The Italian Almanac

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the cathar castle of Foix

Italian News - March 22

The tragic history of the medieval Cathar sect is mingled with the Bosnian war in a new Italian 'total theatre' show where actors, dancers and singers interplay with film footage and computer-generated historical recreations. The aim of the piece is to show the parallels between the mercilessly repressed heretics and the sectarian strife that ripped apart "the Bosnia of monasteries and minarets," said author Giorgio Cattaneo.

The climactic moment of the play is a recreation of the arrival of a papal legate at one of the Cathars' last strongholds in southern France, Bezieres. Abbot Arnaud Amaury famously urged his troops: "Kill them all - God will recognise his own." The city fell and 20,000 men, women and children were slaughtered, ending the so-called Cathar Revolt.

Among the members of the cast are veteran comic Cochi Ponzoni in the role of Pope Innocent III, well-known singer Antonella Ruggiero who laments another infamous massacre, Strega Prize-winning novelist Maurizio Maggiani, and a real-life southwestern French mayor, Luis Cabases, who plays one of his Cathar predecessors. Leading dramatic actor Eugenio Allegri, star of the theatrical version of Alessandro Baricco's hit novel Novecento, provides the narrative.

The Cathar movement, which set up 'good men and women' in place of corrupt priests and placed no formal moral obligation on the common people, originated in the Balkans in the 10th century. The movement spread westwards and swept southwestern France, sending shock waves through the Vatican. Brutally snuffed out in that region - which draws thousands of pilgrims to the Cathar Trail each year - it held out in Bosnia until the mid 15th Century.

The new Italian work, The Song of the Cathars, has a debut run in Turin from March 24 to 28. It will play in Rome this summer before moving to other cities in Italy and France.