THE PROMISE OF PARADISE
By Abe Van Luik
This is a tale woven around real people, real lives, and real events in those lives. Oh, and the places are real too. I know, I went to many of them and took pictures which are posted here in this group of pages as well.
At the first and several other key mentions of every place name below for which I have pictures, the name will be a link to the picture page.
The Pyrenees are a great set of mountains with lots of history hidden in them. This is but one tale out of many that could be told. Another tale also set in and near these mountains is located elsewhere on this site.
Liberties were taken in the interpolations between the historical facts. For example, several someones died of natural causes but we didn't know of what, until I supplied a reason. That makes this tale historical fiction. A little of the supernatural is thrown in too. That is what makes it a pseudo- fairy tale.
The historical facts were based on two sources: (1) the book "The Yellow Cross" by Rene Weis, and (2) the web-based translations of the Inquisitorial records kept by Jacques Fournier. I made use of the proceedings of the Inquisitorial interrogations of the two primary characters in this historical fairytale, namely Beatrice de Planissoles [available in two parts, see them for yourself at http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/english/deplanis.htm and http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/english/beat2.htm ] and Barthelemy Amilhat [see at http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/english/Amilhat.htm ].
Weis translated these sources himself, and used parts of them in different
parts of his book. He also had some information regarding her family that was not in these records, so I really
depended on Weis for the context of these confessions. I also depended on Weis for directions to the places named.
Many of them do not occur on the tourist maps I used, and some are not named on any signposts until you get right
on top of them.
So, I am very much indebted to the detective work done by Weis, since he tracked the stories of these two people as well as of many others from this place and time with immaculate attention to such important details as ages, times, places, etc. Without that background material there would have been little to hang this fairytale on.
Regarding Weis' book, I was electrified when I cracked open the book and saw the name Beatrice! I knew she was the Beatrice I had been looking for before I even read the book! Weis rightly identified her as playing a central role in the history of the Inquisition's activities in and around Montaillou. Her testimony is key to making one arrest in particular, and for the details and particulars of that story I recommend reading Weis' book, and not this tale.
So, why did I write this fairytale? I felt compelled to do so, and explain why on another page in this very section of my web site. But in that write-up I go into much more detail than is warranted on what is essentially a personal matter of no consequence to anyone but me. It was important to me to write it all down. It is not likely to be important to anyone else.
This compulsion hit me like a glob of bird-poop falling from the sky seven years ago (7 years before posting this tale, that is, but the above link tells of my remembering this event 10 years later).
It urged me to go looking for
a certain person named Beatrice who was definitely dead: hence historical. Same as Dante of old, about whose
relationship with his own dead Beatrice I have already written twice (both items are posted on this site). Dante and Beatrice are exact
contemporaries to this tale!
This urge is now satisfied: I found her in Weis' book. It would have saved me a lot of trouble if his book had been published seven years earlier. Then it would have instantly gratified the urge. It would have prevented a search that led me to reading and writing about Dante and his Beatrice, led me to study and write about the life of Joan of Arc, and led me to read and write about two other interesting Beatrices in history, one real, one fictional. So, I'm glad the book came out when it did and not seven years ago. I enjoyed those side-trips, and the ideas and ideals they brought to me have enriched my life.
Enough jabbering. Let us now turn to the fairytale. It begins at the end because I want to create no suspense. I want no anticipation of a dramatic ending in the reader. I want the reader to learn from a life as it was lived. What matters is the journey, not the destination. ____________________________________________________________
It was a warm, bright fourth-of-July. A day of freedom and celebration as more than a hundred and twenty prisoners were given a general amnesty and walked out of the Wall, the dark brooding prison of the diocese of Pamiers. The year was 1322.
The prisoners that were being set free, with conditions of course, were all accused of allegiance to the Cathar heresy to one degree or another. After a bloody Crusade against these fellow Christians that ended in the 1250's, with over 20,000 deaths, followed by many decades of investigation, detention, and execution of those still stealing souls there, a thorough cleansing of the Languedoc was achieved. The devil's soul-snare, the Cathar church, which stole souls meant for heaven and thrust them irrevocably down to hell, had been disemboweled and was no longer functional. So it was OK to let these dupes go free.
The patient and thorough soldiers of the Office of the Inquisition had done what sizable armies had not been able to do, totally crush the devil's church by removing its leaders from this world. Most remaining adherents had been cleansed of their heretical leanings and beliefs.
Most, not all, but it would suffice. What was left was a small remnant of dupes. They were not a threat, although no chances were being taken. Those who were suspected of having been true believers in falsehood would be marked by wearing a large yellow cross at all times and in all places, on their exterior clothing. A decision would be made some years hence, depending on their allegiance to Mother church, on whether or not the cross could be removed. Those who were suspected of not having told all they knew, but who still posed no threat of re-starting this nefarious plague, were marked with two large yellow crosses, to be worn in perpetuity. Those thought capable of re-setting this fire of hell had already been burnt and removed. That was less than ten percent of the total accused. None of those were left at this time.
THE YOUNG MAN AND THE OLDER WOMAN
Among the throng squinting into the first bright sunlight some had seen in months, or, in some cases, years, were a young man of barely 27 years, wearing no yellow cross, and woman looking much older than her 44 years, wearing two crosses. They were being watched, and they knew it. They were being spied on to see if they signaled each other in some way that could mean intent to return to heresy. A return to heresy, or violating any part of the complex oath taken for receiving freedom and absolution to some degree, brought about a swift retrial followed by being burnt publicly at the stake. A very effective policy for preventing relapses.
With some satisfaction, the watchers on the tower saw there was recognition on the part of the man and the woman followed by an immediate and too obvious turning away from each other. They knew they were under the eye. He did not look back, walking slowly away. Good. His name was Barthelemy Amilhat, a priest and none too bright. He had allowed himself to fall under the spell of this wanton witch, descended from a long line of heretical evil-doers, named Beatrice de Planissoles.
She took about a hundred steps, slowing as she went until she stopped. She stood, visibly shaking as if great sobs were racking her chest, and then spun around with tears flashing brilliantly in the bright light of the sun. He slowed, as if he could feel her gaze, then resolutely stepped forward, artificially adding to his length of stride and speed until it looked as if he was a puppet being moved too fast for comic effect.
A WATCHER ON THE WALL
The watchers on the wall took pleasure in seeing the wet-faced woman sink to her knees looking at the exiting figure until he was out of sight. Then a woman who appeared to be one of her sisters, it looked like the one from Limoux, came up to her, helped her up, and embraced her. Beatrice hobbled away sustained by her sister's arm. A discussion on the wall settled on the sister's name, Gentille, from Limoux, not Ava from Caussou, and a note was made. Ava was nowhere to be seen. A note was made.
Notes were made just in case. It was thought the Cathar church was dead, members could no longer be aided and abetted by a cunning and dedicated leadership. What walked out of this prison was mostly a haphazard and not too dedicated set of people who had been caught in the devil's snare, and saved from same, and were now brought back into the fold of the true church of God. Beatrice was an exception, though she had also sworn allegiance to the one true church. Sending them home was safe, and it spared the expense of keeping hundreds in prison. But, just in case, the surveillance of the higher profile persons, like Beatrice after her release, would continue for some time. And Barthelemy knew that hooking up with her again would be a relapse, which meant death. And he knew he would be watched.
Actually, unbeknownst to Barthelemy, his watchers observed how he acted in interrogation and they knew that the fear in him was stronger than his feelings for Beatrice. So he would not be diligently watched. On the wall, the watchers saw the young man act true to their predictions and were proud of him. But knowing what Beatrice looked like when in good health and not in prison, they understood how a young priest could be bewitched and fall into being a dupe of this heretic. He wouldn't be the first priest to suffer that fate.
By not at least making eye contact he had broken the heart of the woman that just scurried away like a sick rat, hanging ont the arm and shoulder of her sister. He had done exactly what he knew he should do. The decision to have him be one of the very few not given a yellow cross to bear was the right one. He could still be a priest, even.
As the crowd dissipated, there were whisperings on the wall. One in particular expressed pleasure to those around him in the obvious discomfort of the old woman. She had come close to being burnt, and should have been, in this man's opinion. After all she denounced a revered priest, his kinsman, and he was taken prisoner. He sickened and died there and received a burial befitting his station as an aristocrat and dedicated priest.
