A twin approach to the inquisition in the medieval Languedoc

Startscreen project Doat 21-24, University of YorkWhen you mention medieval law some themes will inevitably come up, such as the ordeal and torture. A third theme, the inquisition, is only with great difficulty lifted from its eternal shadow of contempt and utter rejection. One form of inquisition has attracted attention from both scholars and the general public, the medieval inquisition in Southern France, more precisely in the Languedoc. On previous occasions I discussed here a seventeenth-century edition of a medieval manuscript held at the British Library and a medieval register held at Toulouse which can now both be consulted online. In this post yet another representation of this manuscript will come into view, and I will look in particular at a project in York which focuses on a number of seventeenth-century transcriptions of medieval manuscripts and archival records.

Manuscripts, registers and editions

Inquisition register, 1245 - Toulouse, BM, 209, f. 2r (detail)

Inquisition register, 1245 – Toulouse, BM, 209, f. 2r (detail) – image: BVMM (IRHT/CNRS)

The project The Genesis of Inquisition Procedures and the Truth-Claims of Inquisition Records: The Inquisition Registers of Languedoc, 1235-1244 in York led by Peter Biller started in 2014 and will run until 2019. Dealing with the medieval inquisition in the Languedoc is a vast territory, but the focus on a single decade is surprising, no doubt dictated by the resources the team at York wants to use. The manuscript at the center of an earlier post, Toulouse, Bibliothèque Municipale, ms. 609, contains depositions from two years, 1245-1246. Jean Duvernoy provides a complete transcription of Touluse BM 209 at his website. In my 2011 post I had to report severe shortcomings in the quality of the digital version provided by this library, but in its appearance within the Bibliothèque virtuelles des manuscrits médiévaux (IRHT) the register is now displayed in full glory. You can enlarge the images which show perfectly sharp photographs, waiting to be deciphered by anyone. My second post was a report on my search for a digital version of the edition of the famous inquisitorial register kept by Bernard Gui published by Phillippus van Limborch in his Historia inquisitionis (Amsterdam 1692). Van Limborch edited the texts in a manuscript now held at the British Library, Add. 4697, edited by Annette Pales-Gobilliard in Le livre des sentences de l’inquisiteur Bernard Gui, 1308-1323 (2 vol., Paris 2002). In this post I tried also to provide a starting point for online research concerning the inquisition in the medieval Languedoc.

The project of Jean Colbert and Jean de Doat

The project at York focuses on four manuscripts in the Doat collection held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). Jean de Doat (around 1600-1683) served as the president of the chambre des comptes in Navarre. In 1663 the French minister Jean Colbert charged Doat with an expedition to create transcriptions of historical records in southern France. A century ago Henri Omont published an article with an edition of some documents about Doat’s project which made him travel for five years in southern France to numerous archives, monasteries and other locations [‘La collection Doat à la Bibliothèque nationale. Documents sur les recherches de Doat dans les archives du sud-ouest de la France de 1663 à 1670’, Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 77 (1916) 286-336; online, Persée]. The clerks transcribing the archival reocrds wrote in a large fluent and very legible script. Tables of contents help those wanting to use the transcriptions. During the French Revolution many archives and libraries in Southern France were destroyed or suffered heavy losses, thus making Doat’s results more important. The scale of Doat’s project may seem large, but in comparison to the contemporary work of the Benedictine congregation of St. Maur his expedition it seems definitely smaller. Some 200 manuscripts of the Mauristes held at the BnF have been digitized.

