Malignant Neglect. An Ugly Old War-Horse Fortress
Nice Jaquemart in the Clock Tower.
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 http://www.tourisme-lavaur.fr/histoire_et_patrimoine_13.php/; 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.
- Was the abbey Benedictine? The Abbaye de "Soreze" (see Wikipedia) or some spelling like? Vanished.
- Or is that reference to something different, to the Abbaye-Ecole de Soreze which is, like Lavaur, also close to Toulouse, in the Montagne Noire area. See http://www.abbayeecoledesoreze.com/ That was an Abbey School founded in 752 and later morphing after the Cathar era into other more militantly institutional Roman branch uses: a seminary, then a military academy, see http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2012/mar/02/france-montagen-noire-1950s-time-warp/.
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.
The current Saint-Alain church (no longer a Cathedral) is named for a 7th Century Alan of Lavaur, assumed to be a bishop, see http://www.martyretsaint.com/alain-de-lavaur/ 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 http://www.philipcoppens.com/catharism.html/. 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 http://www.newdawnmagazine.com/Article/The_Church_s_War_on_the_Cathars.html/
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.