The punishment of heresy in Languedoc during the mid thirteenth century

Barmby, Harry (2017) The punishment of heresy in Languedoc during the mid thirteenth century. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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During the thirteenth century a number of papal inquests were held across Languedoc with the purpose of uncovering and suppressing support for heresy. One key aspect of these inquests was the sentencing of guilty deponents. Papal inquisitors employed a variety of penances to punish those found guilty of supporting two heresies: Catharism and Waldensianism. Such penances included pilgrimage, wearing crosses, financial penalties and imprisonment. The most obstinate heretics were handed over to the secular authorities for execution, or if deceased, exhumed and burned. In historiographical debates, discussion about penances has often been overlooked in favour of focusing on the procedure which preceded the sentencing. However, by examining inquisitors’ decision-making and the penances which they imposed, new light may be shed upon matters such as inquisitors’ attitudes towards punishment, the development of the post-interrogation procedure, and the relationships between inquests.

Chapter one, ‘Proportional Punishment’ examines the penances imposed during the inquests led by Peter Sellan and Bernard of Caux respectively, offering quantitative analyses of the inquisitors’ sentences. By comparing the content of depositions to corresponding penances, the thesis argues that inquisitors usually employed a proportional approach when punishing heresy. Chapter two, ‘Inquisitorial Flexibility’ considers a number of issues which do not fit into a proportional framework. Occasions on which inquisitors were lenient or flexible are evaluated with respect to canon law and the extent to which they were allowed to make their own decisions. Chapter three, ‘Problems with Penances’ evaluates the extent to which completing penances like pilgrimages and imprisonment potentially facilitated the spread of heretical beliefs. Strategies used by inquisitors to ensure that penitents completed their penances are also examined with respect to historiographical views regarding inquisitors’ use of penances as a means of social control. Finally, chapter four, ‘Lessons to be Learned’ explores the progression of punishing heresy throughout the thirteenth century. The quantitative analysis provided in chapter one is compared to the sentences imposed by the earliest inquisitors, like Robert le Bougre and William Arnold. The resources which were created to support inquisitors are analysed, such as ecclesiastical councils, legal consultations, and inquisitors’ guides and manuals. Chapter four aims to suggest: that punishing heresy in the 1240s shared more similarities to inquests held in the 1230s than previously thought; that the development of inquisitorial procedure influenced wider legal Church trends; and to highlight the importance of the relationship between the inquisitors and the communities which they investigated.

This thesis concludes that the pastoral aspects of confession were key to inquisitorial attitudes towards punishing heresy, and that inquisitors imposed penances in reaction to the varied support shown towards heresy by the people of Languedoc. The combination of quantitative and qualitative approaches used in this thesis ensures that thorough analysis is offered for sources which are only just beginning to be explored in the detail that is possible. This thesis seeks to complement the scholarship which is currently taking place by those examining and translating the early volumes of the Doat Collection.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Taylor, Claire
Lutton, Rob
Keywords: medieval, inquisition, heresy, Catharism, Waldensianism, penance, pilgrimage
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian denominations
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 48061
Depositing User: Barmby, Harry
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2017 08:26

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