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Cubières sur Cinoble The Church Abbey BELIBASTE


A Criminal who became a Parfait

Guilhem Bélibaste was born around 1280 at Cubières, a village in the County of Razès (now in the Aude). His family of yeoman farmers, was totally given over to the Cathar faith. At Cubières, the Bélibaste family received numerous notable Parfaits such as Pierre Autier and Philippe d’Alayrac. Guilhem's brother, who were shepherds, frequently accompanied some of these Parfaits on their clandestine journeys. despite the efforts of the Catholic Church over almost a century to eliminate the the Cathar heresy, it was still in good health, and was growing again in the Ariège an in the Razès, because of the preaching of the Autier brothers.

Despite his family affiliations, it was not by way of a vocation that Guilhen Belibaste became a Cathar Parfait, but rather by chance. Around 1305-1306 in the course of a fight, he killed a shepherd from Villerouge Termenès (see below). A judicial action was taken against him. The Archbishop of Narbonne, Lord of Villerouge and of Cubières held him guilty and conficated his belongings. To save his skin Bélibaste abandoned his wife and son, and took to the clandestine world of the Cathar Parfaits. To save his soul, and by way of penitence, he had to join the Elect. He was initiated and ordained as a Parfait at Rabastens (now in the Tarn) by Philippe d’Alayrac. But the two companions were arrested and locked-up in the sinister prison of the Inquisition at Carcassonne: "The Wall". However, in 1309 they managed to escape and sought refuge in Catalonia, in the county of Ampurias. When Philippe d’Alayrac came back to the Kingdom of France to exercise his ministry, Bélibaste, less courageous, preferred not to accompany him. It was a wise choice, because shortly after he learned of the arrest and death at the stake of his erstwhile companion.

Fearing for his safety, he distanced himself, in stages, from the frontier where his risked being recognised and arrested. as a precaution he also changed his name: he had himself called Pierre Penchenier, a name inspired by his new career as maker of carding combs. He also sold his labour for seasonal work in the vineyards and worked as a shepherd near to Poblet with his friend Pierre Maury.

Bélibaste, The Imperfect Cathar (from "Bélibaste, l’imparfait", which appeared in the Pays Cathare magazine, hors-série n° 1, December 1997, pp. 70-71.)



The Imperfect Cathar of Morella

In 1314 he moved to Morella, in the Kingdom of Valence. The neighbouring village of San Matéo sheltered a small community of Cathars in exile from Occitania, most of them from Montaillou (in the Ariège), to whom he became their pastor. In the heart of this community he sometimes abused his spiritual authority, notably with his over-generous friend Pierre Maury: This latter recounted: "as we had bought jointly , Bélibaste and me, six sheep, for which I had paid the entire price (and, in addition, given him five shillings), the heretic wanted to take three of the six, saying that they were his, and that I had given him the money for these sheep and the five shillings for the love of God. To mislead the Catholics, he made out that he was married and living with a widow Raimonde Marti, and her daughter. In reality Raimonde Marti had been his mistress for several years, and fell pregnant in 1320. Now, to mislead the Cathars, because he had broken his vow of chastity, he married her to his friend Pierre Maury, who [ostensibly] accepted paternity, then, jealous, annulled the marriage.

However, he took seriously his role as pastor. He preached, blessed, administered the Consolamentum (Cathar sacrement) to the dying, and regularly received believers, including Arnaud Sicre, whose mother died at the stake. To this latter [Arnaud Sicre] he taught in his naïve way, populist but imaginative, the beliefs of his religion: "Then the enemy of God, Satan, made men's bodies in which he trapped these spirits ... These spirits, when they leave their tunics, that is to say their bodies, flee completely naked, terrified, and they run so fast that if a spirit left a body in Valence and had to enter another in the County of Foix [on the other side of the Pyrenees] and if it was raining hard over the whole journey, barely three rain drops would have fallen during that time. Fleeing, thus frightened, it will place itself in the first empty hole that it can find, that is to say in the belly of any animal carrying an embryo as yet without life: bitch, doe, mare, or any other animal, or again in the belly of a woman, in such a way however that if this spirit has behaved badly in its previous body, it will be implanted in the body of a brute beast; if on the other hand it as not behaved badly it will enter the body of a woman. Thus the spirits pass from tunic to tunic, until they enter into beautiful tunic, that is to say into the body of a man or a woman who has the understanding of good (ie a Cathar), in which body it will be saved, and after leaving this beautiful tunic, it will return to the Holy Father.

