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Cathari

Name applied to several groups in history

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Cathari (from the Greek katharos, pure), literally "puritans", a name specifically applied to, or used by, several sects at various periods. The Novatians of the third century were frequently known as Cathari, and the term was also used by the Manichaean. In its more usual sense, Cathari was a general designation for the dualistic sects of the later Middle Ages. Numerous other names were in vogue to denominate these heretics. Without speaking of the corrupted forms of "Cazzari", "Gazzari", in Italy, and "Ketzer" in Germany, we find the following appellations: "Piphili", "Piphles", in Northern France and Flanders; "Arians", "Manichaeans" and "Patareni" owing to real or alleged doctrinal similarity; "Tesserents", "Textores" (Weavers), from the trade which many of the members followed. Sometimes they were erroneously styled "Waldenses" by their contemporaries. From the demagogue Arnold of Brescia and the heretical bishop Robert de Sperone, they were called "Arnoldistae" and "Speronistae". To their geographical distribution they owed the names of "Cathari of Desenzano" or "Albanenses" (from Desenzano, between Brescia and Verona, or from Alba in Piedmont, Albano, or perhaps from the province of Albania); "Bajolenses" or "Bagnolenses" (from Bagnolo in Italy); "Concorrezenses" (probably from Concorrezo in Lombardy); "Tolosani" (from Toulouse); and especially "Albigenses" (from Albi). The designations "Pauliciani", of which "Publican", "Poplicani", were probably corruptions, and "Bulgari", "Bugri", "Bougres", point to their probable Oriental origin. Among recent historians there is a pronounced tendency to look upon the Cathari as the lineal descendants of the Manichaeans. The doctrine, organization, and liturgy of the former, in many points, reproduce the doctrine, organization, and liturgy of the early disciples of Manes. The successive appearance of the Priscillianists, the Paulicians, and the Bogomili, representatives to some extent of similar principles, fairly establishes the historical continuity between the two extreme links of the chain—the Manichaean of the third, and the Cathari of the eleventh, century. In the present state of our knowledge, however, conclusive proofs in favor of the genetical dependence of the Cathari on the Manichaean are lacking. Some differences between the two religious systems are too radical to find a sufficient explanation in the appeal to the evolution of human thought. Among the Cathari we look in vain for that astronomical mythology, that pagan symbolism, and the worship of the memory of Manes, which were important characteristics of Manichaeism. However attractive it may be to trace the origin of the Cathari to the first centuries of Christianity, we must be cautious not to accept as a certain historical fact what, tip to the present, is only a probable conclusion.

I. CATHARIST PRINCIPLES.—The essential characteristic of the Catharist faith was Dualism, i.e. the belief in a good and an evil principle, of whom the former created the invisible and spiritual universe, while the latter was the author of the material world. A difference of opinion existed as to the nature of these two principles. Their perfect equality was admitted by the absolute Dualists, whereas in the mitigated form of Dualism the beneficent principle alone was eternal and supreme, the evil principle being inferior to him and a mere creature. In the East and the West these two different interpretations of Dualism coexisted. The Bogomili in the East professed it in its modified form. In the West, the Albanenses in Italy and almost all the non-Italian Cathari were rigid Dualists; mitigated Dualism prevailed among the Bagnolenses and Concorrezenses, who were more numerous than the Albanenses in Italy, though but little represented abroad. (For an exposition of absolute Dualism, see Albigenses; on the mitigated form, see Bogomili.) Not only were the Albanenses and Concorrezenses opposed to each other to the extent of indulging in mutual condemnations, but there was division among the Albanenses themselves. John of Lugio, or of Bergamo, introduced innovations into the traditional doctrinal system, which was defended by his (perhaps only spiritual) father Balasinansa, or Belesmagra, the Catharist Bishop of Verona. Towards the year 1230 John became the leader of a new party composed of the younger and more independent elements of the sect. In the two coeternal principles of good and evil he sees two contending gods, who limit each other's liberty. Infinite perfection is no attribute even of the good principle; owing to the genius of evil infused into all its creatures, it can produce only imperfect beings. The Bagnolenses and Concorrezenses also differed on some doctrinal questions. The former maintained that human souls were created and had sinned before the world was formed. The Concorrezenses taught that Satan infused into the body of the first man, his handiwork, an angel who had been guilty of a slight transgression and from whom, by way of generation, all human souls are derived. The moral system, organization, and liturgy of absolute and mitigated Dualism exhibit no substantial difference, and have been treated in the article on the Albigenses.

