It is always interesting to meet a traveller returned from a remote and exotic land; it is especially so when he is a well-informed historian. But when that historian happens to be one of the most brilliant of his profession, and has travelled not only in space to an obscure village in the mountains of Languedoc in Southern France but also in time some seven hundred years to the days of the Albigensian heresy, then we may sit back to a full evening of exciting travellers’ tales. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is exploiting to the full a unique source: the record of the investigations made· by the Church into what is known as the Cathar or Albigensian heresy in 14th century France. The examinations were conducted by Jacques Fournier, one-time bishop of Pamiers and Mirepoix, later Pope Benedict XII at Avignon where he built the palace of the Popes and had the famous frescoes painted. It was as bishop that he ferreted out the worst heretics whom he could identify almost instinctively and then would cross-examine with a subtlety and tenacity that finally brought out the truth.
May-June 1981, volume 5, No 5/6