But that was not all. As a consequence of this whore's testimony, a testimony that showed she was both whore and heretic, a long-serving priest, Pierre Clerque of Montaillou, had been jailed and his frail body and proud spirit were extinguished in that situation like a candles in a foul wind. Worse, much worse, was that even though he was dead, the trial continued. He was found to be a heretic and was disinterred, his body burnt and he was assigned to burn in hell forever. His family, once prosperous, was ruined in reputation, and several family properties were forfeit to the church.
None of it was true or just, of course, Amilhat's case showed how she made these things happen. Already appeals were being made in high places to restore the family's properties and reputation. All this happened because of the testimony of this witch, and a few others similarly afflicted by the devil. If the devil was so obviously in her so as to make her have to wear a double cross the rest of her life, why was her word against a man of God thought to be credible?
As he was explaining all this to his fellow watchers he said, without thinking, that sometimes it seems the men of God running the church are missing a few joints in their armor. When that remark caused him to receive several penetrating stares he shut his mouth and said he didn't mean anything by that. He got up, their task was done, and he quickly made his way to his modest home in Pamiers where he thought long and hard about the injustice that had been done to his family. He would personally, he decided, see to it that the witch was watched for evidence of continuing heresy. In fact since she had been a sexual plaything for two of his relatives, one of them after he had raped her, it seemed only right that he seize the day and make sure that she has the opportunity to continue to be thus favored by a Clerque relative.
Then as he continued to walk his last remark on the wall recurred to him, and he recalled the reaction it received. So, he thought better of striking up a relationship with a woman wearing a double cross. It could be fatal to him.
He arrived home and knelt down to pray God for justice for his family, and
for something terrible to befall the witch. As he was kneeling, his wife joined him, said her own prayers, and suggested they go to bed to celebrate his duties
being over. She worried for him daily, thought that he was in grave danger as a guard over the devil's spawn, and
was greatly relieved when the amnesty was announced. He would return to his normal duty as a sergeant in the
police force of the Bishop of Pamiers. His next assignment was to help find escaping Spiritual Franciscans, misguided
Catholics not as prone to violence as were these nasty, nasty creatures calling themselves the "good Christians"
and making no bones about the Catholics being the bad Christians.
There was still cause for worry, of course. Her husband would be dealing with the errant Beguines in the area, and some tertiary members of the Franciscan order, also mostly women, who were erring in doctrine and becoming belligerant when called to account and to repent. Some of them were being tried for heresy right alongside the very same Cathars they pretended to hate as good Catholics. Some claimed revelation from God, revealing an angry God who declared the pope as the antichrist. Good Catholics? They claimed to be, but were obviously not. But they were not particularly prone to violence either, quite the opposite, they seemed to belive martyrdom was a gift from God! But where Cathars were concerned it was quite different. One should and could never forget that it was the Cathars who massacred holy men! The pope had sent his personal legates to reinforce the noble Inquisitors in the Languedoc, and they were cut and bludgeoned to death by a posse sent from Montsegur to Avignonet. These martyrs may become saints, since the devil saw them as such a threat that he sent his own spawn to execute them.
THE YOUNG MAN
Barthelemy walked alone, back to Dalou where his involvement with Beatrice, which he now regretted, had begun. During his four years there, he had also carnally known another woman, one more his own age. She and he had been meeting off and on and were now once more in love. Being disgraced, and as good as disowned even before his arrest, he could not go to his home over the mountains. So, he went to see her, with great fear of being rejected. There had been no word between them since his arrest, well over two years, nearly three! For all he knew, she could be married now.
She not only let him in the door, but welcomed him in. As soon as he was inside she made him very, very welcome and told him to consider this home his home forever. The next day he interviewed with the vicar of the local church where he had once himself been vicar, and was again offered work as an assistant to teach the young people. He was happy. God had given him a chance to start afresh, as if the last seven years had never happened. It seems his heart-felt repentance and his fervent prayers, uttered day and night from his cold or hot --depending on the time of year-- but always dark and damp cell, had been accepted by God.
He thought of how the older woman looked leaving prison, and wondered how he could ever have been so in love with her. She had bewitched him. That was it. She wore two yellow crosses for good reason. She was in his past, a mistake for which he had paid, prayed, and been forgiven.
THE OLD WOMAN
The old woman became visibly younger once she was bathed, dressed, and fed at her sister's home in Limoux. Of her four remaining daughters (one, named Beatrice, her oldest, had died several years ago) three were married and their children now come to visit regularly, and she is content and happy for the third time in her life. She has lost the property inherited from her late second husband to the church as penalty for heresy.
She still feels a pang of emptiness when thinking of Barthelemy. Of all the men she has known he was her greatest love, although she was very fond of her first husband and felt she had loved him.
She and Barthelemy were together for almost four years prior to jail, the last two only seeing each other occasionally because they were being watched, and knew it. The first two
years were a mixture of excruciating agony and exhilerating ecstasy. Even after they had separated and just visited occasionally over the
next two years, the spark of love was always there, re-igniting the fires of passion instantly if only they were
in proximity, it seemed. But now he had betrayed her.
Betrayed her? Yes. Not to the Bishop in his testimony, he said nothing to directly denounce her. No, as had been told to her by those seeking to discourage her while in prison, he had confessed that he never intended to run away with her as he had pledged when she entreated him to do so tearfully. He had confessed to the Bishop that he always has had another lover in Dalou that he now wanted to be with, not her. That hurt. That was a betrayal of their love. But she was largely over it.
She also knew from the old Cathar soothsayer Gaillarde Cuq that in about 700 years she would be able to touch him again, that touch would cause him to come looking for her, and a few decades later as he completed his ninth life, they would be together again. The thought, nay the firm prediction, made her happy. It would all come out right in the very end. She knew that when she died she would spend that 700 years in heaven, waiting for Barthelemy for what would seem like the twinkling of an eye to her, though a long series of lifetimes in this world. The time would be spent with her family, parents and children, ‘good Christians' in fact and in spirit, all of them.
THE BEGINNING, PART 1, THE YOUNG MAN
A few years beyond 700 years ago, a young boy named Barthelemy Amilhat grew up, well-fed and happy. He both fought with and got along with his older brother. They were close enough in age that they learned to work together, gardening and tending sheep, first with and then for, their parents. They did not have much, but ate well, kept warm in winter, had good clothing mostly made by their mother, and thought of themselves as fortunate. They lived in a small group of houses clustered around a church, set in the middle of a long narrow Pyrenean valley with much grass and shrubbery on the mountain slopes. Water flowed by in a pure mountain stream and was easy to collect. It never failed to flow although some years it destroyed the fields they all depended on. The village was then called Lladros. The region was called the Pallars. Today the village is much smaller, and still called Lladros.
The surrounding mountains, with peaks over 9,000 feet high, 5,000 feet above the valley where Lladros sat, controlled the climate, catching rain and snow to make this valley able to grow trees from which one could make stone houses livable, barns, fences and furniture. Vegetation abounded, and that fed sheep. Though rocky, there was soil in the valley bottom that allowed the gardening that was required to complete an adequate diet.
Some villagers, especially in winter, practiced wood and leatherworking crafts, and of course carding wool and making woolen clothing was a universal occupation for those owning sheep, which was almost everyone. There was an occasional local market in the village where vegetables and fruits were traded in season. Most villagers prepared their handiwork, produce, and sheep for sale in the market of the county seat, Tremp, however, and thus participated in the regional commerce base. The connection between the county and the regional commerce base was at Lleida. All these towns still have the same names today. A trip to Lleida took a full, long day by horse, several days by foot or cart, and over a week when driving sheep.
Going to market was a big deal for the whole family, and came close to being a highlight of a mountain boy's life, and no doubt Barthelemy recalled some fine experiences in these cities which he visited as a boy. Going to market came close to being a life highlight, but of course the discovery of girls and what boys and girls do together is an even greater thrill, and does not require a trip to market.
Lleida is where the fertile lands of the plains meet the slopes of the mountains. Its market saw wares brought in from the entire region today called Catalonia. By comparison to its rather cosmopolitan air, Lladros and its valley, with numerous tiny villages, was isolated, a mountain-bound backwater with some unique, even in its own time, traditions.
What was unique, long before and for some time after Barthelemy lived his life, was that the local Catholic infrastructure had a unique way of obeying the onerous, now more than 300 year old, edict from Rome that priests could not be married. Of course Rome also said they should be celibate, but this was rather largely ignored, and in the surrounding regions local priests fathering children on their occasional or long-term lovers was not uncommon.
