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The Corruption of Angels

The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246

Mark Gregory Pegg
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rgxk
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    The Corruption of Angels
    Book Description:

    On two hundred and one days between May 1, 1245, and August 1, 1246, more than five thousand people from the Lauragais were questioned in Toulouse about the heresy of the good men and the good women (more commonly known as Catharism). Nobles and diviners, butchers and monks, concubines and physicians, blacksmiths and pregnant girls--in short, all men over fourteen and women over twelve--were summoned by Dominican inquisitors Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre. In the cloister of the Saint-Sernin abbey, before scribes and witnesses, they confessed whether they, or anyone else, had ever seen, heard, helped, or sought salvation through the heretics. This inquisition into heretical depravity was the single largest investigation, in the shortest time, in the entire European Middle Ages.

    Mark Gregory Pegg examines the sole surviving manuscript of this great inquisition with unprecedented care--often in unexpected ways--to build a richly textured understanding of social life in southern France in the early thirteenth century. He explores what the interrogations reveal about the individual and communal lives of those interrogated and how the interrogations themselves shaped villagers' perceptions of those lives.The Corruption of Angels, similar in breadth and scope to Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie'sMontaillou, is a major contribution to the field. It shows how heretical and orthodox beliefs flourished side by side and, more broadly, what life was like in one particular time and place. Pegg's passionate and beautifully written evocation of a medieval world will fascinate a diverse readership within and beyond the academy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2475-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-1)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
  5. 1 TWO HUNDRED AND ONE DAYS
    (pp. 3-3)

    In two hundred and one days, between the first of May 1245 and the first of August 1246, five thousand four hundred and seventy-one men and women from the Lauragais were questioned in Toulouse about the heresies of the “good men,” the “good women,” and the Waldensians. Nobles and diviners, butchers and monks, concubines and physicians, blacksmiths and pregnant girls, the leprous and the cruel, the literate and the drunk, the deceitful and the aged—in short, all men over fourteen and all women over twelve were summoned (through their parish priests) by the Dominican inquisitors Bernart de Caux and...

  6. 2 THE DEATH OF ONE CISTERCIAN
    (pp. 4-14)

    Thirty-seven years before the inquisition of Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre a papal legate was murdered in the cool haze of a Provençal dawn. The murder happened on Monday, 14 January 1208, just where the Rhône divides (intole petitandle grand) before it enters the Mediterranean. The Cistercian Peire de Castelnau, legate of Pope Innocent III and a virulent denouncer of heresy in Languedoc, was about to cross the Rhône (from the right bank to the left) when an anonymous “evil-hearted” squire galloped up behind him and punctured his ribs with a swiftly thrown lance.¹ Peire...

  7. 3 WEDGED BETWEEN CATHA AND CATHAY
    (pp. 15-19)

    Frederick Conybeare, in the illustrious eleventh edition (1910) of theEncyclopædia Britannica, began his short history of the “Cathars” (two pages wedged between Catha and Cathay) with the vivid observation that these medieval heretics “were the débris of an early Christianity.”¹ The Cathars were the direct descendants of fugitive Manichees, dualist refugees from late antiquity who, though invisible for most of the early Middle Ages, managed to scatter themselves from the Balkans to the Pyrénées between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. In eastern Europe this diaspora became the Paulicians and the Bogomils; in western Europe these itinerants were just about...

  8. 4 PAPER AND PARCHMENT
    (pp. 20-27)

    The Original leaves studied by Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre are lost, perhaps to the pillaging of arévolutionnaireor, just as likely, to the bookbinding of arelieur.¹ Fortunately, for the modern historian if not the medieval heretic, two other Dominican inquisitors, Guilhem Bernart de Dax and Renaud de Chartres, had the Lauragais testimonies copied sometime after October 1258, though no later than August 1263, and this copy has survived as manuscript 609 in the Bibliothéque municipale of Toulouse, where it has lived since 1790.²

    Only a handful of parchment fragments still exist of any inquisitorialoriginalia...

