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Otto Rahn was born in Michelstadt, Germany, in 1904. After earning his degree in philology in 1924, he traveled extensively to the caves and castles of southern France, researching his belief that the Cathars were the last custodians of the Grail. Induced by Himmler to become a member of the SS as a civilian archaeologist and historian, Rahn quickly grew disillusioned with the direction his country was taking and resigned in 1939. He died, an alleged suicide, on March 13, 1939, in the snows of the Tyrolean Mountains.
"[This] is the book that popularized the legend of the Holy Grail: its first edition appeared in Germany in 1933 and presented the author's own account of his explorations. Its appearance in a new updated edition is a 'must' for understanding the history and legend of the Gail, searches for its truth, and the involvement of the medieval epic Parzival in the Cathar/Grail saga."
"A better study of the Cathar spirituality could not be found. And beyond delving into it uniquely and sympathetically, Rahn uses it like a prism to bring out the religious conflicts of the time."
"This is a superb introduction to the Cathars and Grail mysticism and we are privileged to have it at last available in English."
from PART III. CRUSADE AGAINST THE GRAIL
CHRISTIANITY IN ITS ENTIRETY wanted to march against Provence and Languedoc to suppress once and for all this scandalous situation that had resisted all the Church’s efforts to remove it for nearly three generations.
On June 24, 1209, the crusaders left Lyon and followed the RhRiver downstream: 20,000 knights and more than 200,000 citizens and peasants, not counting the clergy and the merchants, headed for Occitania.
At its head rode the somber and implacable Archabbot of Caux, the “chief of the Christian armies against the Albigensian heretics.” With his monk’s cowled habit swept back by the wind, this apocalyptic knight galloped toward a country that did not worship his God. Behind him, the army of archbishops, bishops, abbots, priests, and friars sang the Idies irae. Together with the princes of the Church marched secular princes with their magnificent armor of steel, silver, and gold. Then came the bandit-knights with their ramshackle armaments. Then the citizens and peasants, and behind them the dregs of all Europe: the ribautz (ruffians), the truands (crooks), and the prostitutes of the lords of all the nations.
In a speech delivered on September 1, 1883, Pope Leo XIII declared that the Albigenses had attempted to overthrow the Church by force of arms. She had been saved, continued the Holy Father, not by military force but through the prayer of the holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a rosary that was the invention of Domingo de Guzmᮮ
This has nothing to do with the truth. Through the chronicles of Guillermo de Tudela and Pierre de Vaux-Cernay, both enthusiastic members of the crusade, let’s accompany the soldiers of Christ in Occitania and penetrate the wildest Pyrenean vales and the darkest caves where only death reigned.
Despite its obvious religious motives, the crusade against the Albigenses was fundamentally a war between northern and southern France. The nobles of the north were burning to complete the unification of the country, a task initiated seven hundred years before by Clovis I, France’s first king. And the people of the south, both Catholics and heretics, unanimously opposed such an invasion, despite the multiple venalities of which their own nobility and cities were capable. There was no religious hatred between the Catholics and the heretics in the Midi. Heretics and Catholics (naturally, I am not referring to the clergy) lived side by side in peace. Very rarely did orthodox Occitanians give any help to the crusaders (here again, we are dealing with laymen). It would have been logical for Occitania’s Catholics to receive the crusaders as liberators from the domination or tyranny of some hated enemy belief, but this was not the case. For the Occitanians, secular tolerance had become a custom, and the love of the land was stronger than religious contradictions.
The young Raimon-Roger of the House of Trencavel, Viscount of Bers and Carcassonne, rode to meet the crusaders. He tried to avoid disaster for his two towns, but he had to return without achieving his goal. In Bers, his subjects surrounded him:
“Is there any hope?”
“Fight to the death! God be with you!”
And he continued galloping toward Carcassonne.
Bers awaited the arrival of the crusaders. A dragon belching fire and destruction was coming closer in a deafening march.
An aged priest asked to enter the city. It was Reginald de Montpeyroux, the bishop who had joined the crusade.
