Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Friar of Carcassonne

Here is a review about Stephen O'Shea's new biography.

Bernard Délicieux, the delightfully named Franciscan friar who is the hero, albeit a flawed hero, of this book was a native of Montpellier.

He entered the province of Provence of the Friars Minors in 1284. At considerable cost to himself, he fought the excesses of the papal Inquisition in its campaign against the Cathars, a dissident movement in southern France.

Stephen O’Shea, the author of an earlier work on the Cathars, has rescued Délicieux from relative obscurity by tracing his efforts to defend the innocent victims of the ecclesiastical repression of heresy. The special object of Délicieux’s ire was the Friars Preachers, or Dominicans, who were mainly responsible for implementing the Inquisition. He accused them of using tainted and unreliable evidence in their judicial proceedings.

One of the most notorious buildings in the city of Carcassonne, where Délicieux was a popular preacher, was the Wall, the popular name for the prison where the Dominicans incarcerated suspected heretics. Not even the dead escaped the attention of the methodical friar-bureaucrats who staffed the Inquisition. There were instances where they exhumed the bodies of deceased suspects and consigned them to the flames.

O’Shea is a gifted storyteller who seems unencumbered by the occupational addiction of some historians to whisper to one another about esoterica in the footnotes. He has a good story to tell and he tells it well. (Read entire article.)

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