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Date of Award

Winter 2024

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Diehl, Peter D.

Second Advisor

Johnston, Christine L.

Third Advisor

Hardesty, Jared


This work examines the formation of Cathar and Waldensian communities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It looks at how Cathars, Waldensians, and the Catholic Church thought about community and how they asserted their identities. All three communities showed a concern for boundaries and shared the same ideals based on a sense of unity within the community, even as the way they talked about those ideals changed over two centuries. They took Scripture as the basis of their identity, and they sought to share their interpretations with the laity through preaching and debate, bringing theological concerns to a wider audience. In that regard, this thesis emphasizes the importance of doctrine to community identity, rather than favoring shared practices and participation in rituals, as many recent scholars have done. It also seeks to expand on the existing historiography by looking at Cathars and Waldensians in both Italy and Languedoc. Historians have taken a more local approach to heresy and group identity in recent decades, and this thesis serves as a first step toward synthesis, showing the limitations of focusing too narrowly on one region or set of sources. Rather, a broad approach is necessary to show how heresy fits within a larger discourse on the nature of community, both real and imagined. The ideal community envisioned by the Church may not have really existed, but that did not stop them from trying to achieve their vision of the perfect community.




Heresy, Community, Waldensians, Cathars, Languedoc, Italy, Religion, Religious Dissent


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subjects – Names (LCNAF)

Catholic Church--Italy; Catholic Church--France--Languedoc

Subject – LCSH

Albigenses--Italy; Waldenses--Italy; Albigenses--France--Languedoc; Waldenses--France--Languedoc; Group identity--Italy; Group identity--France--Languedoc; Christian sects--Italy; Christian sects--France--Languedoc; Christian heresies--Italy--History--Middle Ages, 600-1500; Christian heresies--France--Languedoc--History--Middle Ages, 600-1500; Dissenters, Religious--Italy; Dissenters, Religious--France--Languedoc

Geographic Coverage

Italy; Languedoc (France)




masters theses




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