When did the heat really come down? Some say it was the Inquisition. Nasty Roman Catholic priests persecuting heretics, Jews, Muslims, and whoever else they felt like putting to the rack. Most folks, when they think of it, believe the Inquisition was born in Spain. How wrong they are.
First they came for the Cathars.
Remember the Albigensian Crusade?
You can call the Albigensian Crusade the fifth Crusade if you want. Or number four.
Cathars were a bunch of folks in southern France, northern Italy and northern Spain. If you’ve ever heard of Occitania (southern France, northern Italy and Spain), you get the idea. The Pope in Rome and the very weak King of France (northern district) decided they wanted to expand. They eyeballed some nice real estate along the Mediterranean coast. Possibly the most civilized part of Europe at the time.
Southern France. Cathars had it going. Trading with Africa and Spain and wherever their boats could sail. Language of their own, culture of their own, religion of their own, had their own culture going on. Cathars also traded with the Muslims a bunch.
Nobody knows much about the Cathars other than where they were. What records remain indicate the Pope and company charged the Cathars with being Christian heretics. Probably the usual went down, troops swooped in from the north and the south and what was a viable culture disappeared. Northern France and the Pope’s chunk of Italy ran this Crusade against their neighbors for twenty years.
Cathars were described as being as bad as Muslims are described today. And these were their fellow Europeans. Hell, the Pope and the King used the same play book they published for looting the Holy Land. Get the heretics out of there. Find out who isn’t a true believer and put them to sleep. But how do you find out who isn’t a true believer when they look like us? So, these Crusaders invented the Inquisition.
Yep. Spain has been getting a bad rap for centuries. The Inquisition was invented in France. During a Crusade against folks now considered Frenchmen. Let France take the heat for the big I. France knows how to take heat like that. The Inquisition was created to ferret out French heretics, or whatever the Cathars actually were. Most all the Cathars were supposedly wiped out, and guess what? Nobody remembers the slaughter of the Cathars, because nobody remembers or knows exactly who the Cathars were. Put it this way, the Inquisition worked on the Cathars. In a way.
Why bring this all up now?
Crusades were easy to think through. Go to the Holy Land and wipe out those pesky Muslims. Muslims, you know they’ll start with the Holy Land and then take over everything. What century are we talking about here? Right. The first three or four Crusades. Guess the Muslims gave the Christians too hard a time so the Pope and his pals turned their attention to easier prey.
Too bad. The Dominican Order was given the cool job of following the conquering troops into southern France and finding out who all the nasty heretical Cathars were. They asked a lot of questions and the Inquisition was born. The Dominicans did such a great job moving the Cathars completely underground they went looking for other folks who didn’t please the Pope. Shalom. Thanks to historians like Mel Brooks and Monty Python, we all have an idea of how the Inquisition progressed after that.
So why the history lesson?
Not the reason you might think.
When the Cathars went underground some think they morphed into other things. The Huguenots. The Quakers. The Shakers. All sorts of interesting little groups, many of whom don’t think war is the answer. Hey, that might have been one of the reasons they disappeared when the Crusaders and the Inquisition were wiping everyone out.
Names may have been changed to protect the innocents.