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Priscillian, the Cathars and Me

Tracy Saunders takes a look at the similarities between the Cathar religion of the Langue d’oc in the 12th and 13th centuries, and that of the followers of the 4th century Bishop of Avila, Priscillian, who was decapitated by the Romans on the grounds of witchcraft and heresy, along with seven of his followers, one of them a woman. The execution was the first instance of the Christian Church deliberately exterminating what it believed was harmful to the growth of Roman Catholicism. Priscillian’s torture and trial are reminiscent of what would later become the “Inquisition” of the Dominican Friars, and the force of questioning lead to the burning at the stake of thousands of the Cathars - The “Good Men” - at a time when the priests and churchmen had sunk to the lowest levels of depravity.

What did these two branches of Christianity have in common? Is there the possibility that Priscillian’s message was already widespread in the Pyrenees after it had been run aground (or underground) in the north of Spain? Did Priscillian lay the fertile soil for the Cathars’ acceptance of the religion of the Bogomils of the Near East?

Saunders, author of Pilgrimage to Heresy and St. James’ Rooster intertwines her own reasons for choosing Gnosticism in this personal and easy to read article.

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