Death in the Languedoc

November 4th, 2011
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Younger people ask me today, were we prepared?

No. When they came for us we were not prepared. We said we were. We believed we were. But what can prepare you for your own death? didn’t Jesus recant his faith on the cross? No, nothing can prepare you to die at the stake. And yet so many died well. And we did have each other. We sang as they led us out of the gates to the place of execution. It was then I caught sight of one of the executioners looking at me, not exactly with the sort of devilish smile you might expect, but with a sort of callous boredom and indifference, and for a moment it fascinated me and I returned his stare. Unfortunately – or fortunately, some would say! – he caught me staring at him and came over and hit me repeatedly, I remember sounds of anger and fighting around me in the crowd, then I lost consciousness. They thought I was dead, left me behind as the others were led away to the flames.

They killed all of us. Except me. And though I have prayed  – and will always pray – for forgiveness, my survival is a source of eternal shame for me.

Of course, I wish I had died with them: they were my brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. And yet something preserved me. Something deeper than fate. And because I did not die I had to face being alive. And that has presented me with its own challenge: the task of how to tell the truth in such a way that it attracts those who can understand it without putting them at risk – because, let me tell you, possession of the truth is dangerous – the jealous, even though they may not want it themselves, will kill you merely for possessing it.


Laurent des Minervoises. Cathar ‘Perfect’. Account of the massacre at Minerve, Languedoc. 1210 A.C.E (trans. E. Wiltshire, Cambs U.P. 1967)


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