In reality, Arnaud Sicre, so keen to "open himself to the understanding of Good" was only there to win the confidence of Bélibaste, to have him arrested, and to have the goods confiscated from his mother, restored to him [Sicre] by the Inquisition who had sent him.


the last perfect "occitan"

Bélibaste, despite the attendant dangers wanted to visit other Parfaits in order to have himself re-ordained. He allowed himself to be convinced by Arnaud Sicre to return to the Languedoc. On the road to Tirviain the diocese of Urgell, in March or April 1321, Arnaud Sicre denounced him to the Bailiff of the Count of Foix, lord of the place. Arrested and taken to Castelbon, he was imprisoned in the tower of the château with (as was the custom) his denouncer. During the night Bélibaste attempted in vain to convince Arnaud to receive the Consolamentum, and to commit suicide together [jumping] from the top of the tower to enter directly into heaven. Judged at Carcassonne, Bélibaste was burned the same year at the Château of Villerouge Termenès, residence of the Archbishop of Narbonne his lord, who had already condemned him for murder.

With Bélibaste the Cathar Church in Occitania disappeared: after his death and up until the middle of the Fourteenth Century, only simple believers were burned. However, a Cathar Church subsisted in Bosnia, the members of which converted to Islam at the end of the Fifteenth Century. The last Parfait in Occitania strayed often from the rule of the rigorous life of the Elect. However, he died with dignity without abjuring his faith. His death as a martyr argues to this day for religious tolerance.

source : Gauthier LANGLOIS

see the blog of Gauthier LANGLOIS


A legal case partially solved... 700 years later!


In a murder case we know the victim but not always the culprit. Here, it is the opposite, the culprit, Bélibaste, was known. But of his victim, a shepherd, we knew nothing. The solution slept in an old register kept in the library of Narbonne. The Inventory of the archives of the archbishopric of Narbonne teaches us that the victim was called Barthélémy Garnier and was native of Villerouge-Termenès. It remains to discover the motive of the crime. Let us risk a hypothesis: Villerouge was the summer residence of the archbishop of Narbonne, its inhabitants whose convinced Catholics Barthélémy Garnier was thus doubtless. It is doubtless in the pastures of mountain pasture of Cubières where he had to lead herds of the archbishop that he met Bélibaste. He threatened Bélibaste to denounce him as heretic? If that was the case, we can grant the attenuating circumstances to Bélibaste.




Most of what we know about Bélibaste comes from the depositions of Arnaud Sicre and Pierre Maury to Jacques Fournier. These depositions have been published by Jean Duvernoy [one of the leading Cathar expects of the present day]: Le registre d'inquisition de Jacques Fournier (Évêque de Pamiers), 1316-1325. published by Mouton, Paris, 1978.

The origins of Belibast and the murder committed by him are set out in an article by G. LANGLOIS: "Note sur quelques documents inédits concernant le parfait Guilhem Bélibaste et sa famille", dans la revue Heresis published by the Centre d’Études Cathares, n° 25, 1995. [reproduced below in French and in English translation]

The only work dedicated exclusively to Bélibaste is in Italian: Lidia FLÖSS : Il caso Belibaste, Milano: Luni Editrice, 1997.

Henri GOUGAUD has written a novel: Bélibaste, pulished by Seuil in 1982.

All of these works can be read at the Centre d’Études Cathares at Carcassonne. (Tél. 04 68 47 24 66). The Château of the Archbishops of Narbonne at Villerouge Termenès (Aude), houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to Bélibaste and his times. (Tél. 04 68 70 09 11).

généalogie de la famille BELIBASTE

san mateo


the acts

Three unpublished legal documents allow us to clarify some aspects of the history of the last known Parfait in Occitania and his family. Guilhem Bélibaste, made famous by the works of Jean Duvernoy, the study by Emmanuel Leroy-Ladurie on Montaillou, the novel of Henri Gougaud, and whose life is presented at the Château of Villerouge Termenès was until now known only through inquisitorial records. Seven people had made depositions against Bélibaste and his family before the Inquisitor Jacques Fournier, among them Pierre Maury of Montaillou, a friend of Bélibaste, and the despicable Arnaud Sicre who had been responsible for Bélibaste's arrest.

Extracts from the inventory of Antoine Rocque are shown below left in the original seventeenth century French.


1st ACT B. inventory of Archives of the archbishopric of Narbonne, tome 3, inventory of acts of Cubieres, f° 211 v°.



 « Item un acte de l’an 1260 par lequel Pierre Marie de Cubiere, et Raymond son frere vendent à Jacquez Fabré, une maison au lieu de Cubiere et la fabrique, et lauzet (1) du dict lieu confrontant la dicte maison Raymond Belibaste, de midy Guilhaume del Bouyx, de cers la riviere, d’aquilon le chemin public, pour le prix de trente souls malgourois, desquels feust payé le foriscape au dict sieur archevesque, duquel la dicte maison relevoit, soubz l’usaige annuel de deux deniers malgourois. Cotté n° 3 ».

