contributor.author: John C. Moore

title.none: Taylor, Heresy in Medieval France (John C. Moore)

identifier.other: baj9928.0705.006 07.05.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John C. Moore, Bloomington, Indiana, jclaremoore@yahoo.com

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Taylor, Claire. Heresy in Medieval France: Dualism in Aquitaine and the Agenais, 1000-1249. Studies in History, New Series. Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society/ Boydell, 2005. Pp. xi, 311. $90.00 (hb) 0-86193-276-5 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.05.06

Taylor, Claire. Heresy in Medieval France: Dualism in Aquitaine and the Agenais, 1000-1249. Studies in History, New Series. Woodbridge: Royal Historical Society/ Boydell, 2005. Pp. xi, 311. $90.00 (hb) 0-86193-276-5 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

John C. Moore
Bloomington, Indiana
jclaremoore@yahoo.com

The principal title of this book claims a good deal more than the book delivers, but the subtitle claims a good deal less. Despite the general title, the book is limited to only a portion of the middle ages and only a portion of France. Moreover, the book has little to say about the Waldensian or academic heresies. On the other hand, in order to give adequate attention to dualism in the Aquitaine and the Agenais for the period in question, the author offers wide-ranging treatments of related subjects, including lengthy historiographical discussions.

The first general discussion (encountered in Part I: The Duchy and Dualism, 1000 to the Mid-Twelfth Century) concerns the nature of social and political changes ca. 1000, i.e., the Duby thesis, as applied to Aquitaine. Here the author leans toward the mutation school, rather than the less drastic ajustement school, arguing that several rapid developments of the period created fertile ground for religious as well as social dissent. The rising power of castellans, the decline of public authority, the anxiety concerning the millennium, and even the Peace of God movement all contributed to the situation, the latter by first raising the hopes of the lower classes and then disappointing those hopes by permitting the castellans of the new order to dominate and exploit the rural poor.

The second general discussion considers the reports of heresy in Aquitaine between 1000 and 1150: did they reflect religious realities or were they merely the attempts of authorities to discredit movements that were really social and economic protests of the lower classes? Here the author carries on a complicated discussion of a half-dozen primary sources, together with their interpretation by perhaps a dozen modern scholars. Taylor is in general disagreement with R. I. Moore et al., she arguing for the reality of heresy and specifically of dualistic heresy during this period. With an extensive review of dualistic religion in the Byzantine empire, Bulgaria, and the Balkans, she stresses the plausibility of its direct influence on the West in the eleventh century.

Taylor argues moreover that contemporary accusations of Manichaeism reflected a reality and were not simply cribbed from ancient sources to discredit social malcontents. She says first of all that several different sources make the same accusations independently, and secondly, that the accusations do not show a general borrowing from the ancient sources. On the contrary, writers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries barely mention the "two principles" theory stressed by patristic writers. Rather, the accounts of the eleventh and early- twelfth centuries attribute views and practices to the alleged heretics that are consistent with an inchoate dualism and do not seem derived from scriptural fundamentalism (for example, the denial of the humanity of Jesus and "frantic genuflections" during prayer) (103).

On this subject, finally, Taylor concludes that definite evidence of Bogomil influence in the west probably dates well before the generally accepted date of about 1150.

In Part II, entitled "Catharism, Aquitaine and the Agenais, to 1249," the author turns to the principal subject of the book, but with continuing excursions into peripheral topics. First of all, she believes that there was very little heresy in Aquitaine, other than in the Agenais, a region on the southern edge of Aquitaine, straddling the Garonne River and named after the town Agen. North of Agenais, ducal authority was more effective and there was more cooperation between lay and ecclesiastical authorities, both of which were orthodox. Agenais, on the other hand, was more like Languedoc, with it less centralized lands and its underdeveloped parochial structure. Agenais and the south were also more hospitable to religious dissent because of fewer opportunities there for religious women and because of the disorder arising from partible inheritance and underemployed mercenaries.