“The crusaders are about to arrive,” said the old priest; “give us the heretics; if not, you will all perish.”
“Betray our brothers? We would rather be cast to the bottom of the sea!”
The bishop mounted his mule and left the town. The unexpected answer provoked such a seizure of anger in the Grand Prior of Caux that he swore to erase with blood and fire both Catholics and heretics, and not to leave a single stone on top of another.
On the afternoon of July 25, the crusaders were in sight. Impatient for their plunder, the ribautz and truands rode toward the town on their own initiative. For the rest of the pilgrims, there was nothing else to do but follow them. The doors gave way. As the crusaders burst into the town, the inhabitants of Bers, both orthodox and heretic, fled in terror for the relative safety of the two churches. One of the barons asked the Grand Prior of Caux how they could distinguish the heretics from the Catholics; if we are permitted to believe Caesarius von Heisterbach, Arnaud responded: Caedite Eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius! [Slay them all! God will know his own!]
In the houses of God, where priests adorned with ornaments celebrated the mass for the dead, all the inhabitants of the town were murdered: men, women, and children (“Twenty thousand,” wrote Arnaud de Caux to the Holy Father). Nobody was left alive. Even the priests were burned alive before the altar. And the crucifix, along with the safety from the invaders that it represented, was smashed on the stone slab floor.
Nothing could save them; neither the cross, nor the altar or crucifix; and these crazed ruffians and beggars cut the throats of priests, women, and children. Not one, I believe escaped. Shall God receive their souls in Glory!
--GUILLERMO DE TUDELA
The town was sacked. While the crusaders were fully occupied with their work as executioners in the churches, robbers devoted themselves to pillaging the town. Then the town was set ablaze. The thick smoke blackened out the sun on this horrible day in July, a sun that, on the Tabor, was just about to set.
“God is with us!” exclaimed the crusaders. “Look, what a miracle! No vulture or crow is interested in this Gomorrah!”
The bells melted in their belfries, the dead burned in the flames, and the cathedral blew up like a volcano. Blood flowed, the dead burned, the town blazed, walls fell, monks sang, crusaders slaughtered, and gypsies pillaged. So died Bers--and so began the Crusade against the Grail.
Map of Southern France
The Golden Fleece
How the Bard Taliesin Came to the World
The Legend of the Bard Cervorix
The “Pure Ones” and Their Doctrine
The Caves of Trevrizent Close to the
Fountain Called La Salvaesche
Monmur, the Enchanted Castle of Oberon
Muntsalvaesche and Montségur
Repanse de Schoye
The Apotheosis of the Grail
Appendix: Observations on the Theoretical Part
Posted January 22, 2009
The heretical Cathars of southwestern France regarded the legend of the Holy Grail--not the actual chalice reputed to have captured blood of the crucified Jesus--as symbolism for the survival of the human soul. This belief which conflicted with Roman Catholic teachings about the symbolism of the cross aroused the enmity of the Roman Catholic Church in the early Middle Ages in its determination to be the unrivaled, unquestioned authority in spiritual and even many political matters. The Knights Templar were another group seen by popes and many secular rulers too as potential threats to their power and position. The German author-scholar Rahn of this work originally published in 1933 (this is the first edition in English) sees in early, suppressed versions of the medieval poem 'Parzival' references to this Cathar belief along with recountings of its practices. A central topic is the importance of the many caves in the region to this spirituality. This connection between the caves and the spirituality is found in parts of 'Parzival'--e. g., '[The hermit] led young Parsifal to the second cave in which an uncovered 'altar' was located.' The Cathars also hid in caves to escape the Church's forces and Inquisitors. Rahn made extensive explorations of the region's caves to better appreciate the quality of the Cathar spirituality and its differences from that of the prevailing Catholicism promulgated by the popes and their secular allies. A better study of the Cathar spirituality could not be found. And beyond delving into it uniquely and sympathetically, Rahn uses it like a prism to bring out the religious conflicts of the time.
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