YU ISSN 0354-4648 ( Also published in: THE CASE FOR WOMAN: BRITAIN AND EUROPE. Ed. by M. Chourova and L. Kostova. Sofia, 2001, p.p.266-281)


Georgi Vassilev


I. Women's Emancipation and the Bogomils
During the 12th century, if not slightly earlier, Western Europe lived through a period of economic and social upheavel termed by many historians the 12th c. Renaissance. One of its aspects is related to the considerable emancipation of women mostly in Southern France, a development which spread over to Italy, Flanders, and later, England. One can even detect social zones where real emancipation was achieved. These were created in the socio-economic climate of the Cathar communities who followed heretical dualist concepts. Similar developments can be observed among the Valdensians, who were genetically connected with the Cathars. It is important to remember that the dualist streak came from Bulgaria and cut through Bosnia, Dalmatia and Northern Italy. One of the most important characteristics of the Bulgarian dualists, Bogomils and Paulicinians, was precisely the complete social liberation of women.

Bogomilism is generally well studied but still some new aspects arise and they need elucidation. As we know women achieved a high degree of emacipation in this movement. 

So it is interesting:

a/to explain this situation taking into consideration the theology and the social practice of the Bogomils;

b/to retrace how this new social status and activity of the woman was transmitted in the Western Europe through the ways of the Bogomil and Cathar influence.

Here we shall try to consider why the Bulgarian heretics had a different conception of the woman and did not regard her as Adam's rib, nor a creature inferior to man, nor an object of material and sexual domination. This difference is explained by the central myth of the Bogomil heresy according to which the human soul was an angel placed within its clay wrapping of a body by scheming Satan himself. That is why the idea of spiritual growth among the Bogomils required a complete denial of this world, the

secondary creation of Satan, as a way of returning to the heavenly realms of the Good Father /the Good God. Entering in a evolution of purification under the form of strictly ascetical life the adepts will take off their bodies if the bodies were clothes /stola/, and thus the soul will be freed in the moment of his apparent death. The body stays down on the earth becoming ashes not able to resurrect.

The Bogomil myth contains some remote echo about a bigger sinof the woman during the fall: women have incarnated the souls of the angels of second heaven /angelo secundi coeli/1 , while men have incorporated the souls of the angels of the first heaven /angelo primi coeli/ But in sum, the basic aspiration of the Bogomils to abandon every thing of the material world /omnia corporalia and visibilia/2 created by the Satan /Lucifer/ and to get back in the real; of spiritual things /omnia spiritualia et invisibilia/ puts men and women in the same radical denial of earthly existence.

This theologically motivated equality in the material life was supported by an equality in ritual - women had the right to be ordained and shrive. In a word, women had the right to become spiritual leaders which has always set on edge the Orthodox and Catholic clergy. Here is Prezviter Kozma's testimony: The heretics absolve themselves, though they are tied up with devilish fetters. This is done not only by the men but by the women also, which is worthy of castigation”3. The asexual equality of men and women finds another expression: besides that women are admitted to the leaders role /traditionnally occupied by men/ men can obtain the


birth capacity, that means the capacity to give birth of the Word. Women and men could become Mothers of God /J eotokoi/ - that is to say they all can give birth of the God’Word, the Logos.

Dimitar Angelov, the well-known scholar of Bogomilism, has commented upon the remarkably high status of women4 . By the way of example we should mention that sources tell of the heretics leader Irina of Thessaloniki who lived in the 15th century5 .

For the sake of precision we do not intend to suggest that the genesis of the idea of women's equality is, Bulgarian. The Bogomils are did not create the idea but received it from the Manicheans through the Paulicinians . Yet, unlike the Manicheans, who kept their teaching secret, locked in small , closed elite groups, the Bogomils this position became a wide social practice, later to be handed down to the West.The civilizational aspect of this attitude can hardly be overestimated for women were not just introduced to the sacrament of the religious ritual but given access to working with 'the Word' whereby achieving the full scope of culture. Their participation in modern for this epoch activity, in the formation of the beginning of a humanistic approach in the culture and social behaviour is an undeniable fact in the Cathar civilization of Provence sa well in the Lollard circles in England. Archimandrite Stephane Gueorguiev describes /his dissertation defended in Lausanne 1920/ the typical fr the Bogomils collective discussion of sermons and apocrypha. The Bogomil longing for the depth of the literariness /as prezviter Kozma tries to ironize the heretics/ includes women without any restriction. The bishop-monks Leonce and Clement, sharing Bogomil convictions, were accused in Capadoce /1143/ during an official trial that they allow to women-heretics ‘ read the holy gospels and to serve mass together with Clement”. In surplus these women were ordained for diaconess by the same Leonce and Clement /see the Appendix/.

