Chasing the Heretics: A Modern Journey Through the Medieval Languedoc

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Hungry Mind Press, 1999 - History - 217 pages
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Klawinski tracks the Cathars, a 13th century sect, and the Albigensian Crusade against them, across southern France, uncovering an almost forgotten history of a group of doomed believers who lived at a time when "printed books were still more than 250 years in the future. When the concept that blood circulated in human bodies was 400 years away and the idea of germs more than half a millennium."

What he discovers is a bloody and cruel story, rife with treachery and motivated by a lust for power and revenge, a true story almost impossible to reconcile with the t-shirt vendors and other cheap tourist attractions that stand on the very cobblestones where so many centuries before people were tortured and killed for their beliefs. As one crusader reported to the pope after an early massacre, "Neither age, nor sex, nor status has been spared."

While he covers as much ground in his rented Peugeot in a few hours as the crusaders covered in days or weeks, he nonetheless creates a vivid sense of that part of the world as it was then. Everything he sees is tinged with the tragic sense of the events that happened centuries before. Castles and walled cities that may be mere curiosities to other tourists, he knows to be the sites of grueling sieges and merciless inquisitions.

The rugged but beautiful countryside and the current citizens of Languedoc offer Klawinski respites from the region's gruesome history, making his contemporary journey appealing for tourists and armchair travelers alike.

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