II. HISTORY. France, Belgium, and Spain.—Although there is no historical foundation for the legend that the Manichaean Fontanus, one of St. Augustine's opponents, came to the castle of Montwimer (Montaime in the Diocese of Chalons-sur-Marne) and there spread dualistic principles, yet Montwimer was perhaps the oldest Catharist center in France and certainly the principal one in the country north of the Loire. It is in the central part of France that we come upon the first important manifestation of Catharism. At a council held in 1022 at Orleans in presence of King Robert the Pious, thirteen Cathari were condemned to be burned. Ten of these were canons of the church of the Holy Cross and another had been confessor to Queen Constance. About the same time (1025), heretics of similar tenets, who acknowledged that they were disciples of the Italian Gundulf, appeared at Liege and Arras. Upon their recantation, perhaps more apparent than real, they were left unmolested. The sectarians appeared again at Chalons under Bishop Roger II (1043-65), who in 1045 applied to his fellow-bishop, Wazo of Liege, for advice regarding their treatment. The latter advised indulgence. No manifestation of the heresy in North France is recorded during the second half of the eleventh century; its secret existence, however, cannot be doubted.

A new outbreak of the evil occurred in the twelfth century both in France and Belgium. In 1114 several heretics who had been captured in the Diocese of Soissons were seized and burned by the populace while their case was under discussion at the Council of Beauvais. Others were either threatened with, or actually met a similar fate at Liege in 1144; some of them were spared owing only to the energetic intervention of the local bishop, Adalbero II. During the rest of the twelfth century, Cathari appeared in rapid succession in different places. In 1162 Henry, Archbishop of Reims, while on a visit to Flanders, found them widely spread in that part of his ecclesiastical province. Upon his refusal of a bribe of six hundred marks, which they are said to have offered him for toleration, the heretics appealed to the pope, Alexander III, who was inclined to mercy in spite of King Louis VII's advocacy of rigorous measures. At Vezelay in Burgundy seven heretics were burned in 1167. Towards the end of the century the Count of Flanders, Philip I, was remarkable for his severity towards them, and the Archbishop of Reims, Guillaume de Champagne (1176-1202), vigorously seconded his efforts. Confiscation, exile, and death were the penalties inflicted upon them by Hugues, Bishop of Auxerre (1183-1206). The execution of about one hundred and eighty heretics at Montwimer in May, 1239, was the death-blow of Catharism in those countries. Southern France, where its adherents were known as Albigenses, was its principal strong-hold in Western Europe. Thence the Cathari penetrated into the northern provinces of Spain: Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, and Leon. Partisans of the heresy existed in the peninsula about 1159. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, King Pedro II of Aragon personally led his troops to the assistance of Raymond VI of Toulouse against the Catholic Crusaders, and fell at the battle of Muret in 1213. During that century a few sporadic manifestations of the heresy took place, at Castelbo in 1225 and again in 1234, at Leon in 1232. The Cathari however never gained a firm foothold in the country and are not mentioned after 1292.

Italy.—Upper Italy was, after Southern France, the principal seat of the heresy. Between 1030-1040 an important Catharist community was discovered at the castle of Monteforte near Asti in Piedmont. Some of the members were seized by the Bishop of Asti and a number of noblemen of the neighborhood, and, on their refusal to retract, were burned. Others, by order of the Archbishop of Milan, Eriberto, were brought to his archiepiscopal city, where he hoped to convert them. They answered his fruitless efforts by attempts to make proselytes; whereupon the civil magistrates gave them the choice between the Cross and the stake. For the most part, they preferred death to conversion. In the twelfth century, when, after prolonged silence, historical records again speak of Catharism, it exhibits itself as strongly organized. We find it very powerful in 1125 at Orvieto, a city of the Papal States, which, in spite of the stringent measures taken to suppress the heresy, was for many subsequent years deeply infected. Milan was the great heretical capital; but there was hardly a part of Italy where the heresy was not represented. It penetrated into Calabria, Sicily, and Sardinia, and appeared even in Rome. The prohibitions and penalties enacted by the civil and ecclesiastical rulers of the thirteenth century could not crush the evil, although the merciless Frederick II occupied the imperial throne and Popes Innocent III; Honorius III, and Gregory IX were not remiss in their efforts to suppress it. To prevent the enforcement of the punishment decreed against them, the members of the sect, on a few occasions, resorted to assassination, as is proved by the deaths of St. Peter Parenzo (1199) and St. Peter of Verona (1252); or, like Pungilovo, who after his death (1269) was temporarily honored as a saint by the local Catholic population, they outwardly observed Catholic practices while remaining faithful Catharists. According to the Dominican inquisitor, Rainier Sacconi, himself a former adherent of the heresy, there were in the middle of the thirteenth century about 4000 perfected Cathari in the world. Of these there were in Lombardy and the Marches, 500 of the Albanensian sect, about 200 Bagnolenses, 1500 Concorrezenses, and 150 French refugees; at Vicenza 100, and as many at Florence and Spoleto. Although the increase in the number of "Believers" was very probably not proportionate to that of the "Perfecti", in consequence of the arrival of refugees from France, yet the Cathari of the northern half of Italy formed at this time over three-fifths of the total membership. The heresy, however, could not hold its own during the second half of the thirteenth century, and although it continued in existence in the fourteenth, it gradually disappeared from the cities and took refuge in less accessible places. St. Vincent Ferrer still discovered and converted some Cathari in 1403 in Lombardy and also in Piedmont, where in 1412 several of them, already deceased, were executed in effigy. No definite reference to their existence is found at a subsequent date.