This new reality caused in the long run changes both in the Orthodox and particularly in the Catholic tradition. These were for the first time brought into focus by Stefan Lazarov who writes that the Bogomils ' even encouraged their enemies to think in a broader, more humane way in the sphere of art6 . We shall quote a significant case that will be repeated over and over in our study. Some visible changes that had occured in the image of the Holy Virgin in the Orthodox and Catholic interpretation were provoked y the Bogomil consideration of the woman.

A basic Bogomil tenet is that all souls could be saved, so there is no need of the Day of Judgement. This idea seriousliy invalidates the power of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches who promise an eternal fire to the disobedient persons. The clergy was obliged to introduce some degree of mitigation of the eternal punishment in order to prevent the growing up sympathy of some part of the floik towards the more merciful heretics. This portion of grace was inserted again through borrowing a topic of the heretical literary imagery. The Orthodox circles started to propagate and to use the apocryphal /may be better is to say the non canonical/ tale “The Descent of the Holy Virgin”. This story as Moses Gaster and some others point out, is an imitation of the apocalyptic books that were in favor of the Bulgarian dualists, esp. “Visio Paoli” and “Descent of Christ to Hell”7. In the same manner as apostle Paul descends in the hell to picture out the torments of the penitence /putting in bad places clergymen because the heretical criticism for their corruption/, so Our Lady visits the lower world. Stirred by the pains of the sinners she asks her son - Jesus Christ to give them some rest from Green Thursday to Pentecost. It seems that reinforcement of the female principle in officialized Christian myth was the answer, the adaptation of the Orthodox Church authorities towards the fact of real woman emancipation


in the Bogomil spiritual and social life.

In this first, Bulgarian part of our article we can outline three factors, rooted in the practices of Bogomils, which testify to a new place of women in society:

    • full participation in religious ritual,
    • - the right to engage in literary activities,
    • - a changed attitude of the official church regarding women, brought about by their emancipation in Bogomil communities.

The heresies which follow the Bulgarian heretical tradition keep these three factors in prominence and, in Southern France, new possibilities for cultural realisation were added.

II. The Woman in the Catharo-Provencal Civilization

The place of women in Cathar communities in the South of France has been well studied. A few monographs deserve a special mention. Among them are the two volumes by Jean Guiraud8 which pay considerable attention to Cathar women. G.Koch's monograph9 (1962) has also been of great use to the present study. R.Nelli's book "La vie quotidienne des Cathars au Languedoc au XIIIe siecle, published in 1969, devotes an entire chapter to women10 . Le Roy Ladurie a (1975) has also collected interesting empirical data about the social life of women under Cathar influence. In 1979 came out R. Abel's and Ellen Harrison's excellent article ''The Participation of Women in Languedocian Heresy”11 which is undoubtedly the best work in the field. One of the latest studies is Anne Brenon's "Les Femmes cathares"12 (1992).As evident, the problem has been studied in depth, yet the empirical material lends itself to new interpretations.
Starting with Ms 609 and having considered other sources as well, R. Abel and E. Harrison give the following figures concerning the number of perfectae women: "the ratio between sightings perfecti and perfectae would still have been three to one"13 , and further, that "of 719 heretical ministers named in Ms 609, 318, or slightly less than 45% were women"14 . The authors apply the term perfectae-class, which sugggests the existence of a stably existing body of people . There is proof that the perfectae functioned among the women of the community and that, when there were no perfecti at hand the women had the right to give the consolamentum, the last unction, to male Cathars (See Dollinger, t.II, s.165). Cathar women were the first to create charitable institutions which we find in medieval towns much later. Jean Guiraud describes their schools, boarding - houses, hospitals, workshops for poor women. Anne Brenon has correctly pointed out that these charitable and caring activities , typical of the Cathar communities in Languedoc at the beginning of the 13th century, began to grow in French towns only during the late Middle Ages15