In the Pallars this situation of priests taking sexual pleasure with no responsibility to either the mother or to the children that often resulted, so well tolerated in all the surrounding regions, was found to be unacceptable. It was unethical and immoral to have a lover, to have children, and then to not take responsibility for them. So, where Barthelemy grew up, priests could be "married" civilly, in a public ceremony wherein the priest and woman pledged mutual support, and children had the right to inherit from them. The women were not called wives, and the relationship was not called a marriage. The word concubine, and house-woman, were used, the former a Biblical term, but in effect the priest and his woman were married, though civilly and not in church.
The "marriage" relation began with a public celebration. It also involved the signing, or acknowledgment with an X and a witness, of legally binding papers to protect the rights of the wife and offspring. In the time of Barthelemy's growing up he thought these things to be the natural and normal way, it was only as he matured that he came to understand that outside his beautiful valley, things were not so.
The vicar of the local church took an interest in Barthelemy, who was bright, cheerful, good looking, and tended to be thoughtful, much more so than his good natured, brawnier brother. He suggested to his parents that Barthelemy might be a fitting candidate for the priesthood. He reminded them of what they were already aware of, that they did not have much to leave their children, and the oldest son was entitled to their modest belongings and seemed to be well suited to continue the agricultural life of his parents.
Barthelemy, on the other hand, was capable in his work, but wasn't quite as strong, physically, and seemed interested in learning what life was all about. He thought deeper than his brother either seemed to need to or was capable of. The vicar based these observations on how the boys reacted to the lessons for young people that he held in the church weekly. Barthelemy usually came, his brother occasionally showed up, more so after the vicar had talked with the parents who were surprised to find that though their eldest had been gone the requisite amount of time, he had not often been where he was supposed to be.
A swollen belly on a well constructed and comely local lass turned out to be the outcome of his alternative itinerary, and a wedding saw Barthelemy's small family expand by one, then two, and he became an uncle at the ripe old age of 15. By that time he was the vicar's assistant, learned his religion's theology well, and soon found himself at the diocesan headquarters at Lleida being thoroughly interviewed and then ordained.
It was a shock to him, though he had prepared for this time for several years, to go back to the small church in Lladros knowing that his relationship to that church was changed forever. He knew, but it always seemed far in the future, that when he became a priest he would need to leave the safety of the church of the vicar of Lladros. The vicar was a dear friend and teacher, but serving just a small mountain village was not a way to make a good living for one priest, let alone two. He knew this time would come, but now that it was reality it was a disturbing thing and he wept instead of sleeping at night for days on end it seemed.
The vicar put no pressure on him to leave, but he knew that the vicar had readied him to follow in his footsteps, but not here in Lladros. He now needed to apprentice himself in a larger church, because now it was no longer proper for him to live off the family while studying and assisting. It was time to go out of the valley and make the moves that would eventually land him in his own church as vicar, and earn his own bread and other needs by serving his own congregation.
He was a priest! How bittersweet that thought: he felt he had done the right thing, chosen the right vocation for himself, but the result was that he had to leave the safe world where he knew every person, hill and tree, where he was loved, where he felt safe. What a price to pay for success! Approaching the age of 20, Barthelemy finally generated the courage to do what he must, said a tearful goodbye to his family, his beloved vicar, village and world he knew so well.
He walked up the valley into the high mountains, crossed a rocky pass with some difficulty since his heart was heavy, and looked out over the Ariege valley, where there were towns and villages galore. When he had climbed to this pass in his youth the prospect of fortified towns and villages ahead had fascinated him. Now the same scene filled his gut with dread. He was a grown man. What a rude awakening!
His first village on the other side of the mountains was Vicdessos. It was much like his own Lladros, isolated and small. The vicar there welcomed him and made him a meal and fetched some fresh straw for a bed. The next day he was warned by the vicar that he needed to go to Pamiers, where the Bishop resided, for an assignment. It was important for him to do this, the vicar said, rather than to just go from church to church to find an opening for an assistant priest. Several priests in the district were suspected of being heretics at heart, providing aid and comfort to the remaining infrastructure of the church of the Cathars. He had to be careful, or he might be offered an assistantship by one of them. Unawares, he might then be seduced into their beliefs, and become ensnared in their web of evil. The Bishop would assign him to a trusted local priest. Good advice.
Barthelemy asked the vicar of Vicdessos if he had a wife, in the sense of priests having wives in the Pallars. The priest said not to whisper a word to anyone of his obvious tolerance for this local heresy, here it could mean prison to even hint that this practice should be allowed in the church. Or worse. He, the priest at Vicdessos, was ambivalent about the practice, knowing of several priests who fathered children and denied it, abandoning them and threatening the mothers with an accusation of heresy if they threatened to denounce the priest who had thus used them.
He said all was not well with the church, but it would be getting better soon because the relatively new Bishop of Pamiers had been busy not only rooting out heresy, but also rooting out one of the chief causes for the popularity of the heresy: bad priests! Barthelemy was counseled to always stay on the winning side, which would, eventually, be God's side. Obviously this was also good advice.
The next day, he headed for Pamiers. He was overtaken by nightfall and hunger before Pamiers in the small, nearby, town of Dalou. There, again, the old vicar in the village church welcomed him after Barthelemy told him his business and that he intended to see the Bishop of Pamiers about an assignment. The old vicar smiled and said God had sent him to him, he had been promised an assistant by the Bishop, and his walking into the church showed God had answered the prayers of all three: Barthelemy, the Bishop, and himself.
He showed him to a small room he said could be his, and suggested he start his ministerial duties by teaching the young people's Sunday school. He would clear all with the Bishop.
Barthelemy was relieved, and content. In his heart this felt like a good place to begin his ministerial career. The mountains around this little town were greener, but lower, than those around his beloved Lladros, but he felt that same peace within as he settled down in his own room and looked out the small window. This place felt good. Perhaps he would replace the vicar when he became too old to serve.
BEGINNING WORK IN DALOU
As his first Sunday approached, he was told about the children that he would teach and their parents. Two girls, he was warned, needed special consideration and attention because their mother was a heretic and a whore. She would sleep with anyone who smiled at her, the vicar claimed. She did so, he claimed, to weave her spells over them and turn them into flaming heretics like herself. Her name was Beatrice, and she was a widow twice over, having inherited a nice home from her second husband in which she lived with her two little girls, Ava, named after her younger sister, and Philippa, apparently named in honor of her father the heretic who wore two yellow crosses wherever he went to warn the God-fearing to not have anything to do with him. She had three homes, two in neighboring villages, and three grown daughters as well, two were married and lived close by.
This was so ominous a warning that he tried very hard to see who brought and picked up these two children, Ava and Philippa. That first Sunday he saw her, from a distance, with an arm around each girl as all three were walking away. As she walked, he stared, and had the strangest feeling that came from his nether regions and traveled up and down his spine until he thought he would faint. His legs were weak as a newborn horse's, and his mind felt as if it were being mushed like mud under a train of wagon wheels.
He kept this to himself, of course, but afterward took every opportunity to see her from a safe distance. It took several months before he could be relatively comfortable looking at her close up. She seemed to go out of her way to smile at him. Perhaps she wanted him to smile back so she could weave her spell? No doubt she knew how she was affecting him?
Perhaps she was a witch? No. It was good that his older brother had explained to him how weak-kneed and confused he had felt when he looked for the first time on the lass that was to become his wife. He was so taken with how she made him feel that he felt compelled to skip his religious training to be with her. His brother had described similar sensations to what he was feeling now. It meant they were to be together for life, his brother had claimed. Of course it meant no such thing, it just meant they were both in heat. It was harmless to feel this way, and pleasurable. There were no spells needed to feel this way. But just in case she was weaving spells, he decided to continue looking at her discreetly from a distance. He would simply enjoy those feelings. It could do no harm as long as he did not act as his brother did.
THIRD YEAR IN DALOU
As he took a more important role over time, officiating at mass and hearing confessions, he threw caution to the wind and spoke to this woman kindly and asked her, for the sake of her soul and her children, to attend mass more regularly. It made him turn to jelly inside to speak with her, but he was sure she had not noticed.
With great satisfaction that he had done what others had failed to do, he began to note that this heretic came to mass quite regularly now. He had to really concentrate on the service sometimes because it seemed to him that in some masses she looked at him obviously and often. Sometimes he was unnerved when she overtly smiled in his direction. He was now about 25, and she was 42. She was old enough to be his mother, after all, his brother's wife had her first child at age 17! Yet, he enjoyed her every stare and smile, and that feeling of being turned to jelly in mind and body recurred regularly. He liked it.
