French Churches – more of ‘em than French cheese. All over the freakin’ place! Cities. Villages large,medium and small. Even tiny “Hameaus”(a collection of houses with no commerce) you’ll find a small piece of stone celebrating the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Or all three.
French Churches are not simply momuments to Religion, but repositories of the countries history, tradition and culture.
In France, as in most countries, the history of the Church is intertwined(to say the least)with the history of the State. For the obvious reason. Both are in the control business . Both want to tell their lost little lambies where/how to live, and most importantly , what’s kosher and what’s not.
The state does it with taxes, subsidies, rules and regulations. The Church with religious mumbo jumbo. But, as often happens with two power structures in competition, they “pump up da volume” – as King Henry the Eighth did when he decided the best way to get rid of his problems with his Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, was to get rid of him. Devishly simple, wot?
France’s Pope Innocent 111( perhaps taking a cue from Mohammed, on whose sword was supposedly written – “My message is peace”) had an equally simple and effective solution to his problem with the Cathares.(pro – cat-r’s) A religious “sect” who were “stealing” followers by the carload from the Roman Catholic side o’ the street. Pope Innocent invited all the Cathares to the walled city of Carcassonne for a bar-b-que. Theirs. When the “Head Chef” pointed out that women and children were included – his “Holiness” replied :”Kill them all. God will know the Holy ones.”
This black historical reality has added a new, equally black humor connotation to the name – “Cathares.” It now(also) means – “meat burned to a crisp.” As in : “Do ya want if rare, well done, or…Cathares.?”
(The inummerable French scholars in my audience might enjoy “l épopée Cathare 1198-1216 by Michel Roquebert.” (Editions Privat, 14 rue des arts,Toulouse.)
Religion hates competition. Just like that other power structure – The Multi-National Corporation. But where the Multi-National’s solution would be to buy out your suppliers, undercut your prices,then “acquire” you for pennies on the dollar,Religion goes right for the jugular. Literally. If not a garden variety massacre like Carcasonne, then “Holy wars.” Religion with an “edge.” A way sharp edge.
The French Church’s contribution to these “missions of mercy” were the Knights Templars. Who, incidently were, among other things, the first Multi-National.
Saving the Savages
Their main mission as a ” Christian Military Organization”, was to ” capture ” Jerusalem in particular, and the ” Holy Land ” in general.
Meaning that they would have to(with the Church’s Holy blessing, bien sur) “do away with”any Godless Arabs that might, for some inexplicable reason, feel that ,to parphrase Woody’s song….”this land is our land.”
Like most of us, the Templars started small. So small, and poor, that their first emblem was two knights riding on one horse! However, the Templars had a high friend in Holy places, in the person of Bernard(later St. Bernard) of Clairvaux. His movin’ ‘n shakin’ convinced the Pope In 1129 to annoit the Templars with his Holy mumbo jumbo. Now, they could attract enough investors to afford a horse for each knight. High cotton!
Not “On the Wagon”
The Templars name .Nothing to do with temperance, I’m happy to say. They started out calling themselves “The poor fellow soldiers of Christ.” Later, after one of the many times they captured Jerusalem(and they “lost” it just as many) and wanting a permanent base, The King ‘0 J-town gave them an abandoned(can ya guess why?) mosque on a hill overlooking the city. As the ruins on the mound were(and you gotta love this word) “reputed” to be the remains of the temple of Solomon, the T-team added “of the temple of Solomon” to their Corporate identity. And, contractions being as popular then as now……it was inevitably reduced to “Knights Templar.”
THROW ME A BONE HERE PEOPLE!
What are ya thinkin’?