Deborah Shulevitz

  • Fellowship year:2016-2017
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Medieval Europe
  • Dissertation Title: Heresy, Money, and Society in Southern France, 1175-1325
  • My dissertation studies the links between the medieval money economy and the Cathar heresy of southern France in the thirteenth century. Catharism was one of a number of heretical religious movements that arose in Latin Christian Europe between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, in a period of religious reform and increasing centralization of papal authority. It was characterized by belief in both a good god and an evil god, entailing rejection of the physical world as the work of the evil god, as well as rejection of the Catholic sacraments. At the same time, western Europe was undergoing rapid growth and economic expansion, which was troubling for a conservative Christian society. In looking at the French Cathars' attitudes towards money, as well as the Church's targeted campaign against both heresyy and moneylending in southern France, my project will offer new insights into the nature of the Cathar heresy, its social dynamic, and its significance for its adherents. By demonstrating that, unlike the mainstream Church, this dissident element of medieval society did not perceive a conflict between money and commerce, on one hand, and religious belief, on the other, my project will show that an alternative vision of the place of wealth in the salvation economy of Latin Christendom could have been possible.