Lutz KAELBER : Schools of Asceticism : Ideology and Organization in Medieval Religious Communities

Publication Information : Book Title : Schools of Asceticism : Ideology and Organization in Medieval Religious Communities. Contributors : Lutz Kaelber – author. Publisher : Pennsylvania State University Press. Place of Publication : University Park, PA. Publication Year : 1998.


In the second half of the twelfth century, new heresies began to spying up in many places in the medieval West. They appealed to the common man and woman, and some enjoyed continued popular support. For the largest heretical groups, the Waldensians and the Cathars, there was in fact so much support that in some areas the representatives of orthodox religious life took unusual measures to stem the rise of heresy. Dealing with Cathars and Waldensians in southern France, Catholic preachers agreed to a series of public debates with some whom they had defined as heretics. In one somewhat peculiar instance, the debates carried on in front of large audiences for about two weeks, after which period the winner was to be determined by a panel of judges the parties had agreed on. However, the verdict and the outcome–the judges ultimately refused to render a judgment, and the debates did little to sway many supporters of either side–were much less significant than the fact that such a debate, or rather a whole series of them, took place at all. What a testament to the power and influence of the heretics that, at least in this case, they could successfully demand to make religious righteousness a matter of public consideration and judgment.

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