Not that he was an innocent. As priest, several women had approached him. Three in fact. They said they loved him, but he treated them kindly and helped them turn their love to God, whom he said they saw in him. He made that up, and liked saying it to these two women, though he knew he would be chastised for such presumption were it to become more widely known. For the third woman he felt a degree of love in return. They consummated several love-making sessions and he never really broke up with her, just retreated back into his priestly role and habit, with her blessing. She was a nice woman, his own age, one to whom he was attracted, even felt love for, and with whom he had every intention of having serious yet pleasurable relations for years to come.
Then came that fateful day. A day during his third year in Dalou when Beatrice asked him to come to her house to discuss the religious training of her two youngest daughters. He was so excited, as he walked toward her house, that he hoped no one was observing him and seeing the wild anticipation burning inside him. His feet seemed to feel every pebble in the ground and he almost stumbled, several times, on the same uneven ground that was never a problem for his resolute stride before. His heart was pounding and he was breaking into a sweat on a relatively cool day. No matter how he squinted it seemed focus eluded his eyes, and so it seemed each step was incapable of taking him closer to his destination. That one block took forever and every closed door and shuttered window along the way seemed to have eyes staring through it, eyes that could read is mind and heart. It was a relief to finally arrive at her door.
As he pushed open the door, which was obviously ajar, he thought
sure he was going to faint on the spot. He leaned in the door frame and saw her coming toward him from inside the ample home, she reached behing him and pushed the door closed, extended her finely sculpted hand and
took hold of his, looked directly into his eyes, and said: "I am so glad that you have come."
What happened next will be told from Beatrice's perspective. But first we must discover who Beatrice is.
THE BEGINNING, PART 2, THE OLDER WOMAN
In a prominent house in the mountain village of Caussou, in a side valley up from the main valley of the Ariege river, lived an aristocratic family with the surname de Planisolles. A man, Philippe, his wife, two sons, and a daughter, Gentille, made up the family until sometime during the year 1274, give or take a year, when a new baby girl made this household expand once more. The little girl was given the name Beatrice. Just over a year later a third daughter was born, Ava. The three girls were close, in terms of age, and stayed close the rest of their lives. Theirs was a good family. A family of 'good' Christians: Cathars.
Her two brothers, being older and taking over the family by right of inheritance, helped the parents enforce their rules for the younger children. Later in life Beatrice grew somewhat afraid of them because of her lifestyle, but relied on one of them to be guardian to her daughters when she first became widowed. A way to protect them should anything happen to her.
Of course it was being a ‘good' Christian's family that got them into some serious trouble, for generations already. The grandfather and father were active clandestine workers for the Cathar cause. Her father was caught, and the Inquisition sentenced him to wearing the double yellow crosses whenever he left his home. But being a ‘good' Christian as well as a noble tended to make him somewhat disobedient, and he continued his activities to aid the cause.
His main activity was to arrange for safe houses where the itinerant Perfects, traveling to where they were needed to console the dying, could hide in the day. They traveled at night, on foot. But what they did was essential: unless a person was consoled before death, they would be reborn again and again until nine lives had been completed. If in that time they became 'good' Christians they were saved. If not, they were not saved.
Really believing this to be true, the de Planisolles family-head, Philippe, took chances, even after he began to sport two yellow crosses when away from home on business. The rule was to wear them at all times and in all places including one's home. Everyone in the home was taught from infancy to come running to tell a stranger was in sight so the crosses could be put on and properly displayed. On clandestine missions, of course, one does not wear anything that stands out in moonlight, not even a toothy smile, so definitely not a set of yellow crosses. He was crafty, making sure there was no evidence for his activities after having received his crosses to bear.
Evidence was not forensic, but was defined as testimony by witnesses, at least two. Witnesses could be Catholics, or sometimes people who did not like you, or those who were Perfects and were caught in the net of the Inquisition.
If a Perfect was ensnared, he (or she, there were women Perfects in the times before the Albigensian Crusade massacred the main part of the church about 50 years prior) could not tell lies, even to save himself or others. So when a Perfect was captured and was "persuaded" to talk, things could get very serious for their associates. Philippe made it a point, after an accusation by a very credible Catholic witness earned him two crosses to bear (another witness and he would have burned!), to never again be seen by others who could be seen either by or with a Perfect. He made his arrangements for them, but left it to others to communicate back and forth with the Perfects.
He taught his family the same cautious approach to being good Christians. Sympathize and believe, yes, help in secret, yes, but never create an opportunity for ever vigilant Catholic sympathizers or even for those who may just be envious of you, since you are of a noble house, to be able to testify against you. Never be seen by anyone, including the Perfect himself, in the company of these hated and feared but gentle and loving dispensers of salvation whose lives of poverty and purity were renowned. Nor associate with their known coterie. No witnesses, no problems. The Inquisition rules required two or more witnesses, and although occasionally there was an attempt to use accusation to settle a score, the accuser, if not backed by others or unusually credible, did time in jail, sometimes dying there. Little Beatrice grew up knowing the key to survival was this avoidance of even the appearance of Cathar involvement, though she was a 'good' Christian at heart she knew she lived in a 'bad' Christians' world.
Sometime during her teen years, Beatrice's family spent time at a house in Celles, about 30 miles to the north, closer to Foix. It was in these family accommodations that the (minor) noble family of de Planisolles received a noble visitor into their home, Berenger de Roquefort, the chatelain of the castle at Montaillou. He had come to ask for Beatrice's hand in marriage. She was no longer little Beatrice.
The family accepted for her as was fitting and proper. Their daughter, a beautiful woman now, became the chatelaine of Montaillou at the age of 17.
Montaillou was a place Beatrice knew. It was in a minor side valley to the main valley that met at a pass with the valley wherein Caussou sat. It was a strenuous walk, a full day's work to get to Caussou, but that is where her sister Ava still lived, and she missed her. Ava was now married. So it was not like moving into a totally different world than what she was used to. She thought of happy times ahead visiting Ava and being visited by her, as she traveled to Cassou with some belongings, her dowry, and a guard provided by her new husband.
To this point, except for family troubles that came with being a 'good' Christian in the land of the bad Christians, it seemed almost a fairytale life for Beatrice. She was raised in a loving, well to do family and just as she gained maturity she was swept up into a marriage. He was an important man. She was installed in a castle as its chatelaine, the person in charge of maintaining almost everything that made the place livable, with a staff to carry out her orders.
Several homes surrounded the castle for protection, as was typical for that violent time. The homes sat uncomfortably around the small mountain near and on a rise above where the castle was. The church was the lowest building, down the slope where the land was more level, and it was a sizable church for a village. The castle was to defend the area from intruders and marauders on behalf of the Count of Foix, whose lands these were.
[Several hundred years later the town moved down the hill where it was not so steep. They were then clustered around the church instead of the castle, showing that more peaceful times had come. Since quarrying stone was not easy, old residences were taken apart stone by stone and rebuilt below. Only the impressions of roads and a town square remain toaday above the present town site.]
The year she moved into the castle at Montaillou was probably 1292. A new life had begun. But this new life was to have many unforeseeable twists and turns in it. Her life would be no fairytale. Luckily for Beatrice, she could not know this and largely enjoyed her years as chatelaine. She bore de Roquefort two sons and three daughters. She was quite fond of him, thought she even loved him. He was a Catholic, of course. She acted the part of a Catholic, of course.
'GOOD' CHRISTIAN INTRIGUES AND WIDOWHOOD
What broke the fairytale's spell was related to the strength of the local Cathar influence, including the leading families of the town. Soon as she came to Montaillou local Cathars were enthused to have a daughter of a leader in the movement amongst them. They tried several times to get her to come to meet the local leaders and the area's itinerant Perfect. She steadfastly, and wisely, refused all the ruses concocted to have her make a visit to a home in town where, she suspected, a Perfect wished to speak with her. She sensed the danger, as her father had taught her, that came with being seen simply in the company of those known to be champions of the Cathar cause.
The person who, under her direction, managed the castle and estate resources and staff for her, was Cathar. He clearly fancied her, tried to seduce her, and tried to talk her into running away with him to where the good Christians controlled the territory. When she refused his advances and his offer to bring her to another land, he hid under her bed one evening. After she climbed into the bed, he slid out from under it and proceeded to get into the bed with her. His intent was to rape her and shame her into coming away with him. She screamed for her servants and told the intruder off in no uncertain terms. He left immediately with aid of other household staff to go to the Cathar lands across the border in Catalonia, but although he was helped with a horse and supplies, he left by himself. She did not report him, she was a sympathizer, after all, and also worried about how her absentee husband would react toward both him and her.