  9. 5 SPLITTING HEADS AND TEARING SKIN
    (pp. 28-34)

    I believed,” the Avignonet knight Bertran de Quiders hesitantly replied when Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre questioned him on Tuesday, 6 February 1246, about the murder of the Dominican inquisitor Guilhem Arnaut and his FranciscansociusEsteve de [Sant Tuberi] Saint-Thibéry at Avignonet three years earlier, “and it was said by others, that the work of the inquisition would be destroyed and all the land would be free.”¹ Raimon Alemon, from Mas-Saintes-Puelles, overheard na Austorga de Resengas, thecrezenwife of the knight Peire de Resengas, say something very similar at Falgarde, a hamlet quite close to Avignonet,...

  10. 6 SUMMONED TO SAINT-SERNIN
    (pp. 35-44)

    As a general thing,” Henry James sketched in one of three proseminatures he drew of late-nineteenth-century Toulouse, “I favour little the fashion of attributing moral qualities to buildings; I shrink from talking about tender cornices and sincere campanili,” and yet, against his better judgment, he had to admit that “one can scarce get on without imputing some sort of morality to Saint-Sernin.”¹ A pious fiction perhaps, but somehow appropriate for an abbey church in whose Romanesque cloister the inquisition had once held court.² Sadly, it cannot have been the cloister that prompted such thoughts in James, as this particular building,...

  11. 7 QUESTIONS ABOUT QUESTIONS
    (pp. 45-51)

    Every person questioned at Saint-Sernin began by first abjuring all heresy and then taking an oath that he or she would “tell the full and exact truth about oneself and about others, living and dead, in the matter of the fact or crime of heresy [that is, the heresy of the good men and the good women] or Waldensianism.”¹ The questions that Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre considered fundamental in arriving at the truth, and that everyone from the Lauragais was asked in one form or another, can be inferred from the answers recorded in manuscript 609 and...

  12. 8 FOUR EAVESDROPPING FRIARS
    (pp. 52-56)

    Four Franciscans, on Thursday, 22 August 1247, eagerly confessed to Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre in the cloisters of Saint-Sernin everything they had heard someone else say about the heresy of theboni homines. The testimonies of Guilhem Cogot, Déodat de Rodez, Friar Imbert, and Guilhem Garcias were all concerned with what acredens, Peire Garcias, had told his relative, the aforementioned Guilhem Garcias, in the common room of the Franciscan convent in Toulouse.¹ Peire Garcias had, during the previous Lent, frequently wandered over from his house in the Bourguet-Nau quarter of Toulouse and engaged Guilhem Garcias in...

  13. 9 THE MEMORY OF WHAT WAS HEARD
    (pp. 57-62)

    As the men and women of the Lauragais answered the questions they were asked in the verandas of Saint-Sernin, their responses were instantaneously translated from the vernacular into Latin by the scribes and notaries employed by the friar-inquisitors. These quick translators did not use a form of shorthand, nor did they attempt to create a literal word-for-word transcription of what was said. Instead they used a form of tachygraphy: a style of rapid writing whereby the scribe quickly selected, abstracted, and translated from the testimony he was hearing those words and phrases he thought essential to the investigative needs of...

  14. 10 LIES
    (pp. 63-73)

    Aimersent Viguier had made up her mind to tell Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre the truth about heresy in the village of Cambiac. In late May or early June 1245, just a few weeks before Aimersent Viguier’s interrogation, some men from Cambiac took her aside for a quiet word. One of these bullies was her own husband, Guilhem Viguier, while another was the lord of Cambiac, Guilhem Sais. All of the men warned Aimersent Viguier not to say anything to the inquisitors that could harmcrezenssuch as themselves. Aimersent Viguier listened to their threats, calmly stated that...

