A sect that originated in the south of France in the twelfth
century. They were named for one of their territorial centers,
that of Albi, and were a branch of the Cathari heresy. It is probable
that the heresy came originally from Eastern Europe, since
they were often designated Bulgarians and undoubtedly kept
up relations with such sects as the Bogomils and the Paulicians.
It is difficult to form any exact idea about their doctrines, as Albigensian
texts are rare and contain little concerning their ethics,
but we know that they were strongly opposed to the Roman
Catholic Church and protested the corruption of its clergy.
Their opponents claimed that they admitted two fundamental
principles, good and bad, saying that God had produced
Lucifer from himself; that Lucifer was indeed the son of God
who revolted against him; that he had carried with him a rebel
lious party of angels who were driven from Heaven along with
him; that Lucifer in his exile created this world with its inhabitants,
where he reigned, and where all was evil. It is alleged that
the Albigenses further believed that, for the reestablishment of
order, God produced a second son, Jesus Christ. Furthermore
the Catholic writers on the Albigenses charged them with believing
that the souls of men were demons lodged in mortal bodies
in punishment of their crimes.
Following the murder of the legate of Pope Innocent III,
who was sent to root out the heresy, a crusade was brought
against them, resulting in wholesale massacres. The Inquisition
was also set upon them, and they were driven to hide in the forests
and among the mountains, where, like the Covenanters of
Scotland, they met secretly. The Inquisition so terrorized the
district in which they lived that the very name of Albigenses was
practically blotted out, and by the year 1330, the records of the
Holy Office show no further writs issued against the heretics.
It seems possible that such heresies as the Albigenses and
the Cathari, with their belief in Lucifer as lord of the world,
may have sometimes merged with the pagan folklore that went
to form the witchcraft heresy, which was also ruthlessly persecuted
by the Inquisition. (See also Gnostics; Arthur Guirdham)
Holmes, E. G. A. Albigensian or Catharist Heresy. London: William
& Norgate, 1925.
Lea, Henry C. A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. 3
vols. London: Sampson Low, 1888.
Warner, H. J. The Albigensian Heresy. 2 vols. London: SPCK,