Friar risked all to denounce the Inquisition

Stephen O’Shea, The Friar Of Carcassonne: Revolt Against the Inquisition in the Last Days of the Cathars


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Bernard Délicieux, the delightfully named Franciscan friar who is the hero, albeit a flawed hero, of this book was a native of Montpellier. 

He entered the province of Provence of the Friars Minors in 1284. At considerable cost to himself, he fought the excesses of the papal Inquisition in its campaign against the Cathars, a dissident movement in southern France.

Stephen O’Shea, the author of an earlier work on the Cathars, has rescued Délicieux from relative obscurity by tracing his efforts to defend the innocent victims of the ecclesiastical repression of heresy.

The special object of Délicieux’s ire was the Friars Preachers, or Dominicans, who were mainly responsible for implementing the Inquisition. He accused them of using tainted and unreliable evidence in their judicial proceedings.

One of the most notorious buildings in the city of Carcassonne, where Délicieux was a popular preacher, was the Wall, the popular name for the prison where the Dominicans incarcerated suspected heretics.

Not even the dead escaped the attention of the methodical friar-bureaucrats who staffed the Inquisition. There were instances where they exhumed the bodies of deceased suspects and consigned them to the flames.

O’Shea is a gifted storyteller who seems unencumbered by the occupational addiction of some historians to whisper to one another about esoterica in the footnotes. He has a good story to tell and he tells it well.

Délicieux was a multitalented character who could rouse the local populace with demagogic sermons in their native langue d’oc, and deliver a polished appeal for royal intervention against the Inquisition to King Philip the Fair in the langue d’oïl of northern France.

He could charm cardinals as they wandered through southern France with the peripatetic papal court, win the favor of Pope Clement V and elude the clutches of the vindictive Dominican pope Benedict XI, whose aversion to him Délicieux more than reciprocated.

When Délicieux’s prediction of the impending death of Benedict XI came true, some hailed him as a prophet, while others accused him of making the prophecy come true by poisoning the pope.

No one will mistake this book for hagiography. O’Shea presents Délicieux with the warts fully visible, which makes his portrait all the more convincing and makes the wily friar “with feet of clay” all the more human and sympathetic.


Profile in Courage (America)


Stephen O’Shea

Bernard Délicieux (French Wikipedia)


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