A Fruitful or Wild French Vineyard? Distinguishing the Religious Roots of Albigenses and Waldensians in the Twelfth Century

Ottavio Palombaro

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 54-73

A Fruitful or Wild French Vineyard? Distinguishing the Religious Roots of Albigenses and Waldensians in the Twelfth Century

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.03

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Abstract

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Social-Scientific Research

Ottavio Palombaro, Albigenses, Waldensians, Cathars, Middle Ages, Religious Movements

Much like how fruitful and wild branches are mixed in the same vineyard, there is a great deal of confusion when someone tries to discern the religious roots of heretical movements grown out of the Middle Ages. Two peculiar cases are often associated by confessional literature: Waldensians and Albigenses, demonized by Roman Catholic literature or romanticized by Protestant and modern Medieval fictional literature. In the quest for historical accuracy this paper intends to argue for the supremacy of certain contextual theological beliefs rather than socio-economic features alone in discerning the true nature of these movements despite their similarities and common persecution by the dominant Catholic religion. While the Albigenses reintroduced the ancient heresy of Gnosticism, the Waldensians were driven by a return to apostolic Christianity. The study also points out the need to analyze those movements beyond a one-dimensional approach in order to see the heterogeneity inside each movement, especially in their progressive evolution through time. Results point toward the need to reject an ancient origin thesis for the case of the Waldensians, whereas still allowing, in their case, a possible proto-Protestant connection.

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