Monday, September 26, 2022

Beyond Love Songs: Troubadours and Cathars

 From Medievalists:
Although the troubadours’ poetry does not explicitly indicate a connection to Cathar beliefs, Aroux, Péladan, and Rahn postulated that the troubadours intentionally wrote in an ambiguous style called trobar clus (“closed style”) so that their affiliation to the Cathars would be disguised, lest they be persecuted for associating with a heretical sect. According to Aroux, the troubadours’ jongleurs travelled around France while singing their songs, and along their travels, revealed the lyrics’ secret messages to select listeners. While certainly interesting, these authors’ theories are highly speculative and suspect, and as stated by Karen Sullivan in her book Truth and the Heretic: Crises of Knowledge in Medieval French Literature: "…in more recent years, critics have tended to dismiss the possibility of a link between Catharism and troubadour verse, to the point where two new surveys of medieval Occitan poetry do not even bother to refute this notion."

Despite the consensus among most scholars that the troubadours’ poetry does not indicate signs of Cathar influence, there is still contention among some who insist that certain troubadours harboured an affinity for the heretical sect, especially Peire Cardenal. Select verses from Cardenal’s works denounce and admonish the Catholic clergy – who he thought to be hypocritical – which has led some authors to believe that he was a Cathar sympathizer (since Cathars were very much opposed to the Catholic church). Cardenal’s disdain for the clergy is exemplified in his poem “Clergues se fan pastors.” The poem reads as follows: “Clergue se fan pastors, et son aucizedor, e par de gran sanctor, qui los vei revestir” which translates to “churchmen pass for shepherds, but they’re murderers. Dressed in their robes, they seem so saintly.” (Read more.)

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