So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke

So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke

The Beguin Heretics of Languedoc
Louisa A. Burnham
  • Honorable Mention, 2008 James P. Hanlan Book Award (New England Historical Association)

In So Great a Light, So Great a Smoke, Louisa A. Burnham takes us inside the world of a little-known heretical group in the south of France in the early fourteenth century. The Beguins were a small sect of priests and lay people allied to (and sharing many of the convictions of) the Spiritual Franciscans. They stressed poverty in their pursuit of a Franciscan evangelical ideal and believed themselves to be living in the Last Days. By the late thirteenth century, the leaders of the order and the popes themselves had begun to discipline the Spirituals, and by 1317 they had been deemed a heresy. The Beguins refused to accept this situation and began to evade and confront the inquisitorial machine.

Burnham follows the lives of nine Beguins as they conceal themselves in cities, construct an "underground railroad," solicit clandestine donations in order to bribe inquisitors, escape from prison, and venerate the burned bones of their martyred fellows as the relics of saints. Their actions brought the Beguins the apocalypse they had long imagined, as the Church's inquisitors pursued them along with the Spirituals and began to arrest them and burn them at the stake. Reconstructing this dramatic history using inquisitorial depositions, notarial records, and the previously unknown Beguin martyrology, Burnham vividly recreates the world in which the Beguins lived and died for their beliefs.

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Also of interest

Kinship and Conquest
Family Strategies in the Principality of Salerno during the Norman Period, 1077-1194
Joanna H. Drell

Series

Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past

Subjects

Religion : Christianity
History : History / Medieval and Renaissance
Interdisciplinary Studies : Medieval and Renaissance Studies

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