Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Robert F. Berkhofer III

Second Advisor

Dr. Larry Simon

Third Advisor

Dr. James Palmitessa


Cathars, heretics, Inquisition, Perfectae, preaching

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This Master’s Thesis builds on the work of previous historians, such as Anne Brenon and John Arnold. It is primarily a study of gendered aspects in the Cathar heresy. Using inquisitorial registers from the mid-thirteenth century to the early-fourteenth, as well as a few poetic and prose sources, it seeks to understand how the Cathar “Good Women” were perceived by their lay believers. The methodology of prosopography is utilized throughout to measure witness testimonies against one another and to compare the connections between the Cathar constituency and the female ministers.

Two main inquiries are investigated: the sacerdotal and pastoral roles of the Good Women. In chapter one, an investigation of a single village of the Lauragais, Fanjeaux, shows how the perfectae interacted with the lay population. In chapters two and three, their preaching is underscored. In both areas, it becomes evident that while men and women equally participated in their audiences, this equality is restricted to the nobility. Non-nobles within the Lauragais are repeatedly shown to have undervalued the Good Women’s ministry. Ultimately, the thesis concludes that a single interpretation of female Cathar spirituality, and the Good Women themselves, fails to adequately explain their origins and activities.