(1) D'après Alibert, Dictionnaire occitan-français, « lauseta » signifie en occitan terrain pierreux, (de lausa: dalle). Le mot lauzet désigne peut-être ici une cour pavée.



The first document tells us that a certain Ramon Bélibaste had a house in the village of Cubières in 1260. This Ramon is perhaps the grandfather of Guilhem Bélibaste. In any case the family Bélibaste seems to have been established at Cubières at least from the middle of the thirteenth Century.

It was known from the deposition of Peyre Maury that Guilhem Bélibaste had fled Cubières between Easter 1305 and 24 June 1306 after having killed a shepherd in the course of a quarrel. The second document confirms the fact of of this murder and the date (before the end of 1307). This document specifies that legal proceedings had been initiated by the Archbishop of Narbonne (no doubt by his Bailiff at Villerouge), proceedings which provide a better explanation for Bélibaste's flight. It states also that Bélibaste's goods had been confiscated for the benefit of the Archbishop, following the condemnation for murder. What were these goods? His inheritance from his parents? This presupposes that Guilhem senior or his wife had died before the end of 1207, either shortly before or after the flight of their son. However that may be, following this confiscation, Guilhem junior's son and wife remained at Cubières, doubtlessly lacking from a material point of view. This would provide an explanation of their deaths before 1311, unless the justice system had something to do with it.


2nd ACT   B. inventory of Archives of the archbishopric of Narbonne, tome 3, inventory of acts Villerouge, f° 156 v°.



« Item un acte de l’an 1307, duquel resulte comme les biens d’un nomme Guilhaume Bedibaste de Cubiere, feurent confisques au sieur archevesque de Narbonne, a cause du meurtre par luy commis en la personne de Barthelemy Garnier de Villerouge. Cotté n° 15. »




Finally, this document clarifies the reasons for choosing Villerouge Termenès as the place of execution of Guilhem in 1321. Bélibaste had been handed over to the secular arm in the form of the Archbishop of Narbonne in his [temporal] capacity as Lord of Cubières and Villerouge Termenès. It is suggested that Villerouge must have been chosen by way of making an example in this territory, the Termenès, still impregnated with heresy, because Villerouge was the seat of the Bailiff of the Archbishop (of which Cubières was a dependency), and the Archbishop (who was probably present at the execution) had a residence there. Two supplementary reasons can be advanced to explain the choice. It was probably the Archbishop's Seigniorial Tribunal that had condemned Bélibaste for murder. It was necessary to demonstrate the power of the Archbishop's seigniorial justice, which did not leave this crime unpunished. The document tells us also that the Bélibaste's shepherd victim was called Barthélémy Garnier and that he was originally from Villerouge. The execution therefore rendered justice to an inhabitant of Villerouge.


3rd ACT   B. inventory of Archives of the archbishopric of Narbonne, tome 3, inventory of acts of Cubieres, f° 215 v°-216.




 « Item un acte de l’an 1312 contenant bailh à nouveau fief faict par le dict archevesque de Narbonne a Pierre Laverche de Cubiere, d’un casal a luy adveneu d’un nommé Arnaud Belibaste, comdampné à mort pour crime d’heresie, assis dans le lieu de Cubiere, confrontant de deux parts avec le chemin, soubz l’usaige annuel de deux deniers tournois. Cotté n° 31. »


The third document concerns Arnaud, one of the brothers of Guilhem. Little is known about Arnaud, who appears only twice in the Register of Jacques Fournier. Pierre Maury who is the only one who mentions him seems not to have known him well and was not altogether certain that he was a heretic (unless Pierre Maury lied by omission, but this is improbable as this would mean that he was not aware of the condemnation of Arnaud, and was trying to protect him). The document states that Arnaud had been condemned to death for heresy and that his goods, a castle, had been confiscated for the benefit of the Archbishop of Narbonne before the end of 1312. So Arnaud was certainly a Cathar. Condemnation to death for heresy was relatively rare; three hypotheses could explain his condemnation. Either Arnaud had relapsed, that is to say abjured the heresy then had returned to it; or he was a Parfait; or he had refused to abjure his faith [in the first place]. Whatever the explanation, was this condemnation enforced? The hypothesis that he had been condemned as contumacious and that he then took flight is not likely, because he would then have encountered other Cathars and his existence would have been noted in the depositions of some of them before the Inquisition.



(Article publié dans la revue Heresis, n° 25, décembre 1995, pp. 130-134.)






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