During her time in Montaillou she sent
some small gifts of money through intermediaries to support the Perfects in the field. Those gifts were meant to be secret, but her staff had been incautious,
and her gifts were reported to the authorities later.
Her husband got sick and did not live to see his last daughter born. Beatrice was widowed after seven years of marriage. He was much older than she was, and life expectancy was both shorter and much more uncertain then than now. She had to move out of the castle, and it appears that his sizable and well to do extended family, as part of their settlement with her, took over the raising of his "heirs," the two boys.
She received her dowry back, as the law stipulated, and it allowed her to obtain a small roof over her head and still keep some as a dowry, just in case she was proposed to again. So here she was, twenty-four, in a humble house near where she was the chatelaine, trying to survive with two young girls and her brand new baby girl. It was overwhelming, and she got her brother, still living in Caussou, to become the girls' guardian as legal protection should anything happen to her. Her girls who lived with her were Beatrice and Condors, and little baby Esclarmonde.
A KEPT WOMAN
But having to rebuff an attempt at a sexual relationship by her employee, one that could easily have become a rape, was not the worst of her Montaillou experience. After that employee had left and just before becoming a widow, she was really raped, taken by force, in her husband's castle against her will. The rapist was a part of the family that basically ruled the town of Montaillou, the Clergues. Pathau Clergue got away with this infamous act. She did not report and accuse him, perhaps out of fear, and her husband was very sick and died shortly after. Beatrice moved into her own small home and Pathau came around to persuade her that she needed his help. If she would be his mistress, he would help with living expenses. She was not well off, so accepted.
About a year later, in 1299, she went to confess herself at the local church where a new rector, Pierre Clerque, had been installed. He was the cousin of her rapist and keeper. She was totally surprised when instead of taking the usual position for a confession the new rector was on his knees in front of her telling her he worshiped her and begging her to take him as lover. He dismissed the Catholic rules against sex for priests, sex outside marriage, and sex involving relatives as man-made and therefore un-authoritative. He said that all sex was equally evil and sex within marriage, since it was done without guilt while knowing that children could be the result, was the most evil of all. This was classic Cathar doctrine, coming from a priest whose family controlled the village, financially. The priest explained he would not make her pregnant. His method of birth control, for not making his multiple sexual conquests pregnant, included wearing an herb on a string around his neck during sex. With that precaution against conception taken, sex was not a serious sin, he claimed!
It took him several months to convince her to let him into her house and bed, and there were bad feelings between the Clerque cousins as she shifted from being the one's mistress to being the others'. It appears she enjoyed the relationship with Pierre. He was considerate of her needs and did not intrude when the girls were up and around. They managed to meet either at her place or his when the children were out of sight, probably being taken care of by a nanny. He said his cousin Pathau had done a terrible thing raping her, that using force to have sex was an evil thing. With that she agreed.
Beatrice was treated to exciting trysts on holy days and in holy places. Clearly rector Pierre was a Cathar in priest's clothing! He was kind, generous, and sexually insatiable. He had affairs with some other women during his time keeping Beatrice, successfully pursued several others after that affair was essentially over, and badgered yet others to do the same, one of whom rejected him and told the Inquisition about his persistent advances and his proclamations about the sinlessness of sex as he practiced it. All of this came out after the Inquisition managed to squeeze the truth out of his most famous and well-known conquest, our Beatrice.
Did the affair with Pierre last forever? No, a year after it began Beatrice moved away to Prades, about a two hour walk away in the main valley adjoining the Caussou valley. Their sexual escapades became less frequent, ending with several sporadic but sexually punctuated visits, the most famous of which involved a bed made up in the church in Prades, next to where she now lived in a very tiny place with three children! She wanted to get away from the priest but did not know how to say no to him. When they were together it was wonderful, but her girls noticed the priest's visits and heard the gossip knowing it was true. That bothered her.
She did go see Ava at times, and on one occasion she and Ava walked down to the church in the next valley down the mountain, the large pilgrimage church at Unac. There she attended mass and confessed, making sure she was seen by several acquaintances and relatives. Why? There had been arrests in Prades, and she felt she needed to do this to make sure she had witnesses to her piety and to her being a good Catholic.
SECOND MARRIAGE AND WIDOWHOOD
As her Pierre-affair tapered off, she was pursued by a well-to-do burgher who probably met the family while they were in Celles, since he was from not so far away toward Pamiers, in Dalou. This man owned at least three houses. His name was Otho Lagleize of Dalou. She married him in 1301 and found herself living in the vicinity of Pamiers, in three houses, one in the nearby countryside between Varilhes and Carol, one in Varilhes itself, and one in Dalou that was a mansion. She bore her new husband two daughters, Ava and Philippa, in about 1303 and 1305. By 1308 her second husband unexpectedly took sik and died, and apparently she was able to remain in his house and retain his lands and staff to support herself and their daughters. He must not have had any near-relatives or heirs who were male.
She had two visits from Pierre Clerque, one while her husband was alive. That visit got her a fancy blouse as a present, and him a sexual adventure in her husband's cellar while its door was guarded by her servant girl, whom she had brought from Montaillou and who knew of the ongoing affair.
The next time he came she was widowed and very ill, and they just talked, he promised her a full recovery and impressed on her the necessity of not ever confessing their sexual escapades and heretical discussions to any priests.
He told her he was playing the role of parish priest to the hilt and turning in some peasants around Montaillou who were bothering him. She was very upset at that news and asked him how he, a secret Cathar believer, could now turn against his fellow believers? His answer was not very satisfactory, he seemed to harbor great resentment toward some locals who apparently had not given him the respect he deserved, and he needed to prove his loyalty to the Bishop to save himself.
This confession broke her resolve to always be loyal to him even if brought in for questioning by the
Inquisition. After all, he was sacrificing some of her friends for the sake of his own skin. His claiming that their being peasants
made it alright to turn them in showed a shocking lack of character. Cathars believed in the intrinsic worth of humans,
and it was not unusual for nobles and peasants to work side by side and share food and clothing voluntarily when
community well-being was at stake. Nobles did not sacrifice peasants for self preservation. period.
Her oldest daughter, Beatrice, was tending her sick mother when Pierre visited that last time. This daughter in turn sickenend and died (some time between 1308 and 1320) causing our Beatrice great sorrow.
Her second widowhood seems to have been spent calmly living the life of a mother of young children, and of a mother
close to her married daughters and grandchildren. These were good years. Until . . . . Until the new priest came
A NEW PRIEST IN TOWN
Beatrice was not attending church regularly. But she took her two younger children to religious instruction classes. A young priest, still learning from the old vicar, was assigned to teach the young people. The old vicar always showed her a mean scowl, his disapproval of Beatrice was palpable. This discouraged her from coming to church, except rarely. Several well-meaning people had spoken to her about her need to attend more frequently, and in one instance she had made light of the Eucharist in terms used by the 'good' Christians. She was trying to shock the ladies who spoke to her so they would leave her alone. She should have known that sooner or later her loose lips would land her into an Inquisitorial hearing.
About three years after the new priest had started, he had matured and become the vicar. In that role he asked her to attend church regularly. She had noticed him before, and given him several second looks. She liked his looks, bearing, and the way he dealt kindly with the youngsters, especially her girls, now 13 and 11, who obviously liked him too.
But that one time when he was close to her, and spoke to her in his soft and kindly way, she almost swooned. She felt like a silly girl approached by the local jousting champion asking for her to give him a token of her esteem to wear in his next combat. She wanted to fling an item of personal attire over him and pull him close to feel his muscular body and smell his manly smell. After all the men she had experienced, this pure looking man, just out of boyhood, electrified her. Her monthly flows had stopped at the same time she began to notice and admire this priest's good looks. She had been told, by an old and wise woman, that this meant the end of desire. She was relieved at that news, but now it turns out that it wasn't true.
The opposite was true! She had never felt all consuming desire like this before. Perhaps the old wise woman had lied, but there was no reason to do so. Perhaps she had not known what she was talking about, which seemed unlikely. Or perhaps this holy-appearing man had cast a witch's spell over her that made her stop the monthly flows and burn with passion at the same time. She began to attend church regularly, and took every opportunity to stare, smile, and enjoy the inner melting that accompanied the nearness of him.
Then, one day, she screwed up her courage and asked him to come to her home to discuss her two youngest daughters' religious education. He agreed. She set the door ajar so there would be no awkward knocking or clapping for her to come to the door. At the appointed time, when he walked in and saw no little girls, he asked what she wanted. He sounded like a scared little boy.