You will find descriptions of the 258 surviving Doat manuscripts concerning the Languedoc in the online database Archives et manuscrits of the BnF. At the website Catharisme you can download a useful compilation of the pages concerning these manuscripts (PDF) taken from the manuscript catalogue. Alas the title page of the early twentieth-century publication has not been included, and a page with bibliographical references (p. xiiii) has also been omitted. It took me some time to find Doat’s manuscripts are located under Département des manuscrits, Provinces françaises, Languedoc Doat. The notices have been taken from Philippe Lauer, Bibliothèque nationale. Collections manuscrits sur l’histoire des province de France. Inventaire, vol. I: Bourgogne-Lorraine (Paris 1905; online, Gallica), with descriptions of Doat’s manucripts on pp. 156-192. A modern article about the Collection Doat is Laurent Albaret, ‘La collection Doat, une collection moderne, témoignage de l’histoire religieuse méridionale des XIIIe et XIVe siècles’, in: Historiens modernes et Moyen Âge méridional (Toulouse 2014; Cahiers de Fanjeaux, 49) 57-93.

Doat 24, f. 7v-8r

Paris, BnF, Languedoc Doat 24, f. 7v-8r – image: Gallica

By now you will have noticed the fact that the project at York deals with manuscripts containing transcriptions of registers, in themselves archival records. Doat’s transcriptions were originally destinated for the library of Colbert which entered the French royal library in 1732. Biller and his team have chosen as resources the manuscripts BnF, Languedoc Doat, nos. 21 to 24 (Lauer I, p. 160). The online manuscript catalogue of the BnF takes you not only to digital versions of these manuscripts in Gallica – alas only for Doat 21 and Doat 24 of the four registers in the York project – but also to digitized bibliographical fiches concerning them. Jean Duvernoy has made transcriptions of (parts of) several Doat manuscripts, for example for Doat 22 (f. 1-106, Bernard de Caux, 1243-1246). A number of Duvernoy’s transcriptions can be downloaded as PDF’s. On the Catharisme website you can find transcriptions and French translations of Doat 23 by Ruben Sartori. Biller introduces the core of the registers Doat 21-24, the work of a Dominican friar called Ferrier about whom there is not much information, apart from his functions and his Catalan origin. Duvernoy notes the exact folios (Doat 22, f. 108-296, Doat 23, and Doat 24, f. 1-257). The preponderance of depositions by aristocratic people is most remarkable and leads to the hypothesis of a missing register with other depositions, maybe some 700 complementing the 85 depositions present in Doat 21 to 24. Ferrier has been credited with writing a manual for inquisitors, edited long ago by Adolphe Tardif, ‘Document pour l’histoire du processus per inquisitionem et de línquisitio heretice pravitatis‘, Nouvelle revue historique du droit français et étranger 7 (1883) 669-678, available online at Gallica, taken from a manuscript referred to as Barcelona, Bibliothèque de l’université, no. 53.

The team at York will first of all prepare an edition of the four Doat registers with English translations, but other questions will be addressed, too. There is a tendency in modern scholarship sees medieval heresy to a substantial extent as a construction of people in the medieval Catholic church. In this view the depositions are the very point where medieval people and views on heresy and church come together. The role of inquisitors, their background and the historical context need to be studied in all necessary detail to test this powerful hypothesis about the creation of heresy as a concept aimed at prosecution. In view of the lack of modern editions of texts and archival records concerning medieval law in general, and more particular for resources concerning medieval canon law and forms of medieval inquisition, it is understandable to work first on critical editions. Among the features of the project website is the Literary Supplement with announcement of new publications, and in the texts section translations of some legal consultations and a number of interrogations from Toulouse BM 209, and a bibliography, mainly of translations in English and French. Biller mentions the role of seventeenth-century historiography in religious history, not only for the mainstream Church but also for other possibly dissenting movements.

Peter Biller is one of the contributors to the volume Cathars in question, Antonio Sennis (ed.) (York 2016). In fact Biller wrote the final contribution, ‘Goodbye to Catharism?’ (pp. 274-312). In this volume Mark Gregory Pegg makes a case to dismiss the phenomenon of Cathars and Catharism as a misguided concept propelled by the field of Religionsgeschichte [‘The paradigm of Catharism, or the historian’s illusion’, pp. 21-52]. I alluded already to the work of R.I. (Bob) Moore who views the combats of the Church against heresy in a very different light than those tracing the history of the Cathars. Cultural anthropology, the histoire des mentalités and church historians have worked in certain directions which have not always been fruitful. It is far from me to pronounce here quickly any judgment on an ongoing discussion, but I would certainly point to medieval canon law as one of the matters to be taken seriously by medievalists and other historians wanting to study the Languedoc between 1000 and 1350.