Female Catharism had an institutional impact on the aristocracy. Guiraud speaks of the tradition among the lower and impoverished aristocracy to send their daughters, who were excluded from the inheritance of land, to Cathar pensions and boarding-houses so that they would be provided with a decent living. Abel and Harrison mention the same practice16 . There is the curious example of Raimon IV (1194-1222), who in order to get rid of his second wife Beatrice, made her convert to Cathar asceticism. The same way Raimon-Roger de Foix "agrees" to let his wife part with him in order to follow the


secluded life of Cathar nuns17 . This is an example of the permeation of Cathar precedent into law , which helped solve the problems raised by female inheritance which shows that Catharism was acceptable when it came to solving social problems. Cathar hostels, of the type of nunneries, were established at various places - in 1209 there were six of those in Montesquieu, in Saint-Martin-de-la Lande they were ten. Such institutions were familiar in Le-Mas-Saintes-Puelles, Laurac, Vitrac, Villeneuve-la-Comptal and Cabaret18 .

The strongest historical memory of the participation of women in social life is born by Provencal culture. Le Roy Ladurie remarks on its integration and rationalisation on the level of everyday existence. It was open to "an exchange of ideas", "the women's word acquiring the same scope as the men's". There is " an insatiable aspiration in Occitan women to acquire and preserve their language"19 . As in contemporary feminism there is the attempt to overcome "the disempowerment through silence" and ""to democratize access to the spoken and written word”20
The complete encounter between the woman and the word was achieved in the literature of Provence , and more precisely, in the amour courtois genre. There she is not a being subjected to man but an object of veneration. This does not mean that feudal attitudes had changed but that, in spite of all, an unheard of enhancement of the status of women was achieved, though mostly as a verbal gesture. The realities of life were as if compensated for in a symbolic literary gesture. After the trouveres had sung Roland's glory in the chancon de geste, the Provencal troubadours raised the lady of the heart to celestial heights21 . This aesthetic emancipation might also be interpreted as a projection of the equalising of the status of men and women among the Cathars. Scholars like Raul Manselli object against "any attempt to draw a parallel between Catharism and the amour courtois poetry"22 Yet, writers like Denis de Rougemont and Rene Nelli believe that such a link is legitimate, though they have not discovered all its complex convolutions and psychological motivation. A point which is important to remember is that most of the troubadours shared Cathar ideas. Piere Cardenal's poems often read as dualist traetises and Piere de Corbian, though he wrote a"Prayer to the Virgin" in which he glorifies the mother of God, also believed that she had conceived through her ear, and that Christ had come out of her like a ray of light, without damaging her body23 These are traditional docethical views, typical of dualists, by way of which they deny Christ's material nature, identify him with the Word (the Logos), which every purified human being is capable of conceiving within himself. Bernard Sicart de Marvejols, like many other troubadours, levelled severe criticism against the Catholic church, the major enemy of the Cathars.That the amour coutois poetry was rather an act of the emancipation of the woman is suggested by the appearance of women poets (trobaritz) like La Comptesse de Die and Marie de Ventadour, who, in her poetic manifesto, declares "The Equality of Sexes in Love" ("L'egalite des sexes devant l'amour")24 . The development of women's poetry was stopped short in the 13th century as Pope Innocent and the French kings began a crusade against the Cathars in Southern France. As Alfred Jeanroy , a scholar of troubadour poetry has noted, these were hardly times favourable for the flourishing of a new literature for "the Inquisition had a firm grasp on all spiritual life"25 .

Now we shall try to consider the alternatives offered by the Catholic church to the emancipation achieved by Catharism. Unfortunately, the first of the measures taken was physical extermination - over one million people were destroyed. Mercy was not shown to women


