projet de recherche
A New History of Medieval Heresy
The objective of this project is to research and write a history of heresy from 100 to 1600, focusing upon Latin Christianity. As heresy was (and is) a defining characteristic of monotheistic cultures, this project will also study the heresies that arose in Judaism from the first century and in Islam from the seventh. The shifting and changing place of the heretic was crucial in defining what it meant to be a Christian, Jew, or Muslim in the medieval world. This project argues that heretics, far from being marginal to religious rhythms for fifteen centuries, were at the very heart of what it meant to be a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. The scientific originality of project pivots around my research demonstrating that Catharism, the most famous heresy of the Middle Ages, never existed — or rather, Catharism only exists as a revolutionary historical and religious paradigm invented in the late nineteenth century by brilliant scholars (at first mostly German, then French, Italian, American, and British) as they restyled history and religion as modern sciences. Catharism is a fin-de-siècle artifact with no likeness to medieval reality, designed (even down to its name) as much as the historical and religious patterns delineating it were discovered, ingeniously fabricated as a discrete world religion with Eurasian roots. It functioned as an Oriental agent provocateur in western history, instigating (almost all) heresy in the Middle Ages, inciting the Church to reform and repression, and ultimately suggesting (especially to Protestant scholars) a more progressive, comparative, and scientific vision of what constituted a religion, past and present. The paradigm of Catharism exemplified historical and religious modernism. In the nineteenth century Judaism and Islam were frequently compared to and defined by their supposed similarities and differences to Catharism. To argue that Catharism never existed requires investigating the very scientific foundations of the disciplines of history and religion as they were established around 1870. A crucial aspect of this project is analyzing what constitutes a science and how this has changed over the last century. Equally, this project is a study of religious violence, especially the persecution and killing of men, women, and children accused of being heretics. Finally, if the most famous heresy of the Middle Ages never existed, then a new history of medieval Christianity must be written. A new history of heresy, and so Christianity, is the objective of my project.
Mark Gregory Pegg (born 1963) is an Australian professor of medieval history, currently teaching in the United States at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He specializes in scholarship of the Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition, the history of heresy, and the history of holiness. He is author of The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245–1246 and A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom.