Driving a modern vehicle down these ancient passageways, through the main square with its giant well which provided security from long sieges, past the castle keep to the gargoyleencrusted cathedral next door to our hotel, was like living a page out of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. No wonder Halliburton was drawn here in his search for the romantic. France has arguably more romance per square mile than any other country in Europe, but the pocket of the country for which Carcassonne provides a focal point is the fountainhead of the very notion itself. The literary form we call romance has its roots in the writings of the troubadours who first appeared here in the region known as Languedoc in the eleventh century. Poets and wandering minstrels to a remarkably open and tolerant society, they wrote of freedom and justice and gallantry and of a kind of courtly love that was entirely new to literature. In troubadour castles throughout the south of France - Puivert and Les Baux are among the most famous - women of the nobility established "courts of love" in which they defined suitable subject matter for troubadour songs, maintained the rules of grammar of the native langue d'oc and provided advice for the lovelorn. Their poetry competitions were the talk of the land and the winners were crowned with peacock feathers. From the ninth to the thirteenth century, Languedoc was the social, cultural and political cockpit of France.There was a strong tradition in Languedoc and in the region of Carcassonne in particular, of questioning Christian orthodoxy as represented by a poorly-trained, dissolute and avaricious Catholic clergy. All over Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries groups of the faithful were seeking a return to first principles and a new purity of faith. But it was in Languedoc that the strongest of these movements took root. Known as Catharism (from the Greek katharos: purity), it held that the world of God was the world of the spirit, while the material world, the world of time, was the realm of the Devil. Thus anything to do with the body - eating, drinking, marriage and procreation, material possessions - was inherently evil. Rules of conduct for the priestly class, the white-robed "perfecti" , were drawn from the Christian Gospels and strictly applied: the taking of life was forbidden and the perfecti were strict vegetarians. Fasting was frequent; celibacy was obligatory. Pope Innocent III, alarmed at the spread of what the Church referred to as the Albigensian Heresy (for the town of Albi, where a famous debate between Catholic and Cathar clerics took place), dispatched to the region Dominico Guzman, later St. Dominic and founder of the Dominican order. He undertook his mission of preaching against the heresy with relish but was soon forced to admit failure. He was prophetic in defeat: "I have preached," he lamented, "I have entreated, I have wept...the rod must now do the work of benediction. Towers will be torn down, walls toppled, and ye shall be reduced to bondage. This is how might shall prevail where meekness has failed."
Anniversary Issue Lay-Out