 as an act of examplary punishment. The well-known Song of the Crusade against the Albigoisians ("La Chanson de la Croisade Albigeoise") tells of the woman ruler of the town of Lavaur - dame Guiraude, thrown on May 3rd, 1211 at the bottom of a well and there sotned to death. The author of La Chanson Guillaume de Tudele, though in favour of the crusader's cause, cannot refrain from praising her goodness and generosity26 . Later came the time of more peaceful methods. Dominique d' Osma, the father of the Dominican Order, established Notre Dame de Prouilles, with the explicit intention to re-educate Cathar women from good families. This monastery was rather rich, as its documents clearly show, and had the support of the Vatican. But even then, according to R. Nelli, "women went on choosing the Order of Cathars, wherever it was, because it ensured their equality and made the oppressive nature of patriarchal power more bearable"27 The pro-Catholic literature about women was neither original nor attractive. The diversity has come again imitating the heretical letters."Legenda Aurea" by Jacques de Voragine ( a collection of lives created at the end of the 13th century). This book contains catholicised versions of some heretical apocrypha, including "The Tribulations of the Virgin" that is a reply of the Eastern Orthodox Church in its discussion with the dualists. There the Virgin begs the ireful Jesus Christ to have mercy upon sinful mankind. So he sends Dominique to begin the struggle for its salvation from the heresy28. Jean Guitton also has assumed that the rise of the cult of the Virgin is a reaction against "the mistakes" of the heretics, and was meant as a protection against the "dangerous degeneracy of the amour courtois poetry" (sic)29 In so far as the Virgin was represented as benign to sinners this broadened the zone of mercy and forgiveness in the Catholic world and allowed for milder relationships among human beings. The appearance of a system of nunneries in this period became a way of supplanting the shattered system of Cathar homes . They became the new centres of social care for women and their cultural affinities in spite of the limitations set upon them by the dogma. Having destroyed the centres of women's social and cultural realization the Catholic Church had to create analogous formations.

III. Lollard women - outstanding personalities

The generic links between the dualist Bogomil and Cathar heresy as well as that of the Lollards, which turns it into a pan - European phenomenon, have been discussed by us elsewhere30 . So here we shall proceed with the details of our topic.The achievement of equality between men and women is best demonstrated by the perrmission granted lollard women to conduct services, as the Norwich trials testify. This has been declared in the testimonies of women at the trial. Hawisia Mone said :"Also that every man and every woman being in good lyf oute of synne is a good prest and hath[as] much poar of God in all thynges as ony prest ordered, be he pope or bisshop"31 . A similar opinion statement was made by Sibilla, John Godsell's wife32 . These, however, are not just opinions expressed by women. John Skylan, accused at the same trial, repeats the same
words verbatim:"Also that every good man and good woman is a prest”33. Fifty one men and nine women were accused of heresy at that trial.Yet, in some respects, the women were the more active part in it. Norman Tanner writes: "At least Margery Baxter and Hawisia Mone appear to have been active Lollards


and not mere followers of their husbands!34 " N. Tanner correctly places John Burrell and Margery Baxter as major characters in the trial. The Inquisitor's notes from the interrogation of the latter clearly state that she developed heretical activities independently (ipsa tenuit, credidit et affirmavit articulos sive opiniones subscriptas - p. 42). Hawisia Mone also revealed her talent to dispute well. Matilde, wife of Richard Fletcher, was defined as a prominent heretic (notata et multipliciter diffamata de heresi - p.131). Katerina Wryght, wife of Roger Wryght, was described as “notatata et vehementer suspecta de crimine heretice pravitatis” ( p.194). Isabelle Chapleyn was also proclaimed a "well-known" heretic (multiplicater notata - p. 198).

