Category Archives: History

The Root Cellar, by Christine Price

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A fast-paced historical novel that reaches from early 20th Century Russia to the nuclear research facility at Los Alamos, a man’s search for meaning in a world that leads to a profound understanding of his own personal journey through life as a Jew.

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While doing research for my novel about the Albigensian heresy and Crusade against them by the Catholic Church, I came across this very interesting article on Wikipedia. Stories abound about a race of giants that once existed, and while the Smithsonian makes no comment about their existence here in the US ( as far as I have been able to ascertain), there is evidence in France of men that were eleven feet tall.
The expression “Giant of Castelnau” refers to three bone fragments (a humerus, tibia, and femoral mid-shaft) discovered by Georges Vacher de Lapouge in 1890 in the sediment used to cover a Bronze Age burial tumulus, and then possibly dating back to the Neolithic. According to de Lapouge, the fossil…
The image at the top of the page was from

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It’s all about the Point of View

The Cathar heresy has been featured in many novels, videogames and movies, always portraying them as the underdogs, the persecuted faithful who were forcefully and brutally eradicated by the Catholic Church. Sadly, this image is true.

But what lies behind all of this?

From the research I have done thus far, it is clear that there is far more to this than merely religion.

The Cathars did not believe in violence, and did not condone killing anyone or anything – not even animals, for the parfait  were strict vegetarians. Some of them ate fish because it was believed at the time that fish did not reproduce sexually, therefor they were not killing a creature that has a soul.

Sexual reproduction was not permitted, since giving birth meant another soul would be entrapped here on earth. They had a very strong belief in dualism, in the opposing forces of good and evil. “Good” was ruled by the God of the New Testament, and “evil” was ruled by the God of the Old Testament, the God that had created human life. To give birth meant that you were perpetuating the wishes of the evil God. Many of the Cathari, including women, took vows of abstinence later in life, or upon their deathbeds. I think the majority of believers lived normal lives, but worshipped a little differently. The Catholic Church actually adopted many of the practices of the Cathars after the Inquisition, for example, that priests should be celibate, and that Catholics should eat fish on Fridays.


Many of their beliefs pre-date Christianity, and it is argued by scholars that their religion was closer to the original Christian belief, to  the Paulicians,(named after the bishop of Antioch) which formed the basis of the Armenian religion that flourished between 650 and 872.

There is far more to this than I want to elaborate on right now and there is plenty of information on the internet, so look it up if you are so inclined!

To get back to my original point:

At the time that the Cathar faith was at its zenith, the Catholic Pope’s legate, Pierre de Castelnau, was allegedly murdered by a Cathar after he was sent to excommunicate the Lord Raymond VI of Toulouse. The Pope had been trying to convert these wayward heretics for a considerable period of time but they stubbornly refused to yield to the power of the Vatican.

De Castelnau was declared a martyr, and this initiated the Albigensian Crusade to wipe Catharism off the face of the earth.

But wait, there’s more to this, as I said. The Pope encouraged King Philippe Auguste II of France and his vassals to perpetrate the “cleansing” of the heretics, in preparation for his annexing the Languedoc region and making it part of France. (So….it’s quite possible the Pope ordered the murder of his legate, not so? Then he would have ample reason to start a crusade against the dastardly heretics?)

So, voila! The Catholic Pope  Innocent III (what a misnomer!) thus enriched himself because all of Christian Europe had to pay homage to the Church.

The games people play. All in the name of religion.

Yes, there is more background to the Cathar faith that I have not included. I want to keep this simple and educational. I’ll get to the Bogomils, the Manicheans and the Gnostics some other time, so don’t despair.

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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in French history, History, religion


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The Role of Medieval Women

When I wrote Genghis Khan, my Brother: The Story of Temulin, I was plunged into a world that existed eight hundred years ago. Every little thing had to be researched: tanning hides, making armor, what the soldiers wore, what a ger was like. I find myself in the same position again now as I begin researching the Cathar Heresy and Inquisition which occurred at almost the same time as Genghis Khan’s rise to power on the other side of the world.

Europe was experiencing the Dark Ages, a period in which learning and progress seemed to have stalled, while in Asia, the Khan was plundering and fighting across the continent. He introduced innovative ideas, changed the way war was waged and introduced many other ideas that were strange for that time. Women fought alongside men; they worked alongside them, there was no such thing as a division of labor as far as everyday living was concerned in Mongol society. Europe, by contrast introduced the idea of chivalry ( to tame the rapacious knights) but the peasants, who performed all the work in the fields and elsewhere, treated their women like chattels. They were workhorses in the homes and in the fields, raising children and going it alone when the men went away to fight in the Crusades.Education was for the nobility and peasants remained ignorant and uneducated. The Bible was in Latin, as were the church services. Life was an unceasing round of toil and death came early to people. Forty was considered old; marriage occurred very early in life and many women died in childbirth. Superstitions abounded and the Catholic Church held sway over their minions, making them pay penances and indulgences which was blatant robbery.

Strangely, single women had more freedoms than married ones. A married woman’s land became the property of her husband; she lso lost her legal standing, having to defer to her husband in all legal issues. Women were bakers, brewers, dairymaids and gardeners and relied on a network in the community for support and news.

The Cathars

The Cathars were an heretical bunch who believed in allowing women -yes, women – to become priests. What sacrilege! Their take on Christianity was very different, not necessarily better, than that of Catholicism. They believed in duality, good and evil; the body was evil and so were its impulses. Humans were thought to be fallen angels in flesh. They practiced vegetarianism and were generally peace loving people until the decided to murder the Pope’s legate in France.

My current research takes me into the lives of the woman of the time, the role they played and the things they accomplished. It was the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a fearless woman undaunted by the restrictions placed upon women. She made a bit of a nuisance of herself by joining her husband, King Louis VII on the Crusade with a retinue of her ladies-in-waiting and about three hundred non-noble women. They set off from Vézelay, reputed to be the grave of Mary Magdalene.  She died before the Cathar Inquisition, but her life gives one a fair insight into the times of the 13th Century.

It makes one wonder though, the entire Cathar story…   

More to come.Watch this space.




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