Pilgrimage is set in the year 1209. We know Irish monks are on their way to deliver a relic to Rome. And we also know, as evidenced from a few other sources, that somehow, in this story, Crusaders are present. So, What Crusade? The Crusades most people know about are those three where battle was joined in The Holy Land the middle east, around Jerusalem and Constantinople. In 1209, there was no Crusade outside of Europe.
But, in 1209, the 20 year long Albigensian Crusade (AKA Cathar Crusade) was ordained by Pope Innocent III against the Cathars, a religious sect he considered heretical. Of the Cathars, Wiki says,
The theology of the Cathars was dualistic, a belief in two equal and comparable transcendental principles; God, the force of good, and Satan, or the demiurge, the force of evil. They held that the physical world was evil and created by this demiurge, which they called Rex Mundi (Latin, “King of the World”). Rex Mundi encompassed all that was corporeal, chaotic and powerful. The Cathar understanding of God was entirely disincarnate: they viewed God as a being or principle of pure spirit and completely unsullied by the taint of matter. He was the God of love, order and peace. Jesus was an angel with only a phantom body, and the accounts of him in the New Testament were to be understood allegorically.
This explains at least two of the books Jamie Hannigan showed on his pile of research books for the film, Pilgrimage. posted in his first tweet:
The Perfect Heresy by Stephen O’ Shea, is a history of the medieval Cathars, whose heresy is described by a reviewer of The Perfect Heresy as
dualist: they solved the problem of theodicy – how to square a good God with a world full of evil – by denying the omnipotence of that God, instead teaching two principles, one of light, responsible for the divine spark in every person, the other of darkness, responsible for the corrupt material world and the evil in it.
The second relevant book on the pile is The Devil by Peter Stanford ( full title The Devil: A Biography) which is described by reviewers as an historical survey of the Satan in theology, and at least a portion of the book discusses the Cathars and other sects which believed the Devil lived among us.
Thousands of Europeans were Cathars, and many of those were monastic; some were lay people.
As it turns out, the Crusade against the Cathars took place in France, and French nobles were among those who both defended and persecuted the Cathars.
There were a series of military battles which took place in the Languedoc region of southern France. Modern Languedoc has coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea and abuts the Cote D’Azure
At the time of the Cathar Crusade, it appears that the Languedoc region, or at least the area where Cathars were prevalent and where battles and sieges took place, was much larger than the region is today. In other words, it spread more westerly and northerly than today’s Languedoc. The map below shows which nobles on either side of the conflict held territory during the Cathar Crusade.
So what about our Irish monks? As they’re on their way to Rome,it would seem that these monks have nothing to do with the Cathars. I couldn’t find any references to Irish medieval Cathar orders. It makes more sense, since they’re on their way to Rome with an important relic, that they are aligned or obligated to the Pope, and not the Cathars.
So, how do they find themselves either in the middle of or at the fringe of the Crusade in Languedoc?
Easy. They were making their way from Ireland, (maybe through England), down to France and on to Italy.
So, I think, one mystery solved.