The Lichfield and Coventry trials of 1511-12 provide similar data about the activity of women. Among the 45 persons put to trial one third were women. Again they were not just their husband's followers, but were rather among the leaders. John Gest confessed that he had been persuaded for eleven years by his wife Johanna to enter the heresy "circiter xi annos elapsos solicitationibus Johanne, uxoris sue incidet in heresim"35 Another woman, Alice Rowley, "appears to have been one of the busiest and most important working members of the 'sect'”36
The most outstanding personality in the whole of the three-year process in Norwich was a woman. Margery Baxter transcends all the cliches of the dispute between the
inquisitors and the heretics. We should not forget that the language both of the church and the heretics was strongly clicheed. The only one who freely spoke of her religion in an oubursst of spontaneity was Margery Baxter. She was the one who told the Bogomilo-Cathar myth of the fall of Lucifer in her own rendition (p.49). The legend of the bee, which stings the tongue of traitors, suggests a possible aquaintance with The Physiologus , another important literary and philosophic book of the Middle Ages. By leaving the formulaic language of the dogma, she infused the trial with a most surprising metaphoric expression, or as a modern feminist might say, hers was "a self- articulation within the subculture"37 .This is a good example of the link between liberal religion and literacy, typical of Lollard sub-culture, which, because of its greater openness can be regarded as the avant garde cultural zone of the times. As Malcolm Lambert has written, the latter included the variants of the the Wyclifite Bible, which was translated into English, as well as other vernacular collecions of the Lollard sermon-cycle, functioning of professional writing - offices, etc38 .. The cultural significance of the translation can hardly be overestimated, given "how strongly the ecclesiastical authorities held the view that it was the translations of the Scripture that were the cause and root of all trouble"39 . This literary production was marked by academic quality and is a most important literary legacy of the period. Documents again testify to the active role of women in this field. Alice Rowley confessed that she had used "good bookis"40 while her husband was in the habit of reading to her "from St.Paul's Epistles"41 . There are other records of such family redings in the Proceedings of the Norwich trials.
As authors like A. Lombard, M. Gaster, Yordan Ivanov, R. Abels and E. Harrison have underlined, the profusion of heretic literature is part of a rather wide and free literary context which is common for the heretics and the orthodox. In England this brings about a new understanding of women on the part of the official church - there appear nunneries and a vast body of literature addressed to women. Such are"Hali Maidhad", "Seinte Margarete", "Sawales Warde", "Ancrene Wisse", etc..Two of them contain key-motifs from the basic dualistic myths, disseminated by Bogomils, Cathars, and Lollards. In their introduction to the collection "Medieval English Prose for Women" the editors


Bella Millet and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne re-construct this topic from "Hali Meidhad", without suggesting its heretical roots: "Had man been content to replace the angels in God's creation and not to imitate Lucifer's disobedience, our nature could and should have been like that of the angels."42 This is a repetition of the myth about Lucifer's rebellion and fall, told by Margery Baxter but already coming from the pages of the official religious literature. Another visible dualist quotation in "Sawles Warde" is the descent into Hell and the ascention in Heaven43 . This is a typical variant of "Visio Paoli" and "Nicodemus Gospel", aplocalyptic writings distributed by the heretics. This characteristic free compilation and reproduction is also visible in "Seinte Margrete", which contains borrowings from the popular eastern apocrypha about the virgin Juliana. It is noteworthy to add that the forth text “Guide for Anchoresses also comprises a sway of heterodoxy. Fisrt, one can dsclose here some essential and stylistic reminiscencences of the wiedespread in the Middle Ages “The Letter from Heaven” /same “Legend of Sunday”, or “Lord’ Letter”/. It was a leading book of the Flagellantes, bearing an Eastern provenanie as Moses Gaster explains. Second, Jesus is called Paraclete / the Consoler/ - a denomination, used basicly by the Eastern dualists44

Two important features emerge. First, the two editors themselves point out that the context of this kind of lives is the debate with the heresies and the Islamic conquest. On the other hand we shall mention that the Catholic church used such compilations to create its own popular literature in its struggle against the Cathars. Let's remember the case of Jacques le Voragine's "Legenda Aurea", a book created at the end of the XIIIth century. It compiles many apocrypha that had undergone a procatholic wording. In sum, this enhanced interest in women in medieval England was a reflexion of the dynamics of the Renaissance of the 12th century. The editors of" Medieval English Prose for Women" have avoided the »temptation of branding the development with "Englishness" and see this as an expression " not only of the literary tradition but of the French courtly literature and the Latin prose of the twelfth century Renaissance"45 . The authors prefer the formula "transmitter or transformer" (we shall say both), and pay attention to the element of Jewish and Eastearn apocrypha46 . It remains for us to narrow the focus to a clearer picture as M.Gaster, I.Franko and D.Obolensky have already done, by specifying the heretical character of these apocrypha. Millet and Wogan-Brown have hinted upon this by seeing in" Hali Meidhad" an apparent closeness to heterodoxy47, although they try to avoid the importance of this fact.

