The Garden of Roses is part of the Berbie Palace, a well-preserved tourist spot in the city of Albi, in southern France. Albi gained recent notoriety because of the novel The Name of the Rose, in which the plot is permeated with events that occurred in medieval Europe that are related to the history of the Cathars, of whom the princess of Foix was the greatest exponent.
Although she was not a princess like those of fairy tales, Esclarmonde de Foix can be explained as a muse of romantic love: she was the Lady whom the troubadours of Provence referred to in the verses of love that they composed and sang in the Middle Ages. Although they rarely named her, they dedicated their unconditional loyalty to her (Ferreira Filho & Souza, 2016, p. 25).
The troubadours Occitanie, however, hid a forbidden subject under the sign of the Lady: the belief in the Church of Love, or, the Cathar faith. The Cathars had formed an initiatory community open to anyone, for the first time in the West (Salomó, 2018, p. 93). However, this was considered heresy, punishable with death by fire. In order to express their faith without taking risks, such poets used the songs to worship Love in the mystical, sacred sense. This way, they could sing in castles, in which the masters shared the same faith, strengthening the communities linked to the Church of Love.
For Anne Baring, the historic role of the troubadours was not restricted to creating, through poetry, a cultural climate in which the attitude towards women and the Feminine could be transformed. It could also “revive the idea of Mission: the search for the spiritual as opposed to the material vision” (Baring, link in the references). For the troubadour, the woman he loved was the image of Divine Wisdom and his only desire was to serve her.
Esclarmonde, then, personified the Lady to whom troubadours dedicated their pure feelings, disguising them as romantic love. With their poetry and music dedicated to her, they invoked the wisdom of their own soul, the wisdom of the divine spirit that lives in every human being. The statements to Esclarmonde were, therefore, praises to the inner work that she represented.
Esclarmonde’s work for humanity
“It was the time you lost with your rose that made your rose so important,” said the fox, in the book The Little Prince (2016, p. 59). Our princess Esclarmonde devoted herself entirely to her rose, to inner work, to her heart, to the point of becoming synonymous with catharism. For her, the heart rose was the most important thing.
Esclarmonde was born in Foix when the city was one of the main centers of French catharism, between the 11th and 12th centuries. At the age of 12, she was consecrated to the Holy Spirit, along with other children of the Cathar nobility. At the age of 26, when a serious persecution in the Pamiers region culminated in many deaths, burnt crops and looted houses, she gathered the residents of the territory governed by her husband – who was absent at the time – and took them to the Corbières wilderness to stay in safety. It was her first active action that is known.
After becoming a widow, she began to dedicate herself entirely to catharism. In the castle of Fanjeaux, she received the sacrament known as consolamentum, equivalent to Enlightenment, and became a Perfect, as the Cathars who had achieved spiritual elevation were called (Ferreira Filho & Souza, 2016, p. 37).
She lived in the wooded mountains and valleys of Foix during several periods of her life, along with other women, taking care of the ill, teaching in schools for children and adults, and administering Cathar rites. In the Church of Love, both women and men had priestly functions.
She was one of the founders of Cathar workshops and houses, which later inspired Catholic convents. They were places where women learned Druid medicine and worked in activities important to the economy of the time, such as carpet weaving and candle production. After work, the women remained in place to dedicate themselves to spirituality, which was the real focus. When catharism became the target of the Albigensian Crusade, the ferocity with which these houses were destroyed by the Inquisition leaves no doubt that they performed a great spiritual function (Salomó, 2018, p. 81).
Esclarmonde participated in theological debates when only men could do it. The episode reported in the chronicle by Guillaume de Puylaurens, which took place at the Pamiers colloquium in 1206, in which a Dominican friar was irritated with her during a debate and said: “Madam, go spin your wheel. You cannot participate in such a debate”, became famous (Salomó, 2018, p. 99). It is said that Esclarmonde would have agreed to leave the debate calmly, saying that the loom made her understand the world better.
In the story told by the winners of the Crusades, she would have died at the fire during the attack of the Albigensian Crusade on Montsegur, in 1244, when about 200 Cathars were killed without offering any resistance. This is called into question when it is known that during the Brass Council of 1215, the earl of Foix, her brother, indicated that she was no longer in this world.
Her soul, however, would have accompanied the singing of the Perfect on the way to the fire, remaining in Montségur until the last moment of catharism and protecting the “Cathar treasure” for 700 years. But there is no way to prove what happens in the occult.
Esclarmonde survived as the woman who guided a spiritually unique people, establishing herself as one of the Great Initiates of the Christian Era in the West.
She was, without a doubt, the inspiration of the Cathar Church and the heart of its resistance, and she was immortalized in the memory of the people of Ariège as the same dove that was the symbol of the Church of the Holy Spirit. A true Esclar Mond, “clarity for the world”, and one of the most prominent female figures of the Middle Ages.
But, let 702 years pass and return to the Garden of Roses, on the banks of the Tarn River. From there emerges the atmosphere of the time when the Cathars celebrated their Templar services on the spot.
Looking closely at the place, we find Jan Van Rijckenborgh and Catharose de Petri, who are there with the objective of reinstating the previous transfiguristic Fraternity, known as the Albigense Fraternity, which embraces the Church of Love (Huijs, 2017, p. 39). They look at the flowers, ecstatic.
And then, we remember the phrase in Exupéry’s book:
To love is not to look at each other, it is to look together in the same direction.
And their eyes meet the eyes of the Church of Love …
BARING, Anne. Esclarmonde de Foix – Her Story. Disponível em: https://www.annebaring.com/anbar49_esclarmonde.html. Acesso em 22/04/2020 às 21:04:02.
FERREIRA FILHO, Benjamin Rodrigues; SOUZA, Shirlene Rohr de. A dama e o amor: Cortesia e heresia na poética medieval. Revista Transversos. “Dossiê Resistências: LEDDES 15 anos”. Rio de Janeiro, nº. 08, pp. 25-45, ano 03. dez. 2016. Disponível em: https://www.e-publicacoes.uerj.br/index.php/transversos/article/view/26531.
FONTENELLE, Débora. Entrevistas concedidas a Ana Carolina Ciabotto e Márcia R. Intrabartollo. Jarinu, 2018-2019.
GADAL, Antônio. O Triunfo da Gnosis Universal. Jarinu:Pentagrama Publicações, 2017.
HUIJS, Peter. Chamados pelo Coração do Mundo. Jarinu:Pentagrama Publicações, 2015.
SAINT-EXUPÉRY, Antoine de. O Pequeno Príncipe. Disponível em: https://5ca0e999-de9a-47e0-9b77-7e3eeab0592c.usrfiles.com/ugd/5ca0e9_4f0dc25362284aa6b917c93a1e1708ba.pdf. Acessado dia 08/06/2020 às 20:55:01.
SALOMÓ, Eduard Berga. O Catarismo na Tradição Espiritual do Ocidente: uma aproximação ao pensamento cátaro. São Paulo: Publicações Civitas Solis, 2018.