  15. 11 NOW ARE YOU WILLING TO PUT THAT IN WRITING?
    (pp. 74-82)

    Sibilia Joan and Guilhema de Tournefeuille, two married women from Montesquieu, were walking to Toulouse one day in 1230 when, all of a sudden, Guilhema de Tournefeuille tripped and fell. “Damned is the master who made this bodily thing!” she cursed, having evidently hurt herself. “Isn’t it God that made it?” asked Sibilia Joan with some surprise at her friend’s apparent hatred not so much of the flesh as of its Creator. “Go on!” Guilhema de Tournefeuille scoffed at Sibilia Joan’s naïveté, then, rather more playfully, “[N]ow are you willing to put that in writing for me?”¹ Bernart de Caux,...

  16. 12 BEFORE THE CRUSADERS CAME
    (pp. 83-91)

    One day, sometime in 1242, Amielh Bernartjunior, a schoolboy from Mireval, happened to be wandering down the street in front of the hospital at Laurac when he heard two tramps debating, good-humoredly if somewhat crudely, about the Eucharist. “It’s just as good to have communion with the leaves of a tree, or an ass turd, as through the body of Christ,” declared one of these vagabond-theologians, “as long as it’s made in good faith.” The other tramp, so thescolaristold both friar-inquisitors, vehemently disagreed. Amielh Bernart then embellished his picaresque evidence by saying how Peire Aldalbert, another lad...

  17. 13 WORDS AND NODS
    (pp. 92-103)

    Quite frequently, when Lauragais men, women, and children, whether they werecrezensor not, met abon omeorbona femnain the street, a house, the woods, in the morning, late at night, on the way out of a door, before aconsolamen, after anaparelhamen, basically, in any situation involving a “friend of God,” the first and last words to be uttered were “Bless us, good men [or good women], pray God for us.”¹ A person, while reciting this polite prayer, lowered his or her head, and, bending at the knees, genuflected three times.² Sometimes individuals said only...

  18. 14 NOT QUITE DEAD
    (pp. 104-113)

    At Avignonet in 1231 Bertran de Quiders was very ill. His mother, Blanca de Quiders, an incredibly ferventcrezen, “ frequently admonished and pleaded that I love the good men, and, if I should happen to die, that I would entrust myself to them.” Blanca de Quiders then had Raimon Sans, a deacon of the good men, visit her son in his sickroom; though not amedicus, “he took my pulse and said that I should regain my health.” After this happy diagnosis, Raimon Sans and his companion preached, though no one adored them. Bertran de Quiders, at the instigation...

  19. 15 ONE FULL DISH OF CHESTNUTS
    (pp. 114-125)

    Aimersent, the wife of Bernart Mir Arezat, the lord of Saint-Martinde-la-Lande, remembered a gift her husband did not give to thebon omeBernart Marti in 1231 or 1232. She had gone to the house of Guilhem de Sant-Nazari with anothercrezen, na Cerdana, specifically to meet the good man. Already in the house were Bernart Marti and a number of other men and women, all of them knights and ladies, all of themcrezens. One of these men, Guilhem de Canast, carried a full dish of chestnuts on behalf of Aimersent Mir as a gift to be given to...

  20. 16 TWO YELLOW CROSSES
    (pp. 126-130)

    Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre in theirprocessus inquisitionisoutlined the punishment to be imposed on men and women who, though judged guilty of the criminal stigma of heresy, nevertheless wished to return to the bosom of Holy Mother Church as, somewhat paradoxically, the very private penance of always having to carry a letter describing the very public penance now visibly regulating their lives. The letter, in part, told readers (and listeners) that the individual who had just handed over the parchmentlittere penitentiarumhad to

    wear two crosses, one on the breast and one on the shoulders,...

  21. 17 LIFE AROUND A LEAF
    (pp. 131-132)

    Bernart de Caux and Jean de Saint-Pierre, through their two hundred and one days of questioning at Saint-Sernin, through making individuals think about certain continuities in their lives, through demanding that a particular style of truth be understood even by those who wished to resist it, forever changed the way in which men and women thought about themselves in the Lauragais. A polite nod given without a second thought in a doorway at Laurac, but seen by someone else or innocently remembered, now took on such significance that the subsequent relations a person had, and was anticipated to have, were...

  22. NOTES
    (pp. 133-198)
  23. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS CITED
    (pp. 199-218)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 219-238)