The Albigensians’ beliefs, the 13th century mendicant orders, and the Magna Carta

The Albigensians were a medieval group of people who had many beliefs similar to those of the previous Manicheans. They believed that there were two gods or spirits in the universe, one who was good and one who was evil. They believed that the good god created the spiritual world and the evil god created the physical world of matter. Because the evil god created matter, they believed in staying away from material things as much as possible and living a life of self-denial. This contrasted favorably with the worldliness of many of the Catholic clergy, and several people chose to follow their religion.

Because they thought that material things were evil, they rejected the incarnation of Christ and the medieval sacraments. They also rejected all oath-taking and believed that the human body is the prison of the soul. The Albigensians were divided into the Perfect and the Believers. The Perfect would not marry, would be vegetarian, and would live a life of asceticism. The Believers believed in the principles of the their religion, but did not become one of The Perfect due to the inconvenience of doing so in their lives. If you wanted to be saved, though, you would become one of the Perfect on your deathbed.

The 1200s gave rise to various mendicant orders, notably the Franciscans and the Dominicans. They were founded by St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic, respectively. The Franciscans preached the gospel and lived a life of poverty, and trusted God for their needs. People would provide them with food so that they could live. When St. Francis of Assisi visited Pope Innocent III in the year 1210 and asked if they could be made a new order, the Pope agreed and made them a new order. In 1216, they took the name of Friars Minor.

The Dominicans were formed because of the problem of the Albigensians. Because the ascetic life of “The Perfect” contrasted with the papal legates and the Catholic churchmen, the people needed to know that Catholics could also live a life of self-denial. Dominic lived a life of poverty, so that he could set an example. The Dominicans lived a life of poverty, preaching, and learning. They became the order of Friars Preachers, ratified by Pope Honorius III. They were present in all areas of church life, as well as philosophy, education, and other areas.

John I of England was king from 1199-1216. He had a lot of conflict with Pope Innocent III over who should be the archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope excommunicated him, and eventually John was forced to agree to the Pope’s candidate for the archbishop of Canterbury in 1213. He also had a lot of wars in France over his territory. Wars are pretty expensive, so he taxed the people a lot. John’s humiliations, wars, and taxations angered the English barons, who wrote the Magna Carta. It said that taxation beyond customary levies required the consent of the great men of the realm, not just the king. It also said that the king could not do whatever he wanted, but was bound by tradition and law. John was forced to agree to the Magna Carta at Runnymede by the barons in 1215. Although it was originally a document dealing with many problems of the day, it evolved into a document promoting the liberty of Englishmen.


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