Those waiting for the edition of Doat 21-24 by Peter Biller and his team can get an idea of the work to be done by looking at the two volumes L’herètica pravitat a la Corona d’Aragó: documents sobre càtars, valdesos i altres heretges (1155-1324) edited for the Fundació Noguera by Sergi Grau Torras, Eduard Bega Salomó and Stefano M. Cingolani (2 vol., Barcelona 2015), accessible online as PDF’s (vol. I and II). The book gives a succinct introduction to the sources edited. The team edits a number of items preserved in the Doat registers. The editors provided also a useful basic bibliography. The Fundació Noguera has created PDF versions of a lot of its recent publications which include editions of medieval sources, for example in the series Diplomatarios. A turn in the direction of the Iberian peninsula in a period during which the influence of the kingdom of Aragon was a major factor in southern France is not amiss.

Long awaited

Banner "The Great Inquisition"

I was happy to discover not only the project at York and the splendid new digital version of the register at Toulouse, but also a database created by Jean-Paul Rehr with his edition of some depositions in the register. Rehr’s pilot edition is the result of a student project for the international project Digital Editing of Medieval Manuscripts (DEMM). Rehr uses the possibility to navigate easily to particular places and people. When unexpectedly visiting the site of this project I looked immediately for editions touching upon legal history. A second project at DEMM related to the medieval inquisition concerns an edition of a fifteenth-century treatise Signa hereticorum from Bohemia, edited by Teresa Kolmacková. A third project by Hugo Fradin looks at the Judicium Veritatis, an allegorical representation of virtues searching truth and a theatrical play, both set around pope Clemens VII. The use of digital tools and various ways of representations with source images and an edition are the core of the DEMM project. Digital tools have not appeared until now in the York Doat 21-24 project.

BAV, ms. Vat. lat. 4030, f. 1r

Città del Vaticano, BAV, ms. Vat. lat. 4030, f. 1r – image: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, http://digi.vatlib.it

While finishing this post I could not help thinking of yet another famous source for the history of the medieval inquisition, the register compiled by bishop Jacques Fournier, Bernard Gui and others concerning the interrogations of Cathars in the Foix region between 1318 and 1325. Jean Duvernoy’s edition in three volumes (1965) and his 1978 translation have been used by many scholars, but there were some justifiable doubts about the quality of his edition, most outspoken by A. Dondaine [‘Le registre d’Inquisition de Jacques Fournier. A propos d’une édition récente’, Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 178/1 (1970) 49-56; online, Persée]. As a part of the digitization project at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana the manuscript Vat. lat. 4030 has been accessible online since February 2017.  Jean-Baptiste Piggin mentioned it on his blog in a post in his famous series on newly digitized manuscripts in the Vatican Library as an item reproduced in low quality. However, in 2018 there is a colour version, with a thin and at some points irritating watermark. Maybe the British Library will one day create a digital version of Add. 4697, and add it to its wonderful collection of digitized manuscripts!

Among the things to note in this post is first of all the role of earlier scholars starting already in the seventeenth century. I wanted to underline also the coexistence today of access to classical editions, old and modern transcriptions, and archival and manuscript resources, often accessible online. We could see here registers which classify clearly as archival records nevertheless already for centuries in the holdings of libraries. Another thing to note is how seemingly new views might be not so new after all, but only not yet received in particular circles, schools of thought and even speakers of a different language. A world in itself is at stake in the records concerning the inquisitions. In this case they stem from a particular region in a restricted period, which should not make us jump to quick generalisations about medieval Europe. The interrogations by inquisitors give us stories, but even with growing knowledge about their questions the words remain to be interpreted with utmost care and attention and with a command of skills which in many cases only teams and scholars from several disciplines can bring together.


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