She looked behind him, saw no one, and closed the door. She looked right into his eyes. She did not wish to deceive him in any way. So after first grabbing both his hands and pulling him to face her closely and directly, she simply said, "I want to make love with you."
He was frozen in place for what seemed like an eternity. She held her breath, then breathed slowly on and around his face as if to thaw him out. Perhaps just two or three breaths later they were rolling on the hard floor of the large hall of her mansion. They were roughly stripping each other of their clothing. In just a few heartbeats they reached their first in what was to become a long series of climaxes together, a series that would, however, seriously taper off over the course of the four years that they would be intimates. They were like two people who had been in love forever and had been separated for years! Perhaps there was truth in that!
THE END OF THE BEGINNING, OR THE BEGINNING OF THE END
FEAR OF DISCOVERY
It was a love affair, not just a sexual adventure but a true mating of souls and bodies. The oneness they felt in each other was magical, an enchantment neither had even imagined before. But their precautions against discovery did not work, and townspeople were gossiping about them. Worse, her married daughters discovered the affair and were so shamed they threatened to tell their grandfather and uncles. She was afraid of what her brothers might do to her to persuade her to live a respectable life. Ava, at 13, gave her disapproving looks and asked if she could stay with her oldest sister Beatrice a while. Kids were teasing Ava about her mother being a well-to-do whore, and that really hurt her feelings. Her oldest daughter, Beatrice, understood all too well how it hurt to have a mother widely known to be a priest's mistress. She told Ava she could stay with her as long as she wanted, she could use the help with her own children.
At 11 Philippa was a fierce partisan for her mom and defended her against attacks from her peers. Living in Dalou became very uncomfortable. Beatrice had heard from Barthelemy about the Pallars where priests had civilly married wives. One day in her home, they were peacefully enjoying one of those magical moments of total silence after sexual frenzy. With her head and shoulder nestled into Barthelemy's ample right shoulder she broke the spell of silence. She whispered in his ear: "Tell me again how priests live with their wives in the Pallars." Barthelemy's description made Beatrice long for such a loving and open relationship, and she begged him to take her there. He agreed.
She thought about that very moment many times, over the ensuing years. With mixed feelings in terms of remembering happiness and sadness, but never with regret. It was to be a time like no other time in her life. This holy man, she felt, would make her whole in his own country.
ESCAPE TO THE PALLARS
So as not to be discovered, Beatrice and Philippa, walked out of their house one day with several bags thrown over the back of one of her donkeys. Nothing all that unusual. Going to market was done with bags and a donkey, but accompanied by servants as well. No servants were invited to go on this trip.
Two days later, Barthelemy, the vicar of the church at Dalou also left, putting his assistant in charge just as one day in the past, with as little notice, the old vicar who had hired Barthelemy had said "Enough, you are in charge now." Upon saying this the older man had grabbed a packed valise and walked out of the church into a home of an elderly widow who took care of him until he died a few months later from a serious (but unanticipated) mid-winter illness.
Two days after leaving Dalou, days of strenuous walking, Barthelemy entered an inn in Vicdessos. There he found Beatrice and Philippa waiting for him. They walked another whole day, sunup to sundown, across the border at the mountain pass de l'Artigue, a very strenuous climb and descent. Once into the steep valley itself, they passed through Tavascan, past Lladorre, and finally entered Lladros where an amazed brother and sister-in-law welcomed the strange party warmly. It was a strange party, an older woman, a man who could pass for her son, and a little girl that obviously was hers, but did not look like she could be his. The older woman was beautiful by any standard, with wild curls of chestnut hair framing her elongated but nicely sculpted face, and a body endowed with curves that made his brother stare, at which his wife became obviously perturbed.
His wife used to be voluptuous and curvaceous, but apparently a few children and years of hard labor on the farm had squared her and made her quite muscular for a woman. A good-looking woman, to be sure, but not a near-goddess like Beatrice. It was obvious they would not want to stay long under his brother's roof. Luckily her dowry allowed renting a nice cottage in town.
They arrived late and the next day they rented the cottage and then made a visit to his parents. Their instant disapproval was obvious. This is just not how they had pictured their successful priest of a son! They told him not to come back until he had come to his senses. He never saw them again. They both died just a few years later, after the strange family had left already, in mid-winter. His father had a few days of very high fever, and died, and his mother moved in with her son and daughter in law. Then she caught the same fever and their youngest child did also. Three of the family died within a few days of each other. Barthelemy heard about it in a letter.
MARRIED, TO A PRIEST!
The happiest year of her life. That is what she likes to think about the one year they were man and wife, married civilly by a priest, with a public feast afterward that had been attended by much of the village, including his brother and family, but not his parents. The two lovers were ecstatic and played very hard at being a normal family because it seemed so unreal and impossible. A few days' walk across some mountains and everything was idyllic! Except their living conditions, they were primitive. Barthelemy was not able to gain employment as a priest and did farm work in exchange for produce and meat. It made him even stronger and more handsome, all this hard physical labor, but she could tell he was not as happy as they both pretended he was. She could tell by his frequent losses of temper, calling her names like wicked old woman and heretic. His subtly threatening that if they lived where the Inquisition held sway he could very well turn her in may have been mock serious, but it was not funny to her.
RETURN TO THE ARIEGE VALLEY
Beatrice and Philippa enjoyed the primitive life for a while, during the late Summer and Fall of 1316. Then came a harsh Winter, and by Spring 1317 Philippa, now going on 14, mentioned the mansion in Dalou and the house in Varilhes more and more often. Also, her sister Ava, now 16, had been wooed by a suitor and a message said they should return for the wedding late in the Summer of 1317.
Frankly, Beatrice was a bit dismayed with the marital prospects for her youngest daughter in the Pallars, especially given that the Amilhat family was of good peasant stock, meaning their social circle was of that same background. Beatrice tried not to be a snob, it was against the principles of being a 'good' Christian. But she knew from firsthand experience the great difference between the harsh life of a peasant and the difficult, but much more comfortable life that marriage into the minor aristocracy brought to a woman. She too would be glad to reoccupy one of the houses she inherited from her late second husband, where there were servants and sharecroppers working the land to bring food to themselves as well as to her, their landlord.
Barthelemy, in the meantime, saw that his original idea of love making it all worthwhile was wearing thin. He was working himself into an early grave in exchange for vegetables and mutton and firewood. In the Ariege valley his life had been both easier and more rewarding. A priest did have privileges, opportunities, and rewards a farm laborer did not have. So when the two women in his life approached him about going back for Ava's wedding, he was ready. Saying good bye to his brother was easy. He and his wife had slowly moved over to the parental point of view. This was not a normal marriage, and he was wasting his years of preparation and education. He was a priest. He ought to act like one and work for God. He ought to not work any longer for this good-looking woman who did nothing but complain and make unreasonable demands. She was unwelcome in their home after a while, and her daughter was spoiled, and would never fit in with local society as she grew older. They were glad to see the whole group take off into the mountains again.
The brother and his wife knew they would not come back. So did Barthelemy and Beatrice, though it was not said. Philippa only hoped there was some way to keep from coming back.
So, a year and a month after their arrival in the Pallars, they again settled into the comforts of the Ariege valley where she would have her house, and he would have work as a priest again. Rather than go back to Dalou, however, she decided to move back into the more modest home at Varilhes, where the air had not been quite as poisoned for them as compared with Dalou.
In Dalou, when Beatrice went out, the judgmental smiles, scowls and stares were continuous. At nearby Varilhes this was not the case, and this time they would take greater precautions against discovery: though they were to remain lovers and ‘married,' he would move a little farther away to keep their relationship a secret.
In the spirit of removing the fuel for the fire of rumor, Barthelemy moved quite a distance away, to Carcassonne, where he worked at the church of Saint Michael, and where she would visit him regularly. He went to see her as well, but had to take care to not be unduly absent from his work. Sometimes they would meet in a place between those two destinations. This was a difficult arrangement. So, a year later he moved back into the Ariege valley, working as priest in the church of St. Stephen in Mezerville, staying in a room in the castle, still at a proper distance from Varilhes.
During the three years of this itinerant love relationship, the frequency of their visits tapered off. Once while traveling to Varilhes he stopped first at Dalou. Barthelemy knocked on the door of the woman he had had a short affair with, which then changed to a deep friendship and ceased as a relationship as he became involved with Beatrice. Of course it had been almost two years, but she welcomed him and they sat and talked a long time. As they sat they moved closer to each other, touched gently, then embraced, and then . . . . Well, after that there were just a few more trips to see Beatrice and many morre trips that Beatrice was never told about.
