Medieval Heresy and Dissent

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Map Code: Ax02397

Medieval Christianity was riven by dissenting religious movements that the Church anathematized as ‘heresies’. Of all the mediaeval heretical groups, the Albigensians, or Cathars, presented the most radical threat to Christian orthodoxy, believing that there were two Gods, the good God of the spiritual world and the evil God of the material world. This heresy took root in the mountains of southern France, and was eventually excised following the crusade of a northern baron, Simon de Montfort, and the Inquisition. The Waldensian movement, which started in Lyon, took its name from Peter Waldo (1140–1270) who renounced his worldly goods and preached the gospel. Waldensians were declared heretics mainly because in their communities lay people, including women, were allowed to preach. The Lollards of England were followers of the theologian John Wycliffe in the 1370s, whose radical views prefigured Protestantism. In Bohemia followers of the Czech reformer Jan Hus, who was burnt at the stake in 1415, also prefigured the Reformation. The Bogomils of the Balkans were dualists, who believed in a world within the body and a world outside the body. They did not build churches, considering the body to be their temple. The Inquisition, established in 1184, stamped out many of these heresies or drove their followers to the margins of society.

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