Crusade, Heresy, and Inquisition in the Medieval Mediterranean


GS 181
TR 1:25 - 2:40

Cahors Bridge

The authoritative text of this prospectus is at http://falcon.arts.cornell.edu/prh3/214/index.html. It is updated periodically.
Be sure to check all details (especially dates for assignments) there!


Tel. 257-3168; Net-ID: prh3@cornell.edu
Office Hours    MG 307 --  Thursday 3-4 pm, and by appointment.



Shirley                Song of the Cathar Wars                                            

Hamilton             Medieval Inquisition                           

Sibly & Sibly       History of the Albigensian Crusade    

Sumption             Albigensian Crusade                                      


Arnold                          Belief and Unbelief in Medieval Europe         

Peters                           Inquisition (1989)

Peters                          Torture

Rosenwein,                   Short History of the Middle Ages

Wakefield & Evans       Heresies of The High Middle Ages    

All these are available for purchase through the Campus Store and elsewhere. They can also be found, along with other books you may need for the term paper and reference, on class reserve in Uris Library. 

                “Crusade” and “Inquisition” are words from the distant past that are still current today. The decades around 1200 saw the notion of crusade expand greatly from its earlier use as holy war against Islam to license, among other things, ideological war against Christians and, especially, Christian heretics. This seminar focuses on the Albigensian Crusade waged from 1209 against the Cathars of south-western France, followers of a faith imported from the eastern Mediterranean that the pope and western Church swiftly classified as heresy. When their efforts to extirpate it by preaching failed they turned to war and torture. It was now that “inquisition” changed from a technical means for the investigation of truth in Roman law into a device for the repression of dissent and often also the destruction of its practitioners.

“Assiduous and frequent questioning is indeed the first key to wisdom…for by doubting we come to investigation (inquisicio!) and through investigation we grasp the truth.”
(Peter Abelard, Sic et Non, introduction)

HIST 214 will be a reading and writing seminar, within the sophomore seminar program. We shall work largely from original sources, happily accessible in English translation, through regular text commentary and investigative papers. We shall also consider questions concerning contemporary political thought and wartime ethics in order both to trace their historical roots and to argue out positions appropriate to the challenges facing the West today. Classes will revolve largely round the reading, in class and outside, of primary sources. I have kept the basic readings relatively short in terms of page numbers, in order that you can read closely, and then come back and reread as often as necessary. The other assignments are designed to optimize class discussion. I shall lecture a little at first, but only to supplement your readings, to substitute for text books as it were.

 Since this is not a FWS, the class will not pivot round detailed writing instruction. (I may be the wrong person for that, anyway, since my native tongue is British English, Britspeak!)  I will, however, take up writing points in class, as they arise, and expect to spend time with each of you individually during Office Hours working on the improvement of your writing ability. (See the Course Requirements.) The course premise is that good academic writing (ie history papers) derives from intensive and focused reading and much thought at the paper preparation stage. We shall certainly work on all this in class. You may consult my own Tips on Writing History Papers.

The course focuses on Southern France and the Eastern Mediterranean. Most of you will need to familiarize yourselves with the geography of Western Europe at an early stage. You can start from a Relief map of Europe, with modern state frontiers and natural features (incl. city, river names).  I know of decent online Maps of the Toulouse area, Languedoc and France (the whole Hexagon); you will doubtless find others to contribute to the class. But Olin Reference has all kinds of better atlases too, and there is always Google Earth.

Course Requirements:

1.   Participation (20%):  I expect each student to attend all meetings and to contribute what s/he can to the discussions. One useful way is to put good questions to the others. (Then they will focus on your choice of issues.) To aid in this, I will expect each student to write a weekly report (10%) on the readings of half a page or so, and to submit these to me electronically by Tuesday morning. These may consist of points that have struck you or just of questions you want answered. But they should be written in the clearest and most persuasive English you can muster.

2. Timeline (10%): You should compile a Timeline for your own use and submit it to me by Week VI. You may use any sources for this you find helpful – there are models online as well as in some of the books. But you will want to add to it, flesh it out as you study the subject further. You may if you choose then at the end of the term submit an extended version for extra credit.

3. Term Paper: The term paper (40%) will be due 12 noon, Friday May 4. You will need to think up and formulate the question you wish to write about, discuss and agree it with me by Friday March 9. I want to see and, again, discuss with you an extended outline (10%) of the paper (including a preliminary list of sources) by fRIDAY mARCHMost secondary reading can come from the books in Uris Reserve, but I will offer more specialized suggestions where I can, and Cornell’s excellent libraries still contain printed books, an ancient but as yet unrivalled information resource. You can also search online.

4. Office Hours: I regard Office Hours as an essential resource for the class, and expect to see you fairly often (10%), and well in advance of any crises. (This should already be evident from item # 3 on the Term Paper.) In addition to working with me on your paper, you can give me feedback and raise any detailed problems which we did not reach in class.

