In 14th Century Languedoc, after a century of persecution drove the Believers underground, a revival of the Cathar heresy gains a foothold in the mountain villages of the County of Foix. As it sweeps around the region, two men leave their homes and families and become embroiled in the forbidden faith.
Based on Inquisition records archived for nearly 700 years in the Vatican, this is a fictionalised account of the epic, true story of these two men, Pierre Maury (Pedro, the shepherd) and Guillaume Belibaste (Guy), who was fated to become the last of the Cathar Holy Men (Perfects).
As the Inquisition launch a brutal campaign against them, the men must again leave their loved ones and seek safety across the border in Aragon. As many Perfects are burned alive and friends and family are arrested, can Guy and Pedro stay safe? And can their faith and their friendship survive as the Inquisition become closer and ever more brutal?
Susan Kaberry lives in Manchester with her husband and two miniature dachshunds. She began writing fiction when she retired after working in the NHS for most of her life. Her first Cathar novel was The Chatelaine of Montaillou, also based on Jacques Fournier’s records. She has also written a memoir Britannia Street under her maiden name of Beth Cox.
My thoughts: based on records by Bishop Jacques Fournier, about the interrogation and torture of Pedro Maury and Guy Belibaste, Cathars and Good Men or Perfects, this is the story of how two ordinary men became important figures in what was called The Heresy, for which thousands of people were killed in the Middle Ages.
Pedro is a shepherd, working for his wealthier cousin Raymond when he is inducted into the secret faith of the Cathars, while Guy was raised in the beliefs. The religion was forced underground following the massacre at Beziers and incarceration at Carcassonne of many more. But Good Men or Perfects, as the leaders were called, still travelled to speak to believers, and Pedro and Guy become the last two. Their lives must have been shrouded in secrecy and fear.
The book tells of their attempts to live quietly and not attract the attention of the Catholic Church, while preaching to their flock and carrying out the duties of their office. Sadly they are betrayed by a man they thought was trustworthy and subjected to the offices of the Inquisition.
Based on the testimony of Pedro (Guy’s unfortunately has been lost) recorded by Fournier, this story about faith and strength, even to the cruellest of ends – Pedro is imprisoned, Guy burnt at the stake as a heretic, is moving and tragic.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.