THE LANDS OF THE CATHARS
The 13th century in Southern France saw the rise of a breakaway religious movement from the orthodox Roman Catholic Church. The movement was considered a heresy and one that had to be eradicated from the face of the earth. They had a different take on what God was, and their views of the written gospels differed vastly from current religious dogma. The problem for the church was that these people mostly spoke the local Occitanie language, the Oc, whereas the church spoke Latin and therefore found it hard to assimilate into the society. The movement was throughout all levels of social and political life. It was therefore considered a massive threat to the power of the church. It meant nothing that these people, whom we now call Cathars, were peaceful, did not use money, considered women to be equal to men, and that they were vegetarians and worked hard.
So through a series of actions (starting with the Albigensian crusade and inquisition) led by the church and other religious leaders, the movement was wiped out over a period of years. The process was through fire. Wherever Cathars were found they were burnt, often hundreds at a time. The city of Beziers on the Mediterranean coast was sacked and burnt, and over 20,000 people were massacred, simply because they refused to hand over their Cathar community. The leader of the crusade, the notorious and bloodthirsty Simon-de-Montfort, was known as the 'Lion of the Crusade'. These photos document many of the locations where the Cathars lived, where they tried to hide and where they died. All photographs © Jon Davison and taken in Occitanie during 2016 - 2019.