Saturday, October 17, 2009


Corsica’s Cathars

Not so long ago I made a reference to a medieval Christian group called the Cathars, in an item about the theft of various of our belongings from our car whilst staying in Carcassonne in southern France. Today I came across a grisly but somehow believable story about a group of Corsican Christians who dared to challenge the Roman Catholic Church and who also paid with their lives – the Giovannali.

In Corsica’s mountainous interior, not far from the village of Vivario, there is a mountain 1260m in height which is intriguingly called the Christe Eleison, a liturgical phrase familiar to all who have attended Mass in a Roman Catholic church.

In the last years of the 14th Century, many years after the last Cathars had gone to their doom on the mainland, it seems there was a breakaway group of Christians in Corsica who, like the Cathars before them, favoured a rough and community-based lifestyle (I’m afraid I know nothing of their theology). Like the Cathars, they were excommunicated and sentenced to be burnt at the stake, and tradition in the region has it that as they were being led to their fate they released two doves, chanting the words “Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison…”.

Unlike many of the other fabulous tales in this blog, I didn’t think this story up myself. Indeed, I am indebted to Charles Pujos, the author, and Libris, the publishers of Haute-Corse – 100 Balades et Randonnées who offer a five-hour saunter on the slopes of the Christe Eleison as one of the walks they recommend. Sounds a bit tough to me.

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