This other woman was no eye-popping beauty, but she was very nicely made and a little younger than he, and seemed to worship the ground he walked on! Powerful attractant, that worshipfulness, and a marked contrast to the ever more demanding and critical Beatrice who looked at him sometimes as if he was a child needing advice and correction even though they were lovers, husband and wife by the standards of his homeland! It was he who should be correcting her and advising her, as both husband and priest! But she clearly did not see things in that light.
Life settled down to several comfortable years with mother and grandmother Beatrice being daily involved in the lives of her married daughters, her grandchildren, and her one unmarried daughter. Her oldest daughter Beatrice had passed away, which was a tragedy, but there were grandchildren by her that reminded mother Beatrice daily of her little Beatrice. Philippa, now going on 17, became engaged to a promising young man from a family of the minor nobility. She saw that her dream of all her daughters being well married and taken care of was about to come true. She was content, even happy. Barthelemy and she had very infrequent meetings now, and neither seemed to mind the reduction in passion between them.
Then in 1320 came a very nasty surprise: the local vicar came to see Beatrice and explained that he had heard that a writ was being executed to have Beatrice appear before the feared Bishop of Pamiers for questioning regarding her heretical activities. She had been denounced by two persons who had witnessed her making light of the eucharist in the same way the 'good' Christians made light of it. The doctrine of transubstantiation said that the sacramental bread was literally turned into the body of Christ in the eucharist service. The Cathars liked to point out that if this is really so, then Christ's body must have been the size of a Pyrenean mountain, else over the years the priests alone would have already consumed it all. Beatrice had said such things in the past. She remembered. She was afraid.
Beatrice was scared, she snuck off to Rieux-de-Pelleport, about 3 kilometers away, where one of her married daughters lived. From there she sent for Barthelemy at Mezerville, and she met him, lunched with him, and slept with him at a monastery just south of Pamiers called Mas-Vieux. The next day he walked her back to Rieux-de-Pelleport and as they made their way down the road just past Benagues, they made love in a vineyard with her maid standing watch. Beatrice was apparently calmed down by Barthelemy and he talked her into making an appearance before the Bishop if or when there came a summons. He suggested that if she was not guilty of heresy, which she said she was not, and he believed she was not either, then she would have nothing to fear because the Bishop was a fair and a just man.
The Bishop sent his summons a few weeks later via the local notary and the local vicar for execution. The local vicar was a kindly man who saw no good coming from the Inquisition scaring the entire region into a carefulness that destroyed the natural conviviality of the locals. He told the Bishop, when he was himself interviewed about Beatrice, that it was a terrible thing he was doing to the county, and the Countess of Foix was not pleased with the jailing and executions of her citizens. The Bishop indicated that the Countess, whom he surely suspected of heresy, did not like him regardless of what actions he might take, and her displeasure was not a good reason to stop what the church had commanded him to do. None of this exchange made it into the record, all that made it into the record was that this vicar had indeed overheard Beatrice speaking disdainfully of the eucharist, as was reported by others, but it was only one time and long ago. The vicar was an honest reporter, and obedient.
Beatrice kept Barthelemy's counsel and appeared as commanded. When asked about these heretical statements she had allegedly made, in this initial meeting with the Bishop she denied all of it. She admitted to only one thing, something harmless.
The Bishop, according to Beatrice, lost his temper and scolded her
as being rotten heretical fruit from a heretical tree, her father, who had been found guilty of heresy. The record
says instead that he was kind and gracious and benevolent. The bottom line was that this was an interview, without
oath, she would need to come back for a formal interrogation under oath on the following Tuesday, to which she
The reason for not making the person take an oath at the first interview is to not force them to lie in the more serious interrogation. So the Bishop was being kind to her at first by letting her tell a lie and letting her know this would have dire consequences next time, under oath. Once something is spoken under oath, if it is later contradicted under oath, the crime of perjury has been committed and sends one straight to jail. Beatrice was afraid, and her fear was egged on by the vicar who told one of her daughters, she learned upon her return, that she would surely be jailed, or worse, and should flee.
FLIGHT, CAPTURE, PRISON
Now Beatrice had only a couple of days to decide what to do. The Bishop's notary, of the same mind as the vicar, suggested flight over the mountains, out of this Bishop's jurisdiction. Beatrice thought this too obvious, she would be watched and never make it. So she came up with a scheme for going to her sister's home in Limoux instead, she would find a place to hide there.
She did not tell
anyone that she knew there to be an underground-railroad operating there, one that her family had operated as needed for years and her sister could activate for
her, that served to remove 'good' Christians secretly down to eastern Catalonia out of the Bishop's jurisdiction.
She lied, and assured her daughters that she was going to appear on Tuesday, but needed to get away for a couple of days. Protecting her daughters from knowledge they may be forced to confess was very high on her priority list, hence she had never tried to convert them into becoming secret heretics like she was.
She knew the outcome of the heretical life: death. Death with salvation, to be sure, but in her heart she really did not believe the Cathar doctrine that only those who become 'good' Christians before the end of their ninth life will be saved. To her it was too cruel an idea to take serious on the face of it, and to ascribe is as the dictum of a good and loving God was blasphemous.
Sure, she told the Bishop that she had heard these doctrines taught, but she was honestly able to say that except for a short time under the pressure and influence of the vicar of Dalou and his Cathar cronies, she did not believe the doctrine. It was her having believed these heresies, but only temporarily, that she confessed in the church at Unac and received absolution for. What she didn't tell the Bishop was that she also did not believe the Catholic version of the same doctrine. But, he didn't ask.
Now we have spilled the beans, she was indeed interrogated, but not that Tuesday. It was a few days later when she and Barthelemy were arrested together on their way north before heading east to Limoux. Yes, she summoned Barthelemy as soon as she was away from Varilhes, via a messenger who found him at home in Mezerville, and had him meet her in Belpech, across two sets of hills from where he lived, and already beyond the town of Pamiers by about fourteen kilometers. She asked for his help in running away to Limoux by a circuitous route. He told her again that that was a mistake, that the Bishop meant her no harm if she were innocent, and since she had told him that she honestly believed she was innocent of heresy, there should be no problem. This time, given her previous experience with this Bishop, she was not to be deterred.
Barthelemy, after her tears and pleading, gave her some money. He arranged for her to be accompanied by a person to carry her bags, and promised to meet her in the next town the next day. He did, they made love again that night, and the next day they as they settled into the town of Mas Saintes Puelles, what Barthelemy thought was an out of the way place where they would be safe, they were arrested by the Bishop's sergeants. The charges were numerous, and included contempt of court for her, aiding a fugitive for him, plus sorcery, witchcraft and heresy for both. Oh, and petty theft for him as well. Perhaps the money he brought her wasn't his?
So, both, separately, are interrogated. They tell the truth, pretty much, each protective of the other, but pretty soon it becomes clear to Beatrice that what the Bishop is after more than her and Barthelemy confessing to heresy is evidence against the vicar of Montaillou. She recalled his attitude toward the 'good' Christian peasants as expressed at their last meeting: to satisfy the Bishop and prove he was not a heretic he had to turn heretics in to the Bishop. So he did. Beatrice told pretty much all there was to tell, both about her rape and affair, and about his teaching her heresy which she believed for a while. How could she not? He was her confessor, after all!
Unbeknownst to her, as soon as she had spoken of the rector's doings a writ was issued for his arrest. She had been the first woman to name him, but after she did several women from Montaillou were added to the list for questioning and they also implicated the powerful priest of Montaillou, whose power and reputation ranged far and wide. These subsequent women told all about their own seductions and being taught heresy by this priest. Two or more witnesses had been obtained. Beatrice's word alone would have been insufficient, the others were providing the legally required confirmation of her testimony.
After his arrest, and his brother's, either one of them may have gained access to Beatrice, who was at this time being held in a loft in the Bishop's complex so as to be readily accessed for further questioning. She was questioned nine times.
She became seriously ill in captivity and was given a last chance to cleanse her soul through confession. Rather than tell all, she instead tried to materially soften her accusations against the vicar of Montaillou. What she said was that perhaps memory had not been accurate, and some of the heresies she ascribed to the vicar may actually have been taught her by another. She suggested it was the man who tried to talk her into leaving for Catalonia with him, her steward. This did not help the vicar at all, since his sexual escapades were enough to put him away, but it showed the Bishop she had received threats, on her family perhaps. Several witnesses while captive had complained about threats by the brother of Pierre Clergue, also in prison but because of his station in life he was not in chains but had the run of the place. They said that if they testified against Pierre dire things would happen to their families. Beatrice did not say this, but acted as if she was scared, although she was so ill that it was hard to tell.
