This post continues my series on the Cathars, this time focusing on northern Italy and, at the end of the 13th century, the village of Montailou back in Foix.
Map from Malcolm Lambert, The Cathars.
1232-1268. Holy Roman Emperor and his supporters, called Ghibillines, protect Cathars in north and south Italy. (Their opponents, called Guelphs, support the Pope's call for their exermination.) Inquisition is either not allowed or, when Guelphs temporarily gain the ascendency, sporadically so. Venice somehow is not involved.
The detail below shows the principal locations in northern Italy. Of note are Concorezzo and Desnzano, the centers of "radical dualism" and "moderate dualism"respsectively. Other important sites are Sermione, on Lake Garda, with the last sizable Cathar community, and Cuneo, in the far northwest, in which Cathars practiced relatively freely up to the 1370s.
c. 1240-52. Dominican Peter of Verona, General Inquisitor for northern Italy since 1234, reportedly organizes confraternities in Florence, backed by armed nobility, that in 1245 drive out the Cathar families and burns their houses. Still today there are monuments in two squares in Florence celebrating Peter's victories; none mention the Ghibilline comeback in 1460.
1452. Peter is murdered near Milan, a popular theme in Renaissance art. The murderer, Carino da Balsamo, implicates Cathar supporters in Milan, although he is not involved with them other than as a paid assassin. Cariono later repents and becomes a lay brother of the Dominicans (Wikipedia, article on Peter of Verona); Lea (vol 2 p. 215) says that after his death he was was made Saint Acerinus. Wikipedia says only that he was the object of a local cult as "Blessed Carino of Balsamo." There is also the essay, "The Assassin-Saint: The Life and Cult of Carino of Balsamo," by Donald Puldo, published in the Catholic Historical Review for Jan. 2008 (excerpted on Encyclopedia Britannica website); more details are in his book The Martyred Inquisitor: the Life and Cult of Peter of Verona (excerpts in Google Books; I haven't read much of it yet.) Puldo says that Carino was a local saint, not officially approved by the Vatican; his feast day is November 12. Another conspirator, Daniele da Giusanno, also enters the Dominican order according to Lea; but a man by that name is an Inquisitor in the case (Puldo, book p. 189)--either there is some confusion here, or a gross misapplication of justice. 2 others are set free and told to report to the Pope, but don’t (Lea).
Image: Giovanni Bellini, The assassination of Peter Martyr, 1507. Only one assassination was reported in testimony collected by the Inquisition.
Image: another version by Giovanni Bellini, where it is clearer which one is Peter.
The Lombard nobleman said to have furnished the money, Stefano Confaloniere, is implicated by four men, all with some degree of complicity but set free (per Prudlo; one deposition is translated in his book). The depositions include details which the witnesses could not possibly have observed, such as where on the body Peter was stabbed. The two witnesses with the least involvement are not even required to do penance. Another odd thing is that Carino, after murdering the two Dominicans, is captured by an unarmed farmer. (The depositionsspecify only one assassin, not two or three as in the paintings.) Stefano is the only one sentenced to prison, and even that doesn't happen until 43 years later. Peter is canonized in a record 11 months. As a result of the murder, support for Dominicans grows temporarily, but is not sustained. There is also mass opposition to Peter's canonization.
1260. Florence is retaken by the Ghibillines under Farinata, with the assistance of Manfred, King of Sicily. Manfred is the natural son of Emperor Frederick II, who died in 1250. This family, the Hohenstaufen, is German, but Frederick and his descendants were all born and raised in Sicily.) Farinata is a prominent character in Dante's Inferno, in the Circle of the Heretics. There he is called an Epicurean, which is what the Church labeled heretics who seemed to worldly to be Cathars; but in fact he was of a Cathar family.
Image: Farinata,Dore's illustration to Dante's Inferno.
1263. By now all of Northern Italy in Ghibillene hands (except neutral Venice). The Pope, in a final bid for a crusade, agrees to give Charles of Anjou control of southern Italy and Sicily in return for his defeat of the Empire. Pope will pay the costs. Control of banking to go to Florence Guelphs. An illustration to Dante's Paradiso done by a Sienese (Siena was Ghibbeline)shows the arrangement. After Charles' conquest, money will pours into the Pope's hands from the Devil, sitting on one of the towers of Florence, identifiable by the half-finished dome of the 1420s and the red lily on the gate. The figures in the yellow disc are the troubadour Foulke, who became the militantly anti-Cathar Bishop of Toulouse during the time of the Crusade, and Cunizza da Romano, sister of the pro-Cathar Lord of Verona Ezzelino da Romana. She was known for burying three husbands, probably represented by the hills, and also for being the lover of the troubadour Sordello. She ended her life in Florence, where she was a childhood friend of Dante.
