Digging for Carcassonne Prison Photographie © Dominique Baudreu
Digging for Carcassonne Prison Photographie ©Dominique Baudreu

Carcassonne Prison

Years of excavation in Carcassonne have resulted in an exciting discovery: the old Cathar prison has been found

In the middle of the 13th century Carcassonne was used as a inquisitorial centre, where Cathars from the whole region were imprisoned, awaiting the Inquests into their cases. However, in July 1300, a Franciscan Prior, Bernard Délicieux, appealed the accusation that a certain Castel Fabre, who had died in 1278 and had been buried at his convent, was a Cathar heretic. Délicieux claimed that the registers of the inquisitors were fraudulent and contained invented accusations and nothing but common hear-say. This caused the inquisitors to temporarily flee Carcassonne. During the next year Délicieux campaigned to not only stop the inquisition, but also have imprisoned “heretics” released. He was thus present in 1303 when the citizens of Carcassonne stormed the prison of the inquisitors and freed the inmates [1]. In the next years Délicieux continued his campaign against the inquisitors. However, in this he suffered some setbacks and from 1310 he lived in Béziers, where he joined the Spiritual Franciscan Convent. This ended in 1317, when Pope John XXII, who was hell-bent on eradicating the Franciscan spirituals, ordered Délicieux and his brethren from Béziers and Narbonne to Avignon to answer for their disobedience in the matter of the spiritualists versus the reformed Franciscans, which were busy turning the Franciscan venture into a worldly order. During the next year he was imprisoned, interrogated and tortured in Avignon, until he was turned over to the City of Carcassonne fro his final trial, which took place in the autumn of 1319. The The judges and prosecutors were Jacques Fournier, the Bishop of Pamiers and future Pope Benedict XII (famous for the inquisition at Montaillou) and Raimond de Mostuéjouls, the Bishop of St. Papou. At this trial he was condemned for obstructing the work of the inquisition and treason, but not for heresy nor for his spiritualist leanings. He was given a life-sentence of prison in solitary confinement and to do penance in chains on bread and water. He was delivered to the inquisitor Jean de Beaune, who carried out this hard sentence. He died shortly afterwards in 1320. For a long time the exact location of this prison in Carcassonne has been unknown. For several years, however, two archaeologists, Fabienne Calvayrac and Dominique Baudreu systematically walked the ramparts, shifted stones and excavated at different places in order to find this infamous prison, which in medieval documents, was called “Le Mur”. Recently they succeeded in discovering the exact door, which led into the prison as well as archaeological remnants in some of the private gardens and house plots located in front of the wall at Carcassonne According to medieval descriptions the wall was divided into two sections, “le Mur Large”, which held the common heretics and “Le Mur Strict”, where the perfecti and also Délicieux were held in separate cells. [1]  The history of the storming of the Walls in Carcassonne is told by Alan Friedlander in his book about the Hammer of the Inquisitors.


Carcassonne. Ils ont découvert la prison des Cathares au pied de la Cité


The story of Bernard Délicieux has been the topic for both romantic writers and painters in the 19th century as he embodied the resistance of the Occitan separatists against the French centralists. The documents concerning his trial survives in only one source, a copy prepared in the 17th century, now kept in Biblioteque Nationale Francaise (Ms. Lat. 4270). In 1996 this was edited  and published by Alan Friedlander. Later (in 2000) the same historian wrote a magisterial biography of the man. In 2011, a journalist, Stephen O’Shea, wrote a more popular history about Délicieux. Processus Bernardi Delitiosi Ed. by Alan Friedlander American Philosophical Society 1996  The Hammer of the Inquisitors: Brother Bernard Délicieux & the Struggle Against the Inquisition in Fourteenth-Century France. By Alan Friedlander Series: Cultures, beliefs, and traditions V. 9. Leiden, Netherlands, Boston, MA: Brill Publishers. ISBN 9789004115194. OCLC 607468511. The Friar Of Carcassonne By Stephen O’Shea, Douglas & McIntyre, 2011. ISBN-10: 0802719945 ISBN-13: 978-0802719942

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