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Heretical Christian sect that flourished in Western Europe in the 12th–13th century. The Cathari adhered to the dualist belief that the material world is evil and that humans must renounce the world to free their spirits, which are good and long for communion with God. Jesus was seen as an angel whose human suffering and death were an illusion. Followers divided themselves into the perfect, who had to maintain the highest moral standards, and ordinary believers, of whom less was expected. By 1200 they had established 11 bishoprics in France and Italy. In an effort to stamp out their heresy, Pope Innocent III declared the Albigensian Crusade, in which the populace in Cathar regions was indiscriminately massacred. Persecution through the Inquisition, sanctioned by St. Louis IX, was even more effective, and when the Cathar stronghold of Montségur fell in 1244, most Cathari fled to Italy. The movement disappeared in the 15th century.
Variants of CATHARI
Cathari or Albigensians
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Cathari, visit Britannica.com.