Occitans - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. With their arrival in the region, the Greeks introduced the worship of their gods, a Religious practice that was supplanted only with great difficulty by Christianity. As late as the late 600s, the Christian church was still encountering opposition, sometimes violent, to its efforts to convert the population. It is perhaps this tenacious retention of pre-Christian practice, as well as the church's willingness to co-opt or incorporate local devotional practice, that explains the novel approaches that characterize early meridional Christianity: a strong interest in cults of the saints and cults of holy relics; a strong monastic tradition; and the numerous holy men, who lived solitary lives of self-abnegation and poverty. This unorthodox approach to Christianity gave rise to the Occitanian reputation as a "land of heretics," for many practices appeared to the church to be a direct attack upon its doctrine, notably the tendency to decry the accumulation of property by the religious. In the twelfth century, the Albigensian Crusades were fueled by church reaction against the heresy of Catharism, which was strong in the region. This event had more political than religious results—the defeat of the region in this religion-based war marked the end of Occitanian independence and the incorporation of the region into the kingdom of France. This did not, and does not, mean that the region fell placidly into universal acceptance of Rome's dictates. The "tradition" of southern heresy was continued through the 1500s, for the Region became a refuge for Calviniste, Huguenots, and other Protestants.

Arts. When one speaks of the art of the Occitans, one speaks first of the troubadours of the Middle Ages, who brought their poetry and celebrations of courtly love to the whole of Europe. But Occitanie is well represented in the spheres of philosophy and literature as well by writers such as Montesquieu, Fenelon, De Sade, Pascal, Zola, Compte, and Valéry. Although these writers wrote in the standard French of their time, rather than in Occitan, they represent what has been called a "meridional humanist" tradition, attesting to the fact that for centuries this region was a center for art, philosophy, and science.

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