Germany and England.—Catharism was comparatively unimportant in Germany and England. In Germany it appeared principally in the Rhine lands. Some members were apprehended in 1052 at Goslar in Hanover and hanged by order of the emperor, Henry III. About 1110 some heretics, probably Cathari, and among them two priests, appeared at Trier, but do not seem to have been subjected to any penalty. Some years later (c. 1143) Cathari were discovered at Cologne. Some of them retracted; but the bishop of the sect and his socius (companion), not so ready to change their faith, were cited before an ecclesiastico-lay tribunal. During the trial they were, against the will of the judges, carried off' by the people and burned. The heretical Church must have been completely organized in this part of Germany, as the presence of the bishop seems to prove. To these events we owe the refutation of the heresy written by St. Bernard at the request of Everwin, Abbot of Steinfeld. In 1163 the Rhenish city witnessed another execution, and a similar scene was almost simultaneously enacted at Bonn. Other districts, Bavaria, Suabia, and Switzerland, were infected, but the heresy did not gain a firm foothold. It disappeared almost completely in the thirteenth century.

About 1159, thirty Cathari, German in race and speech, left an unknown place, perhaps Flanders, to seek refuge in England. Their proselytizing efforts were rewarded by the temporary conversion of one woman. They were detected in 1166 and handed over to the secular power by the bishops of the Council of Oxford. Henry II ordered them to be scourged, branded on the forehead, and cast adrift in the cold of winter, and forbade any of his subjects to shelter or succour them. They all perished from hunger or exposure.

The Balkan States.—Eastern Europe seems to have been, in point of date, the first country in which Catharism manifested itself, and it certainly was the last to be freed from it. The Bogomili, who were representatives of the heresy in its milder dualistic form, perhaps existed as early as the tenth century and, at a later date, were found in large numbers in Bulgaria. Bosnia was another Catharist center. Some recent writers make no distinction between the heretics found there and the Bogomili, whereas others rank them with the rigid Dualists. In the Western contemporary documents they are usually called "Patareni", the designation then applied to the Cathari in Italy. At the end of the twelfth century, Kulin, the ban or civil ruler of Bosnia (1168-1204), embraced the heresy, and 10,000 of his subjects followed his example. The efforts made on the Catholic side, under the direction of Popes Innocent III, Honorius III, and Gregory IX, to eradicate the evil, were not productive of any permanent success. Noble work was accomplished by Franciscan missionaries sent to Bosnia by Pope Nicholas IV (1288-92). But though arms and persuasion were used against the heresy, it continued to flourish. As the country was for a long time a Hungarian dependency, Hungary was conspicuous in its resistance to the new faith. This situation developed into a source of weakness on the Catholic side, as the Cathari identified their religious cause with that of national independence. When, in the fifteenth century, the Bosnian king, Thomas, was converted to the Catholic Faith, the severe edicts which he issued against his former coreligionists were powerless against the evil. The Cathari, 40,000 in number, left Bosnia and passed into Herzegovina (1446). The heresy disappeared only after the conquest of these provinces by the Turks in the second half of the fifteenth century. Several thousand of its members joined the Orthodox Church, while many more embraced Islam.

III. THE CATHARI AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.—The Catharist system was a simultaneous attack upon the Catholic Church and the then existing State. The Church was directly assailed in its doctrine and hierarchy. The denial of the value of oaths, and the suppression, at least in theory, of the right to punish, undermined the basis of the Christian State. But the worst danger was that the triumph of the heretical principles meant the extinction of the human race. This annihilation was the direct consequence of the Catharist doctrine, that all intercourse between the sexes ought to be avoided and that suicide or the Endura, under certain circumstances, is not only lawful but commendable. The assertion of some writers, like Charles Molinier, that Catholic and Catharist teaching respecting marriage are identical, is an erroneous interpretation of Catholic doctrine and practice. Among Catholics, the priest is forbidden to marry, but the faithful can merit eternal happiness in the married state. For the Cathari, no salvation was possible without previous renunciation of marriage. Mr. H. C. Lea, who cannot be suspected of partiality towards the Catholic Church, writes: "However much we may deprecate the means used for its [Catharism] suppression and commiserate those who suffered for conscience' sake, we cannot but admit that the cause of orthodoxy was in this case the cause of progress and civilization. Had Catharism become dominant, or even had it been allowed to exist on equal terms, its influence could not have failed to prove disastrous." (See Lea, Inquisition, I, 106.)

N. A. WEBER


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