A few rather clear conclusions can be drawn at the end of this short paper:

First, that that Bogomils and Cathars, as well as the heresies close to them, were a powerful, even a main stream in the twelfth century Renaissance in the way they placed women in an equal position. On their part, the cultural activities of women brought about more mildness, mercy, elegance, psychological depth, a deeper interest in literature. Mores and behaviour become milder, to be elegant in manners was a fact of prestige. We can trust to the observation of Alfred Jeanroy that while in Southern France the troubadours created an unheard of spectrum of literary genres, in the North which was less affected by the heresy, the amour courtois was unknown, and the poetry of the trouveres was rather schematic, bearing testimony of the pride of the aristocracy in the recounting of the glories of battles. One fact more: the ladies attention towards the troubadours and the jongleurs created the situation of “open society” - the poets and the singers were accepted in the feudal milieu as equals. The emancipation of the art was obtained through the woman emancipation is a highe degre of early democratization. 


The epic poem in the North was the only flowering genre about 1160. Tke lieterary rchness of the forms, this blossoming forth in the South of France according to Alfred Jeanroy had been a cultivated taste48 . The leading role of Provencal literature was admitted by Dante and Petrarch who saw themselves as its followers49. In England after the suppression of John Bull's rebellion the dualist heresy lost the ground for free development but created social groups which brought about a peak in the literature of the period. As the proceedings of the Norwich trials clearly show, the women were natural leaders in this literary revival.

So the Bogomil-Cathar and Lollard emancipation of the woman asserts itself to be a spiritual component of the XIIth century Renaissance helping the rise of provisional cultural model - a forerunner of the modern civilization.

1 Interrogatio Joannis /The Secret Book of the Bogomils/ - in Иванов Й. , “Богомилски книги и легенди”, С., 1925, с.78

2Racki Fr., Prilozi za povest bosankih patarena - in Starine 1869(1), p.318

3Презвитер Козма, “Беседа против богомилите” - в “Стара българска литература(2). Ораторска проза”, София, 1982, с.257

4 Ангелов Д. “Богомилството”, София, 1993, с.257

5 “Пространно житие на Теодосий Търновски от патриарх Калист” - в “Стара Българска литература(4). Животописни творби”, София, 1986, с.с.452-453

6 Лазаров Ст. “Проучвания върху културата на богомили и катари: театър, музика” /Автореферат на дисертация/, С., 1989, с.4

7 “Ходене на Богородица по мъките” - in “Стара българска литература(1). Апокрифи”, С., 1982, с.247 or the “Descent of the Holy Virgin”. It is interesing to quote Moses Gaster: “The “Descent of Christ to Hell” itself gave rise to a remarkable imitation, “The Descent of the Holy Virgin”, and it is easy to imagine the influence it would have on the popular fancy, especially as it was from the beginning regarded as the clue to the mysterious life after death, and therefore gave an opportunity to entering into all possible torments, while the original Gospel only spoke of a place of waling and ghashing of teeth”. Gaster, M. Ilchester Lectures on Greeko-Slavonic Litterature and its Relation to the Folk-lore of Europe During the Middle Ages, London, 1887, p.52 One has to pay

attention to a theological subtility. The anonymous Orthodox author of the “Descent of the Holy Virgin” has his way to discuss with the dualist: he puts them in the inferno because they resused to preach the name of Our lady, as they negated the material nature of the Christ’s body. This detail reveals “The Descent of the Holy Virgine” as a remake-reply against the Bogomils.

8 Guiraud J. Cartulaire de Notre Dame de Proulles, precede d’etude sur l’Abigeisme languedocien au XIIe et XIIIe siecles, t.1-2, Paris, 1907

9 Koch G., Frauenfrage und Ketzertum in Mittelalter /Forschungen zur mittealterlichen Geshihte 9; Berlin, 1962. Quoting according Abels R.and E. Harrison - The participation of Women in the Languedocien Catharism - in Medieval Studies, t.41, Toronto

10 Le Roy Ladurie - Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 a 1324, Paris, 1975/1982, p.-p.383-385

11 Abels R. and E. Harrison, Abels R.and E. Harrison - The participation of Women in the Languedocien Catharism - in Medieval Studies, t.41, Toronto

12 Brenon A., Les Femmes Cathares, Paris, 1992

13 Abels R. and E. Harrison, op. cit, p.226

14 Ibid., p.225

15 Brenon A., op. cit., p.215. A.Brenon as Guiraud did before her enumerates the Cathar institutions: house for the neophytes, hospital/asylim, craftsman’s workshop, shelter - p.215.