Taylor argues that the geographical division of the Agenais was accentuated by political, linguistic, and cultural divisions, challenging Thomas Bisson's belief that the cour d'agenais reflected a communal identity for the area. The same diversity, she says, was to be found in its religious identities, and in pursuit of those identities, Taylor goes town by town, family by family, individual by individual (and, we should add, monastery by monastery, since some of those houses were havens for heretics). Here as elsewhere, the problematic character of the evidence is clear, since she must rely heavily on inquisitors' records from half a century after the fact. Despite Agen's later reputation for heresy, Taylor finds little evidence of heretics in the town itself. She suspects that the center of Agenais dualism may have been Casseneuil in the Lot River valley, and she points out that neighboring Bas-Quercy seems to have had many more heretics than the Agenais. In her town-by-town survey, she states, "Whilst there are no towns for which we could assert 100 per cent orthodoxy or heresy, it is a central thesis of this book that patterns concerning adherence to one or the other do emerge, and that towns and villages chose whether to accept or reject heresy, that is to say to respond to them as a community, whatever the actual preferences of the individuals and families within them" (182). This thesis, it should be noted, applies only to the period before the Albigensian crusade. Afterwards, as the following chapter argues, religious considerations seemed to have mattered little in communal decisions.

The chapter entitled "The Agenais in the Albigensian Wars, 1207-1229" devotes nearly forty pages to that subject, with scarcely a mention of heresy. The author's apparent purpose is to show that when people of Aquitaine and Gascony chose sides during the various phases of the crusade, their decisions had little to do with religious beliefs. Generally, they had little affection for the crusaders from the north, but they usually chose the side that seemed most likely to protect their selves and their possessions. Battles commonly saw Aquitainians and Gascons fighting on both sides.

Taylor features the quiet role of England's King John in the area, a subject on which she has written elsewhere. The judgement of the Fourth Lateran Council was that Simon de Montfort should be awarded nearly all the lands that he had conquered, including the Agenais. Taylor suggests that despite Innocent's apparent reluctance to accept the judgment, he actually was content with that outcome. Since it meant the loss of John's lordship over the Agenais, it made the struggle between Philip Augustus and John less likely to extend into the south. It also offered a more stable and less heretical south at a time when Innocent wanted to direct the forces of orthodoxy to a new crusade to the Holy Land.

The final chapter then follows the changing fortunes of dualistic heresy in Agenais and Querney and concludes, "I am inclined to think that by about 1280 the inquisition had undermined the security of the heretical faith where the crusade had not, and that the more pastorally dynamic Catholicism of the friars served to fill the void left by the exiled and executed perfecti in the Agenais and Quercy as it did throughout most of Languedoc" (258).

Taylor assumes a good deal of knowledge, and the book would certainly not be the best introduction to medieval dualism in France, much less to medieval heresy. Among other things, passages in languages other than English are frequently left untranslated. A more accessible text, like Malcolm Barber's The Cathars. Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages (Harlow, 2000) would be a better starting point, covering much of the same material in clearer form. The book is sometimes difficult to follow because of the dense detail, but it is clearly written. Taylor covers her narrow subject of Aquitaine and the Agenais well and for the broader subjects provides useful historiographical surveys combined with careful analysis of both primary and secondary sources. Her discussion of current scholarship concerning social and political changes of the eleventh century, although somewhat peripheral to her main subject, is especially useful for anyone looking for such a summary. The book's concise introduction and conclusion help to tie things together.

The book is well produced, with notes at the bottoms of pages. The extensive bibliography of sources, both manuscript and in print, and the abundant footnotes accurately reflect the voluminous research that lies behind the author's conclusions. Genealogical tables and three useful maps are provided (although Gascony, frequently mentioned, should have been indicated there).

As for minor faults, Taylor writes that when King John was excommunicate, Innocent III "declared the excommunicate John's throne vacant" (207, n. 98). That thirteenth-century rumor has been successfully rebutted by C. R. Cheney (Innocent III and England [Stuttgart, 1976], 320-321, 326-327, 339-341). Taylor frequently mentions credentes as though they were not heretics (e. g., "heretics,credentes, and Catholics," 236), implying that while the perfecti were heretics, the credentes were not. Also, the precise meaning of "hereticated" remains unclear.

In all this, the author and other scholars are both limited and liberated by the nature of the evidence: its paucity makes interpretation difficult but it also offers ample room for many interpretations. At one point, the author says of the work of one scholar, "He deconstructs both sources so thoroughly that little trace of dissident doctrine remains, not least because the texts become almost unrecognizable to readers familiar with them" (83). Faced with the difficulty of the sources, Taylor is wisely modest in her language, finding many ways to express probability and possibility rather than making flat assertions of newly determined fact. So her book will not finally settle most of the controversial subjects she discusses. (Anyone doubting this proposition need only peruse a valuable new book Heresy and the Persecuting Society in the Middle Ages: Essays on the Work of R. I. Moore, ed. Michael Frassetto [Leiden, Boston, 2006].) Still, the thorough and careful scholarship that underlies Taylor's book makes it a necessary source for anyone with a serious interest in heresy in medieval France.