Dr Michael Barbezat, Institute of Advanced Studies (UWA) / Centre for the History of Emotions (UWA Node) Public Lecture

“The Limits of Tolerance: Arguments For and Against Religious Violence in the High Middle Ages”, Dr Michael Barbezat (UWA)

Date: 11 May, 2016
Time: 6:00-7:00pm
Venue: Fox Lecture Theatre (G.59, Ground Floor, Arts Building), University of Western Australia
Register: This is a free event, but registration is required. To register: http://www.ias.uwa.edu.au/lectures/barbezat

Killing your religious opponents in the Middle Ages was neither an easy choice nor unquestioned. Leading intellectuals condemned executions for heresy when they began in Western Europe during the eleventh century, reminding Christians of their duty to reserve such judgment to God. This response, however, did not remain dominant in following centuries, as persecution, sometimes deadly, continued to increase. Contemporaries described this escalation not as the growth of hatred, but rather as the realisation of the very virtues that constituted the basis of Western Christian civilization. In this presentation, Michael Barbezat will argue that medieval calls for divinely sanctioned murder relied heavily upon a discourse of love. He will follow the use of the parable of the wheat and the tares in discussions of the use of deadly force as a response to Christian heresy. At its point of origin, the parable seems like a call to religious tolerance, but this interpretation does not remain stable. As he moves through examples from the third to thirteenth centuries, the role and necessity of violence will expand, until the parable’s earlier interpretation has been turned on its head. Instead of a call to toleration, the parable by the thirteenth century was, in the eyes of some of the most learned commentators, a call to deadly violence. This presentation will conclude with an example from the infamous Albigensian Crusade that illustrates these principles in action, portraying the massacre of hundreds as a necessary, divinely sanctioned act of love.