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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Monday, 1 September 2008

Well I just got back from a lovely trip ...

It wasn't across the milky way, but we did see some stars at the Cite de L'espace in Toulouse.

We were staying near Albi in the Tarn valley. A very hot and quite isolated place. It has a Cathedral which is the world's tallest free standing brick building (no rsj's in medieval times!)

The reason its so big was the architectural part of a power struggle between the Catholic church and the Albigensian sect (aka Cathars, because of their quest for purity). As well as sending in the inquisition (we had lunch next to a well where three inquisitors were drowned after having executed some villagers for heresy) and arranging "the Albigensian crusade" i.e. a number of massacres led by that well known thug Simon de Montfort (well known at least to heavy metal fans in Leicester because there is a gig venue there called the de Montfort hall), the church wanted to impose itself upon the heretics so they built this enormous edifice and decorated it with some groovy frescoes outlining the orthodox faith (although rather nicely the one depicting souls in torment in hell has had to be removed to accommodate an altar).

The heretics have been called there first protestants because they made a big fuss about the rotten state of the clergy at the time, whose moral life left a lot to be desired. So far so good we might say (especially if we are GAFCON) but unfortunately our potential pin up prots were in fact loony heretics who seem to have developed the idea that it was a good thing to starve to death as it showed how pure you were. they were very into purity of life and theology and knowledge - a bit like the gnostics I suppose. In a spooky preview of JW's, they also had two levels of believer - the pure ones and those who lived a normal life (i.e. did not starve themselves etc) but then received the laying on of hands for the baptism of the Spirit on their deathbeds. Weird.

Nice wine though!

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