Where in the World . . .
Q: Where did your reading take you this week?
A: To thirteenth century France, still reeling from the death of King Louis the Lion and facing an uncertain future with a new king who is still a boy. We know that he would grow up to be King St. Louis IX, but they certainly didn't. And boy, did they have other worries . . .
(See the other answers at An Adventure in Reading.)
As you can see, this isn't my meme, which has yet to be launched . . . or dropped . . . or revealed . . . or whatever verb applies where memes are concerned. But it's one of the inspirations for mine, and I had this post ready to link up to it for the past few days.
Last night, I reread some parts of The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars by Elena Maria Vidal--a story that could only have happened in the Middle Ages.
This is wild country, full of witches--witches and heretics."
One major setting is the Castle of Mirambel, high in the Pyrenees. Since it is a fictional place, this is (probably) the closest we will ever get to it . . .
A medieval chateau in the same region,
also once a hotbed for the Cathar heresy
It must all look very civilised today, but over seven hundred years ago, the castle was surrounded by thick forests which became a second home to landless knights. Displaced by the Franks and angry at both Crown and Church, they were a danger to all travelers. Yet the real danger lay within the castle walls, where heresy was allowed to lurk and thrive.
Looking for images of medieval French chateaux, I learned that tours of "Cathar country" are very popular among people visiting France--and that, indeed, the Cathars themselves are very popular. I admit that I wouldn't mind lurking around a Cathar castle myself . . . but then again, my Horror movie IQ is pretty high and my chances of being "Final Girl" are even higher.
And let's be candid about the Cathars, shall we? It must seem very romantic to have held secret rituals in the dark of night, for fear of the churchmen who burned heretics at the stake . . . but in the light of day, the Cathars had a clear record of forcing parents to starve their own sick children to death and turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of young men and women.
Near the end of the novel, there is a mention of a set of questions being developed by the then-new Dominican order, meant to determine whether someone is truly guilty of heresy or a well-intentioned believer who was simply duped. The golden age of the Inquisition was about to begin . . .
Image Sources: a) The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars by Elena Maria Vidal, b) The Castle of Foix