16 Abels R. and E. Harrisson, op. cit., p.217: “Because of poverty, the minor nobility turned to the heretical convents to place their unmarried daughters and widow female relations.” The authors mention also the education role of such establishments: “Cathar convents occasionally functionned as seminaries for daughters of the rural nobility” /p.232/.

17 Nelli R., op. cit., p.p. 106-107

18 Abels R. and E. Harrisson, op. cit., p.p. 22-229

19 Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 a 1324, Paris, 1975/1982, p.p.383-385


20 Long E., Feminism and cultural studies - in Critical perspectives on media and society, ed. By R. Avery and D. Eason, New York, London, 1991, p.117

21 The troubadours knew well the name of Roland. See Peire Vidal of Toulouse, who says: My audacity is equal in this of Roland and Oloivier, while in art of love I am equal to Berart de Mondesdidier’s art of love…” - in J. Robaud, Les Troubadours / anthologie bilingue/, Paris, 1971, p.220. But in the troubadour’s poetry the image of Roland was displaced by the admiration towards the beloved lady.

22 Manselli, Dolore e morte ella esperienza religiosa catara - in Todi, Presso di l’Academia Tudertina, 1967, p.258

23 Corbian Piere de, Priere a la Vierge - in Anthologie des troubadours XIIme - XIIIme siecles /edition refondue/, Paris, 1974, p. 367. Pierre de Corbian shares practically the same heretical vue that is criticized in the “Descent of the Holy Virgin”. See note 7.

24 Anthologie des trobadours XIIme-XIIme siecles, p.198. J. Robaud in his anthology “Les Troubadours” qoutes the names of some other women poets like Avalais de Porcaraiques, Na Castelloza, Clara d’Anduse, Bieris de Romans plus one anonymous poetess.

25 Jeanroy A., Introduction in “Anthologie des troubadours…”, p.29

26 Tudele Guillaume de, La Chanson de la Croisade Albigeoise /Cansos de la Crozada/, editee et traduite par Eugene Martin-Chabot, Paris, 1976, vol.5, p.165

27 Nelli R., op. cit., p.108

28 Voragine J. de, La legende doree - traduite de latin par T. de Wyzewa, Paris, 1920, p.p.402-403

29 Guitton J., Le Christ equartele /crises et conciles dans l’eglise/, Paris, 1963, p.196

30Vassilev G., Bogomils and Lollards. Dualistic motives in England during the Middle Ages - in Etudes Balkaniques 1/1993

31 Heresy trials in the diocese of Norwich 1428-31, edited by Norman P. Tanner, London, 1977, p.142

32 Ibid., p.67

33 Ibid, p.147

34 Ibid., p.26

35 Fines J., Heresy trials in the diocese of Coventry and Lichifield, 1511-12 - in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol.14, 1963, p.p.161-162

36 Ibid., p.162

37 Long E., Feminism and Cultural Studies - in Cultural perspectives on media and society, p.120

38 Lambert M., Medieval heresy, 1977/1992, Oxford, p.249

39 Fines J., op.cit., p.165. These words seem to be an euphemism when John Foxe gives the information that in 1542 Thomas Bernard and James Morden were burned because “the one teaching the Lord’ Prayer in English, and the other for keeping the Epistle of St. James translsted into English.” - see W. H. Summers, The Lollards of Chiltern Hills, London, 1906, p.97

40 Fines J., op. cit., p.162

41 Ibid., p.166

42 Medieval English Prose for Women, ed. by B. Millet and J. Wogan-Browne, Oxford, 1990, p.XV

43 Ibid., p.109. A precise quotation is more expressive here:”…we should look from the vision of hell to the joy of heaven, feel fear from the one, love towards the other…” The text also includes three allegories of the type used in the “Le Roman de la Rose and that is an indication of an influence of the French medieval luterature. Fear relates about inferno whereas Reasson, helped by the Prudence and Fortitude in God, describes the Paradise.

44 M. Gaster gives an information how the apocryha reached England: “Roger of Hovedene gives this “Letter from Heaven” in his Chronicle under the year 1201 and says that it had been brought in this to England by Abbot Eustachius of Flays. The Letter was directly copied thence by Roger of Wwndower into his own Chronicle. An Anglo-Saxon translation is said to be in existence at Corpus Christi College in Oxford.”