1265. Charles of Anjou defeats Manfred, heir-apparent to Holy Roman Empire, at Battle of Benevento, Cathars are burned by cartloads.
1260s. A Cathar community set up on the promontory of Sirmione, protected on three sites by Lake Garda.
Image: aerial view of the peninsula, showing the where the Cathars would have been, proably the wooded area. On the end is the ruin of a Roman villa, traditionally thought to have been that of the Roman poet Catullus.
Below is a view of the wooded area from within. The building is probably Renaissance or after, but something would have stood on this high ground earlier. The walls have the same small stones we saw at Montsegur. Notice the palm trees. The weather there is quite mild, especially compared to Montsegur, even though the two are at about the same latitude. When I was there, in early April, the orange trees had oranges already; in contrast, two weeks earlier, in the hills outside of Foix, some of the roads still were impassable because of snow.
On the fourth side is the village of Sirmione, which was friendly to the Cathars, and an old castle, which in this same period is strengthened by the Lord of Verona, Mastino della Scala.
The brochure for the fort suggests that it was used as a base from which to launch an attack on the Cathars (see second to last paragraph).
In fact no such fort would have been needed to get to the Cathars on the other side of the town. An armed force of soldiers would have been sufficient to dissuade the villagers from intervening.. It seems to me more likely that the castle was rebuilt by the della Scalas in order to protect the Cathars. As you can see, it guards the entrance to the town from the mainland. The only way in was through the castle gate, except by boat.
From the ramparts one gets a good view of the peninsula
The north end can't be seen, but a signal from the house on the high ground could be, sending soldiers to the rescue. The beach on the right is in front of a hot springs. The aging Cathar perfecti didn't have it as bad as those at Montsegur.
1267. Verona is put under Interdict by the Pope after Mastino joins Conradin, next heir to Empire, against Papacy and Guelphs. Conradin defeated 1468. "Interdict" means no sacraments will be performed, not even marriage or supreme unction. The purpose is to put pressure on the citizens to overthrow their leaders.
1268. Armanno Pungilupo buried in Ferrara cathedral. Miracles are reported by visitors to his tomb. Some want him made a saint. The Inquisition has evidence that he was a Cathar perfect. After much controversy, in 1301, his body is removed and burned. A joke about Armanno is that the Cathars said, "See, the Catholics aren't so bad. They even want to make one of us a saint." Brescia has a similar case.
1269-70. One of Armanno’s consolees, Spera, a maid or lady-in-waiting of the Estensi, leading Guelph family in Verona, convicted of being Cathar perfecta. Chooses burning over life imprisonment.
My theory is that Spera is one model for Juliet in Shakespeare's play, which is based on a story first written in the 14th century. Then it was set in Sienna, but the citizens of Verona protested so loudly that she was theirs that subsequent versions had it in Verona. It supposedly happened in the time of the della Scalas, as we can see from the cast of characters for the play. "Escalus" is just the Latin form of "Scala."
The Capulets and the Montagues also really existed; their feud is mentioned in Dante's Purgatorio, where they have their Italian names of Capaletti and Montecchi. They may have been two families, but they were also two political parties, Guelph and Ghibilline respectively. The families belonging to each party lived on opposite sides of the town square. TheVeronese actually have a house on one side as "Romeo's house" and another on the other side, which actually existed in the 13th century, on the other side as "Juliet's House."
Image: Plaque in front of "Romeo's house" in Verona
The house itself:
And on the other side of town, Juliet's house." The balcony was added in the 19th century.
Another Guelph party was called "the Count." That corresponds to Juliet's suitor Paris, who in the play is never called a" kinsman to the Prince," as the list of characters says, but rather "the county." Capulet is trying to forge an alliance between the two parties. Notice that Mercutio, who is a kinsman to the Prince, is Romeo's friend. The Della Scala similarly were originally Ghibilline but took a compromise position in comparison to the party's traditional support for the Cathars, in finally acceding to the Inquisition. So Juliet is the Guelph family member who is secretly in love with the Cathar faith, rperesented by Romeo. Or so I imagine. Here is her statue. Touching the right breast is supposed to bring one luck.