NB Plagiarism Policy. Please familiarize yourself with Cornell’s academic integrity code (see pamphlet “A Writer’s Responsibilities.”) Unintentional plagiarism results in an “F” for the paper. Intentional plagiarism results in an “F” for the course, or worse. For further help on how to avoid any appearance of plagiarism, click this link, consult the pamphlet “A Writer’s Responsibilities" and/or talk to me. This will not be an issue to any student who works in a reasonably sensible and positive way on the assignments.

In this course we respect University policies on racial and ethnic discrimination, sexual harassment, assistance to handicapped, visually/hearing impaired students, and rules on religious holidays and plagiarism. You are responsible for familiarizing yourself with the relevant university regulations, and should raise any questions or concerns well in advance of any crises.



I.          Jan 23, 25 Introductory

                Skip Knox gives a brief overview of the Albigensian Crusade

                Chanson, laisse 1;  PVC, ss. 1-4                                                                                  Study Aids


II.         Jan 30, Feb 1 Introduction and Heresy in Languedoc

Chanson, laisses 2-15 (pp. 11-18); PVC, ss. 5-6  + ss. 55-65 (if time)

Sumption chaps. 1-3                                                                                                      Study Aids


III.       Feb 6, 8 Heresy to 1215

Hamilton, chaps. 1-2; 1215 Lateran Council c. 3

Innocent III letter on canon 3 (PVC, # F (v), pp. 311-2); PVC, ss. 7-19 on Cathar origins

Aquinas on Heresy   Aquinas on Killing Sinners                                           


IV.       Feb 13, 15 Launching

                Chanson, 15-62; Sumption, chaps. 4-5                                                                       Study Aids


V.        Feb 20, 22 Béziers,

                Chanson, 16-22; PVC, ss. 82-91 & pp. 289-94; Caesarius of Heisterbach (.pdf)

                Sumption, chap. 6


VI.       Feb 27, Mar 1 Crusade, 1209-12                                                                     SUBMIT CRUSADE TIMELINES

                Chanson, 63-131; Sumption, chaps. 7-9

                Statute of Pamiers 1212: PVC, ss. 362-6 & text on pp. 321-9

                The hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" must have been good for morale (cf. Chanson, laisse 114, PVC, s. 226 etc.); there are settings to listen to online.


VII.      Mar 6, 8 From Muret to 1224

                 Chanson, 132-151; Sumption, chaps. 10-13                                                                              FRI MAR 9 DEADLINE FOR PAPER TOPIC AND TITLE

             The 1215 Lateran Decree against Heresy
             Troubador Culture in Languedoc and the Concept of Paratge
for tourists!

VIII.     Mar 13, 15 Paper Outlines


SPRING BREAK Sat 17-Mon 26 March

IX.       Mar 27, 29 Muret:

                Chanson, 135-41; PVC, ss. 446-86 and pp. 330-3 (Wm. of Puylaurens)

            There is an extra account of the battle (in addition to those listed in PVC, 203-4, n. 5) by King Peter's son in his own Book of Deeds, transl. Smith & Buffery (2003) (Olin DP129. J3513 2003). 


X.         Apr 3, 5 Treaty of Paris, 1229

                Treaty text (.pdf); William Pelhisson (.pdf); Sumption, chap. 1;  1290 Council Ban on Lay Bibles



XI.       Apr 10, 12 The Inquisition and its Methods

            Thursday:   Video "The Sorceress" from 1:15 pm.
                 This movie is based (I believe) on the book by Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Holy Greyhound: Guinefort, Healer of Children,
                     which in turn springs from the text translated at http://falcon.arts.cornell.edu/prh3/262/texts/Guinefort.html.

                Hamilton, chaps. 3-5; Decretal “Ad abolendam” 1184 ; 1248 Inquisitor’s Manual (.pdf)

                Peters, Torture, Intro for definition, and pp. 24-39 on legal origins

                Edward Peters, Inquisition (1989) is an excellent alternative account available online

            Pennington "Innocent until Proven Guilty: The Origins of a Legal Maxim”, http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/Law508/InnocentGuilty.htm.

                Bernard Gui's  Inquisitor's Manual from the 1320s nicely illustrates a more developed stage of the inquisitor's craft.  This link gives you a translation of the part on the Beguines only,
                                but Janet Shirley has now translated the  whole manual. 

XII.      Apr 17, 19 Expansion of the Inquisition

                Hanilton, chaps. 6-7; Peters, Inquisition (1989), chap. 2

Testimony from Toulouse of Peter Garsias, 1248 and 1246-8 Sentences (both in the .pdf)


XIII.     Apr 24, 26 The Question of Torture

                Peters, Torture chap. 2 (& perhaps also chap. 1)     

                St. AugustineInnocent IV's Decretal "Ad Extirpanda"1274 Inquisitiorial Torture sessionVarious Confessions from Fournier’s Register (14th cent.)
                Some 20th cent. texts pro torture


XIV.     May 1, 3 Conclusions:

                Modern Apology for the Inquisition: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/madden200406181026.asp

                                                                                                                                Term Paper due 12 noon Friday, May 4

STUDY PERIOD Sun-Wed May 6-9
EXAMS Thurs 10 to Friday 18 May

A woman troubador's song

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