45 Medieval English Prose for Women, p.XIV

46 Ibid., p.XXIII

47 Ibid., p.XVI

48 Jeanroy A., op.cit., p.16

49 See for example J. A. Cuddon, Dictionnary of literary terms and literary theory, London, 1977/1991, p.p.1007-1008: “The troubadours /who composed in langue d’oc/ had a very considerable influence on Dante and Petrarch, and indeed on the whole development of the lyric /q.v./, especially love lyric in Europe.”





Tenth  century:

"The heretics absolve themselves, though they are tied up with de­vilish fetters. This is done not only by the men but also by the women which is worthy of castigation." (Presbyter Cozma's testimony in his Tract Against the Bogomils). Twelfth century (1143):

Heresy trial of the monks-bishops Leonce of Balbissa and Clement of Sasimes: "...he ordained women for deaconesses letting them read

prayers and the holy Gospels, and serve mass along with Clement." και χειροτονήσαι γυναΐκασ διάκο νίσσασ, κάιέπιτρέπειν αύταισ τάσ συνήθειο έκκλησιαστικάσ αϊτησεισ ποιεΤσθαι καί την άγιων ευαγγελίων άνάγνοσιν και συλλειτουργήσαι ταύτασ μετά του Κλήμεντου (Gouillard J., in Quatre procès de mystiques à Byzance. IV. Les évêques "bogomiles" de Cappadoce, Paris: Institut des études Byzantines,74).


Beginning of the fourteenth century:

Depositions of Raymunda Valsiera for the Inquisition in Languedoc, describing how Cathar women can practice the "Consolamentum", the sacrament of the Cathars: "...that this power from the hands of the good men upon the good men, and from the hands of the good women upon the good women...that the good women possess the mentioned power and they can receive it for exercising on men and women, and if so it is that good men are absent [the adepts] can by saved by good women, the same way as good men do".(...quod dicta potestas transiret de manibus ad manibus bonorum hominum ad bonos homines; et bonarum mulierum ad bonas mulieres quia, ut dixit, ita sunt bonae mulieres, sicut et boni homines; quae bonae mulieres.sicut et boni homines; quae bonae mulieres dictam potestatem habent et possunt recipere in fine homines et mulieres, si tantum sit, quod non sint praesentes boni homines, et ita salvantur per bonas mulieres, sicut per bonos homines.") ("Errores Manichaeorum:

Confessio Raymundi Valsiera de Ax", in Dollinger, Ign.v., Beitrage zur Sectengeschichte des Mitte latter, t.H-Dokumente vornehmlich wr Geschichte der Valdesier und Kathurer, Miinchen, 1890, 165).


Fifteenth century:

Lollards' depositions at the heresy trials in Norwich :

"Also that every man and every woman in good lyf oute of synne is a good prest and hath [as] much poar of God in al thynges as ony prest ordered, be he pope or bisshop." (Hawisia Moone, uxor Thome Moone de Lodne, 142).

"Item quod quilibet fidelis homo et quilibet fidelis mulier est bonus sacerdos." (Sibilla, uxor Johannes Godsell de Dychingham, 67).

"Also that every good man and good woman is a prest." (Johannes Skylan de Bergh, 147). (Heresy Trials In the Diocese of Norwich 1428-31, edited by Tanner, Norman P., L., 1977)

Margaret Aston mentions that the Lollards produced some famous women preachers. The question, however, of whether there were Lollard women priests does not have a definite answer yet, according to her. Aston gives the case (after Henry Knighton, 1391) of a Lollard woman that had taught her daughter to celebrate mass but not to consecrate the sacrament. (Aston, M., Lollards and Reformers /Images and Literacy in Late Medieval religion/. The Humbledon Press, 1984, 62, 69).

Note: 563 years after the trial of Norwich (where it was established that the heretics gave women the right to shrive), the Anglican Church, unique among the Christian Churches, ordained in March 1994 32 women as priests; in this we can discern the distant influence of the tradition of the English heretics. In its centuries-old disputation with the Vatican, the Church of England used almost the same critical qualifications and epithets as the heretics who preceded it.

The rigid position of the Catholic Church against the ordaining women was corroborated by John Paul II on July 27, 1994. He explained that since Jesus had chosen only men for apostles, there is no justifica­tion for changing the situation today. According to Reuter (the source of the information), this position will almost certainly be maintained by subsequent popes.