1276. Mastino Della Scala accedes to Inquisition. 1278, 200 Cathars, most from Sirmione, burned in Verona’s Roman arena, including the last bishops of northern France and of Toulouse (Bernard Oliba). Interdict lifted. Last Italian Cathar bishop burned 1321; last perfect in Florence burned 1342.
Image: Roman arena in Verona from the outside.
Image: inside of arena, where Cathars were burnt. It is now used for opera and of course Shakespeare.
The trial and burning of Cathars was a subject for art even in the 16th century. For example, here is a painting called "Auto da Fe"--the wording comes from the Spanish term then current--by Pedro Berruguete, c. `500. According to Matteo Duni in Under the Devil's Spell: Witches , Sorcerers, and the Inquisiton in Renaisance Italy, p. 173), rom which I get the reproduction, the people being burned are Cathars. The person with the halo on top is St. Dominic; the two people with yellow garments bearing crosses are wearing the garb of convicted heretics, so they must be the ones to be burned next.
1299. Pierre and Guillaume Autier, consoled by Cathar perfect in Piedmont, return home to Montaillou, near Montsegur. Autiers win back about 1000 households to the Cathars and at least 12 perfecti.
Image: last remaining structure in medieval Montaillou, the castle, not a very big one, apparently, on some high ground.
Below the castle is what remains of the town square, around which the houses would have been built, probably made of wood. Most would have been burned down by the Inquisition at the time of their inhabitants were convicted of heresy. The site is protected by a wire fence.
And here is the surrounding valley, with modern dwellings, I think mostly vacation homes. The time is mid May, so you can see that life would have been fairly hard and bleak.
1303. Franciscan friar Bernard Delicieux (below, in what is probably a 19th century painting) speaks out against Carcasonne Inquisition for abuses; prisoners freed from dungeon by populace with non-interference by secular authority.
1305. In Montaillou, Autiers is betrayed by a credente, arrested 1309, burned 1310. From the mass arrests of 1309, one perfectus, Guillaume Bellibaste, escapes from prison for Catalonia, where he lives peacefully for 9 years. He departs from Cathar purity by secretly having a mistress. Lured back to Foix, he is burned in 1321.
1317. “Spiritual Franciscans” --the ones opposed to its prosecutory role and growing wealth--are declared heretics; manyare burned.
1370s-1380s. Inquisition in Piedmont mountain valleys. Their return visit in 1412 reveals only dead Cathars, whose bodies are duly burned. The Pope urges a crusade into Bosnia, but it never gets very far.
1389. Battle of Kosovo, beginning of Turkish domination of Balkans. Bogomils not persecuted, but discriminated against economically.
17th Century. Bogomilism dies out in Turkish-controlled Balkans, according to Lambert. I have heard anectodal tales of Bogomils continuing to exist in the remote areas, even to the present day (from refugee reports that might not be reliable), but I have no verification.
It is likely that many converted to Muslim faith, especially into Sufi sects in which they could retain much of the character of their former religion. A recent French film, The Broken Mirror, features two priests from the Bahktashi Sufi sect, which was persecuted in communist Yugoslavia and Albania and is today illegal in Turkey, although still practiced; these priests look more Christian then Muslim, and their mystical, nondogmatic talk is reminiscent of the Cathars of old.
It iseven possible that it did not die out in Western Europe, but was passed down through families awaiting a more hospitable time. The only concrete sign that I have found is a painting by Hieronymous Bosch, Flanders c. 1488, called "The Stone Operation." The book on the lady's head might be a reference to the Cathars' practice of putting the Gospel of John or the New Testament on the initiate's head during the laying on of hands.
If so, it would seem to be a satirical reference, as other aspects of the painting, such as the funnel on the head and the idea of operating on the brain to get rid of a headache, are meant satiricllly. So the laying of a book on the head to impart wisdom is also an absurdity.Admittedly, the book could be something else besides the gospel, such a quack medical book, which prescribed such operations as the one we see, or even an alchemical book. But I have not seenany suggestion from historians of art or medicine that putting a book on someone's head was part of any cure.