Beatrice surprised her jailers and recovered from her illness, and it must be credited to the decency of Bishop Jacques Fournier that he elected not to burn Beatrice, as he easily could have done, for retracting under oath statements she had made previously under oath. Her testimony was suicidal, and reflected her state of mind. She thought she would surely die anyway, from her illness, and was looking forward to the release of death. Also, she was likely also despondent over the threats uttered to her regarding herself and her family if she did not retract her testimony regarding Pierre's heresies. So she did what seemed best: lightened her testimony against Pierre considerably, and thereby elected to die by confessing to having earlier lied under oath. Once dead, the Clerque brothers would lose interest in her, of course, but more importantly there would be nothing for them to gain from hounding her family of daughters and grandchildren, all of whom were within easy reach for the powerful and, it now seemed, unscrupulous Clerque brothers.
After 8 months in the Bishop's jail, on Sunday, 8 March 1321, both Barthelemy and Beatrice were taken to the cemetery of Pamiers where the public could witness the sentencing and, only occasionally in these late times, an execution by fire. They both were sent to the regional prison with indefinite sentences. They stayed there until the declaration of a general amnesty a year and a month later.
Beatrice admitted in her testimony that she had once spent the night at the home of Gaillarde Cuq, a suspected and denounced heretic and witch who was now dead. She admitted being with her but denied having seen or heard anything magical or heretical. She told the truth, of course, from the viewpoint of what she at the time considered heretical or magical.
Gaillarde walked this earth always seeing two worlds at once and seemed to intuitively know things that would come to pass after consulting the world of spirits where she had continual discourse with friends and informants with vast knowledge of the past, present, and future. Beatrice spent the night with her so that Gaillarde could first interview her and then give her a personal prophecy, a preview of some important thing that would happen to her in the future. Both women were steeped in Cathar doctrine, true believers.
This was after her first husband's death, whom she enjoyed, appreciated and respected. She thought she loved him, but later when Barthelemy came into her life she realized it was some lesser rank of love. Though she felt love toward him, she cannot say whether or not she ever felt he loved her. He was kind, patient, and a gentleman when in bed with her. He very much enjoyed his, their, children, which made her feel good, even proud. She misses him terribly at the time of this visit to Gaillarde.
This visit occurred just after her rape
and her assenting out of dire necessity to becoming the mistress of her rapist. She was very troubled over the
prospect of ever finding love in her life, the kind of love the local troubadours sang about, the kind of love
that melts hearts and inspires lofty thoughts, words and deeds was not what she had with her husband, nor with her rapist/keeper.
Gaillarde was amused at the hopeful little girl speaking to her out of a woman's experienced and recently abused body. She was quite taken with the fact that in this bright presence of a person, who had now been buffeted rather severely by life circumstances, there was still this expectant explosive power of love filling her, still waiting to be ignited. Not that Beatrice spoke of this, Gaillarde simply saw this in her. Others, had they experienced a short marriage that lacked luster and a rape and brutal bartering arrangement: sex for provisions for you and the children, would be jaundiced and dead where love-expectancy was concerned. But not this one!
She tuned in to her otherworldly sources and swooned. After a while she came to herself and hugged Beatrice so tightly and so persistently, all the while her body racking with sobs, that Beatrice became severely alarmed. She asked the old woman what terrible thing was going to happen to her and her children. It seemed to her that Gaillarde was trying to comfort her in the face of some great impending tragedy. A smiling, shiny, tear-smeared face pulled away from hers and said:
"If you could only see your entire self, Beatrice. Outside and surrounding this body you are as if a glowing fountain, radiating Love far and wide in the other world. It is what makes men notice you and desire you to a degree beyond what is typical for any other beautiful woman. Men hunger for what something in them senses that you are, and they want to possess it, and are willing to give up both kin and God to have you. Do not fear them, they cannot have you, own you, or possess you. You are too powerful to be kept for long.
"You are in your ninth life, and whether you have the consolamentum or not before you die is immaterial. In the old days before the Crusade against us it was taught among those who knew that the consolamentum was a device only. The real key to being brought back to God was in the heart, and the consolamentum gave courage. It fed the heart with the anticipation and desire for this fate that is needed to make the transition.
"So don't worry over
yourself or your children, teach them to seek and to love and to be Love. If anyone's heart is attuned to and has
become a place where Love, which is God, dwells, as yours already has, you are saved! And even bad Christians are
saved in this manner. There are true Christians among them, just as there are bad Christians among us for whom
the consolamentum does nothing because their hearts are hard and void of love.
"I now see your continuing search for love as a natural expression of who you are. But I have bad news. You will feel and taste the love your whole soul desires, but only temporarily because the person with whom you will find this depth of love is young, meaning it is his first life, and his heart and soul cannot yet sustain the fire that is you.
"But about 700 years from now he will be in his ninth life. I see that you will be allowed to touch him then with your Love, to awaken his memory of what he felt in his first life and has been seeking ever since. He will need help interpreting what he felt, and a woman like me, who experiences her being in two worlds at once, will magically call him while very far away and explain what he has felt, and she will name your name.
"He will spend the rest of his ninth life re-learning what he already knows, that his destiny, should he prove faithful to what is in the deepest part if him, is to be one with you forever. I see that it can be so.
"Now go, put your faith in the expectation of this outcome, and bear well the injustices you need to suffer in this last life to purify your soul and make it into a vessel and fountain of Love. Tell no one of this, especially not the man who will come into your life. You will know of your eternal destiny. But he must not know of it during this life. If you tell him, it will change the outcome in the far future because he will not believe you in the here and now. Because of his inability to step out of what he believes he knows, he will substitute a degree of fear of you in the place of love for you. This will poison the process, and he may not ever be saved if he becomes filled with fear rather than love."
When she first saw this pure, manly, kind priest she knew. An other-worldly passion, an entirely different love than she had ever felt before, broke out of her and wrapped around him long before she ever touched him in the flesh.
When she watched him leave the prison yard, careful not to allow himself to be seen looking at her, he was breaking her heart. She knew he would be going back to the other woman. The one he confessed he loved to the Bishop, the one over whom he was preparing to betray her. Not betray her to the Bishop. He did not do that, she knew. But he betrayed her love and she knew he went into the arms of that other woman with whom he would never know what he had with her, and might have forever. He had started with her on the way to Limoux, but only half heartedly so. She sensed relief in him when the Bishop's sergeants caught them. That broke her heart, their love had become a burden to him, one too heavy for him to bear. Her sadness was overwhelming, it cause her knees to buckle under her as she was loaded onto a cart for common criminals, but she never translated her sadness into to anger. He was just a young soul, after all.
On the way to Limoux, this time in the arms of her sister, wearing crosses but otherwise free to be with her loved ones, she decided she would be able to bear the broken heart. She knew it was helping purify her, as Gaillarde had said.
She would enjoy her sisters, children, grandchildren, and love them with all the love she had. Just thinking of them on the walk to Limoux made her teary-eyed with joy at the prospect of seeing and holding them again.
sick in prison she was convinced that she would never see any of these people again in this life. This was a precious
gift. A second chance to assure their salvation as explained by Gaillarde. She would teach them about love, about
becoming vessels of God's Love. They would be 'good' Christians in their hearts though Catholic, and would be saved just as she would be.
She would wait, not stoically or longingly, but passionately and lovingly, her 700 years. Then she will touch Barthelemy in his ninth life as Gaillarde had said she would be able to.
Now she has done so! He has been touched and is again aware of her. She will wait just another decade or two. Then he will arrive in heaven. In part because of her touch, he knows Love, has completed his ninth life, and will arrive with the name Beatrice in his spiritual heart and on his spiritual lips.
Her vision is of him coming into heaven praying her name, and she plans to answer his prayer by welcoming him into Heaven in a way that the angels are presently unable to imagine, and will forever-after be unable to forget!
It is good that now, in the last few decades of his ninth life, he looks forward to his reunion with Beatrice, with fond hopes.
But it is also good he knows not what glories and splendors of Love await him, or he might cut his ninth life short, thereby forfeiting all and again breaking Beatrice's heart. The universe may not be able to withstand such a tearing of the fabric of Love again.
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