cathedral at Albi; but a recoil.  

This place had to be constructed as a fortress because it, and its builders, were so hated. Flatten the areas around and displace whoever had been there, a barrier like a huge moat.  Test the theory. Did the newly dominant Church of Rome have reason to fear, and how did they counter the ill-will of those who in Albi had lived in harmony for centuries with Cathars, only to see their neighbors burned.


FN 1.

That drive to enhance and consolidate power in One Church, One King, drove the Albigensian Crusade, against other Christians living peacefully, and with prosperity, here: The Albigensians.  Call them heretic, said the religious, who wanted their lands and wealth.  Call them anarchist, or the equivalent, said the secularly political, including the emerging King. As to the heretics-nonconformists in issue here, the Cathars, browse around for a surface overview at  

The ordinary Albigensian, in a town purged of original Albigensians, ponders, perhaps.  Here, a regular person in the town separated by the concrete nomansland of the Cathedral.

Wonders she:  Loss of culture, property, was one aspect for the doomed Cathars (some did survive). Was this the worst done?  No. Worse for Europe as a whole, however, was the accompanying mindset. There would be no room for dissent against the power of church, the power of king. Unbelievers could be killed with impunity. The pattern had been set centuries before with exclusions of all contrary viewpoints from the Canon, dismissal of trains of thought based on the same texts as The Church. The parade of crusades aimed and ultimately failed miserably in the east, and had more success in Europe, inquisitions that even reached to the most northerly reaches of Norway, see Deutsche Welle, Is that mindset plaguing us today, church, state, those who disagree with policies of either. Let live, or make die.

Monday, September 30, 2013

La Couvertoirade. Portal d'Amoun. The Seventh Crusade? Origin of Egyptian name?


Origin of Egyptian name.  The Portal d'Amoun, opening in the wall at La Couvertoirade. What is the name.  I find no French references so far.  Since La Couvertoirade was built by Templars, and since the Crusades after the first Crusade ended in failure, what reference might there be to crusades here.

The Seventh Crusade took place from 1248-1254.  The French King, Louis IX, set out from Aigues Mortes on the coast for Egypt but the entire enterprise failed, see

The name Amoun can be a variant of the Egyptian Amen, ancient god, or Amon.  And, an Amoun along with Macarius founded monasteries located in the Egyptian desert in 330 AD or so, see Monastic Overview at 
Templars had been at the forefront of the Seventh Crusade effort, see  

Would those Templars who returned have named this gate at La Couvertoirade after some aspect of their experience in Egypt.  Or, had they, in the initial few years where Templars were in Jerusalem and did such activities as they liked (dug up grail, etc? mystic knowledge, documentation of some aspect of Christianity that the institution(s) did not want publicized, whatever) also access Egypt, travel there, under the watchful eye of our Saint Christopher.

Novelists, to your pens. FN 1


FN 1.  Skip asking others to do your research. Origins of monotheism.  Do it yourself.  Amoun, Amun. This reference to Amun, for theology buffs and Egyptologists, and those who dig into what the Templars think they knew and when did they knew it, connects for some to the origins of monotheism itself, the verity of "Amen" or so be it or a confirmation of what one person says, the affirmation given by another by the Amen. Amun, or Amen, was an Egyptian deity during a particular period.

Again, Novelists, to your pens. Gate of Amun. Amen. Look up Thebes, and even this family is going to look up old slides of Thebes from 1961 (!) to see what it looked like then, and what we saw.

 Read the history and fate of the Templars there, Order of Christ absorbing many of them, settling in Portugal, etc.  Still, why is the name Amoun here? Amen. What do you mean by that?  Where did it come from? 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

La Couvertoirade. Claude Baillon, New Windows, Medieval Church

St. Christopher's Church in La Couvertoirade glows with the 1988 windows of Claude Baillon.  How can you keep from smiling?

Move on to Saint Christopher and John the Baptist, with his furry coat.  Christopher:  Christ-bearer, in some legends.  Both are standing in the waters.

Each is best appreciated up close, on its own.

Claude Baillon:  The Larzac area has been an ongoing center for the French Social Movement, see Crisis and Commitment: The Life History of the French Social Movement by Alexander Alland, Jr., Sonia Alland, now a google book.  The warmth of Baillon's saints fits a social conscience, is that so?

La Couvertoirade. Woad blue. Occitan Heritage and Heretics. Vanishings.

Clues. Echoes of Woad, of Occitan. 

Woad blue. A blue dress. Girl in blue. An Occitan inscription. A modern girl, unknowingly echoes part of a history that decimated an entire people who, among other successes, dealt in woad. Cathars. Albigensians. The Pope's crusade against them 1208-1244, just to the south, in the Languedoc. They spoke their own language - Occitan. And many could have and logically would have fled from the ongoing slaughter in the Languedoc, finding refuge in this more remote area, gaining "couvert" or cover. Look twice. Is she still there? Did she vanish? The heretic?

Girl in woad-shade blue. La Couvertoirade, France

A Cathar connection for La Couvertoirade could explain some of the town's anomalies.  The town was built as a fortress, to protect.  Who needed protection in the 13th Century, the 1200's? Not the Templars. They were  not declared heretic and systematically killed kater, in 1307, and the Order dissolved in 1312. Could the town's growth as Templar included others through an an influx of Cathars, Albigensians, targets of the Pope's Crusade against them 1208-1244.  What would support that, in archeology, accounts.  Where else to flee, but to this remote area to the north.

Templars exonerated.  How about the Cathars, other heretics?  Would "explanations" lead to retractions by the Vatican there as well?  Or does it take discovery of long hidden documents to bring pressure to bear. Will property be returned? Of interest is the now pending exoneration of the Templars themselves, see

As to La Couvertoirade, the town was substantial, suggesting that the inhabitants were not local farmers predominantly.  Think an emerging merchant class, other sources of wealth.  Not just the Templars, but that of the persecuted Cathars, could that be so?

And there is woad blue on the wood, the paint, as often in the Languedoc.  Is that woad? Someone test. Cathars built fortunes on the woad trade.

The blues. The world of Woad. La Couvertoirade.

  • Woad is also known as the Asp of Jerusalem, and may have originated in the Caucasus, perhaps tying it in to increased interest in it upon exposure through the Crusades. Returning crusaders could have added to the interest, and skills in processing it. Templars were money-makers. And the patron saint, St. Christopher who protects travelers, the proximity of Toulouse-Albi-Carcassonne -- a triangle of woad trade. 
  • Woad is not the same as indigo that later effectively replaced it in trade. History of Woad in Europe at 
  • Woad had many uses.  Find medicinal uses claimed as with many natural substances, and magical properties (!), uses in paint, among other matters, at Woad Facts at that site.

Clues for woad.  Knocker!  Is this La Couvertoirade ironwork representing woad balls?  Look on either side, ad the center top, even if the bottom ball is a common striking point for a knocker.  The others are design.

Knocker, La Couvertoirade. Woad balls in the design?

And Occitan, the language, remains in the town.

Cathars. Albigensians. Their language, Occitan.  See this inscription in Occitan at the church in La Couvertoirade:

Occitan inscription, La Couvertoirade, Church. Good people, who pass by here, pray God for the departed. *


* The letters, see;
and online translators 

In Occitan -- Bonas gens que per aissi passatz pregatz Dieu per los trepassatz.
In French -- Bonnes gens qui passez par ici priez Dieu pour les trépassés.
In English --  Good people, who pass by here, pray God for the departed.

And so continue down the street. What? She's gone!

Street, La Couvertoirade, France