Travel in Languedoc France: Holidays in France, gite vacation rentals, Languedoc hotels, Cathar castles

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Travel Article on Languedoc France & Cathar Castles

Three Cathar Castles - Languedoc, France

Excerpt from Ockham's Razor - Part 2
by Wade Rowland

Catharism and the troubadour culture seem to have run along parallel tracks rather than being causally connected, though they often seem to have fed off one another. They do share, however, the scent of modernity. The poetry of the troubadours was lyrical, aristocratic, anticlerical and coloured with Arab influences, reflecting the increased contact brought about through the Crusades. It is also all about self- discipline and self-control, which are thoroughly modern notions.

Southern France Languedoc region Cathar castles In this exclusive excerpt from Ockham's Razor: A Search for Wonder in an Age of Doubt, author Wade Rowland, his wife Christine, and their two teenagers explore the romantic ruins of Cathar castles in southern France's Languedoc region.

In the best-known of the surviving poetry, love is chaste and unrequited, but much of it is earthy and sensual as well. Nearly 450 troubadours are known to us by name; in this representative poem in the form known as the alba, written by a twelfth century bard, an amorous lady and her lover are heard from in turn:

Alas, shall he ever again
stay here in the morning? -
so that when the night leaves us
we shall not have to lament,
"Alas, now it is day,"
as he lamented
the last time he lay by me.
Then the dawn came.

Alas, she kissed me numberless times
as I lay sleeping.
Then tears fell
down and down.
But I comforted her
so that she left off weeping
and embraced me all around.
Then the dawn came.

Alas, that he has so often
looked upon me!
When he took the covers off me
he wanted to look at poor me
naked, without clothing.
It was a great wonder
that he never grew bored with this.
Then the dawn came.

A jaundiced view of the courtly love phenomenon is recorded in the dyspeptic diaries of Giubert of Nogent (1153), a professional preacher. Here he compares contemporary mores with those of the nobles of his mother's day:

"O God, thou knowest how hard, almost impossible it would be for women of the present time to keep such chastity as this; whereas there was in those days such modesty that hardly ever was the good name of a married woman smirched by ill report. Ah! how wretchedly have modesty and honour in the state of maidenhood declined from those times to these, and both the reality and the show of a mother's chaperone shrunk to nought. Therefore coarse wit is all that may be noted in their manners and naught but jesting heard, with sly winks and ceaseless chatter. Wantonness shows in their gait, only silliness in their behaviour. So much does the extravagance of their dress depart from the old simplicity in the enlargement of their sleeves, the narrowness of their skirts, the distortion of their shoes of cordovan leather with their curling toes, they seem to proclaim that everywhere shame is a castaway. A lack of lovers to admire her is a woman's crowning woe! On her crowds of thronging suitors rests her claim to nobility and courtly pride. In the old days- as God is my witness! - there was greater modesty in married men, who would have blushed to be seen in the company of such women, than there is now in married women."

Catharism took root first among disaffected Catholic clergy, the educated and the nobility. It was a predominantly urban phenomenon, which is one of the reasons why it flourished here (as it did in northern Italy).

The end of the ninth century had seen European economic activity at its lowest ebb, due to the social disorganization and political anarchy that accompanied the barbarian invasions and the collapse of Roman civil order.

With the tenth century, a long, slow economic recovery began, which was greatly accelerated in the eleventh century thanks to the reopening of the Mediterranean trade routes by the First Crusade and by traders from the Flemish coast and Venice. A prosperous new merchant class emerged, which became the germ of a rising middle class. The wealth of the aristocracy was balanced by the new wealth of cities, which were able in effect to buy their way out of the old feudal structures.

At the same time, serfdom was breaking down as more and more families found economic sustenance in the prosperous towns and villages, and as landowners, faced with strong demand for agricultural products and severe shortages of labour, greatly improved the contractual conditions for tenant farmers. Languedoc by the twelfth century was relatively densely populated, and peppered with flourishing towns, villages and cities. Toulouse was at this time a great city reveling in self-governing independence similar to that of Venice and the other Italian city-states.

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World Travel Guide .com - Travel article about travel in Languedoc France: long-term vacation rentals in France, gite rentals, Carcassonne France hotels, Cathar castles, and essential advice for travel in France and worldwide travel.

In this World Travel Guide .com exclusive excerpt from Ockham's Razor, the author Wade Rowland and his family explore the romantic ruins of Cathar castles in southern France's Languedoc-Roussillon region.

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