The Perfect Heresy : The Life and Death of the Cathars, Paperback Book

The Perfect Heresy : The Life and Death of the Cathars Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Eight hundred years ago, the Cathars, a group of heretical Christians from all walks of society, high and low, flourished in what is now the Languedoc in Southern France.

Their subversive beliefs brought down on them the wrath of Popes and monarchs and provoked a brutal 'Crusade' against them.

The final defeat of the Cathars was horrific with mass burnings of men, women and children in the village of Montaillou in the Pyrenees.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: European history
  • ISBN: 9781861973504

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Review by

This is a popular account of the life and death (but mostly the latter) of the Cathar religous movement in Languedoc, in what is now the south of France, in the thirteenth century. It truly is a catalogue of horrors of suppression, massacre, mutilation and terror that chills the blood; the incidences of mass murder and repression are punctuated by a depressing catalogue of deceptions and trickery that show the basest side of human nature. The incident of the betrayal and burning of the already dying Cathar woman in 1234 (pp 191-3 of the Profile paperback edition) is particularly depraved. As much as an illustration of Medieval religious conflict and fervour, this is a demonstration of the appalling lengths human beings can go to inflict suffering on people with a different view of life. One man who comes off particularly badly in terms of inflicting suffering in repressing the Cathars is Simon De Montfort, the father of his more famous namesake who is is usually credited with founding the first English Parliament. Only the final chapter provides a little lighter relief - a description of how the experiences and beliefs of the Cathars have been represented and misrepresented by groups as varying as new age hippies, Nazis and conspiracy theorists of the Dan Brown stripe.

Review by

Notes whilst reading:Excellent writing style.Good general review of what they believed. It was quite heretical.Right amount of information about the battles. Good insight into the medieval life, and of the ruthlessness of the corrupt Roman church.Wish I would have read this some years ago when we stayed some weeks in the region.Lots of interesting notes at the back, but there are no references in the book to these notes.

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