Resistance to Christianity

Chapter 33: The Millenarians


What the Jewish, Essenean and Christianized apocalypses (or “revelations”) expressed, via the adventures of God, was the historical myth of a Golden Age, passed but promised to return, such as that myth was conceived, in regret and hopefulness, by the Greco-Roman mindset, which was disappointed by the disorder of the emperors and which adorned an ideal and universal republic with all possible virtues.

In those “revelations,” the creator God, originally imperceptible and inaccessible, approached his creatures and, through a growing epiphany, manifested himself in order to separate the just and loyal from the bad and wicked, with the result that, after the latter were annihilated, he would descend to the earth and, with the saints and the elect, build a kingdom that would last a thousand years.

The Constantinian Church, allegedly “Catholic,” accommodated itself poorly to a doctrine previously and collectively received by a Hellenized Christianity that aspired to the triumph, not of an ecclesial authority, but of the ekklesia or the community of the faithful. Justin the Apologist, Irenaeus of Lyon, Tertullian and Origen were all convinced millenarians. This conception discretely continued up to the Twelfth Century, despite the reticence of the clergy, the exclusive holder of salvation, which controlled access to the kingdom of the saints.


Joachim of Fiore

With the renewal of the social and political forms of the Twelfth Century, there was sketched out a consciousness of history-in-progress but still enclosed in the cyclical form of myth. The revolutionary process of market expansion, which incited philosophy to free itself from theological tutelage, also instilled at the very heart of the language of God the venom [venin] of becoming [devenir], a venom from which that language eventually died.

The idea of an Eden uprooted to the beyond and inscribed in a human future more or less closely expressed – at the heart of a theocentric cosmos – the same hopes for the future that would be sung (to the point of loss of voice and life) by the ideologies of the revolutions still to come.

Ironically, such a project was born in the brain of the monk who was the least inclined to sow trouble in the ecclesiastic universe. The theories of Joachim of Fiore only offered a danger to the Church due to the interpretations that the turmoil of the age made of them.

In the Ninth Century, Bishop Ratherius of Verona founded the conservative society that produced the agrarian economy upon the balance of three orders: the oratores, the monks and priests; the armatores, the soldiers; and the laboratores, the workers who fed those who protected them on earth and in the name of heaven.

Everything happened as if the commercial flight [l’essor] of the towns – an arrow shot at the modernity of capital – made the cyclical and static representation of Ratherius veer into the spirit of Joachim, flattening and stretching it according to a linear becoming that was ordered into three ages.

The Book of Concord of the New and Old Testaments, written around 1180, put forth a sampling of formulas, none of which were threatening to the Church, but their meaning [and direction] – sharpened by history – cut like a knife into the adipose flesh of Roman power.

“The first era was that of knowledge; the second is that of wisdom; the third will be that of full intelligence. The first was servile obedience; the second is filial servitude; the third will be freedom. The first was the ordeal; the second is action; the third will be contemplation. The first was fear; the second is faith; the third will be love. The first was the age of slaves; the second is that of sons; the third will be that of friends. The first was the age of old men; the second is that of young people; the third will be that of children. The first passed in the glimmer of the stars; the second is the aurora; the third will be a full day. The first was winter; the second is the beginning of spring; the third will be summer. The first carried nettles; the second one roses; the third will carry lilies. The first one provided grass; the second one corncob; and the third will provide wheat. The first provided water; the second wine; the third will provide oil. The first refers to the Septuagesima; the second to Quadragesima; the third will refer to Easter. The first age refers to the father, who is the author of all things; the second to the Son, who deigned to invest our [mortal] clay; the third will be the age of the Holy Spirit, of which the apostle said, ‘There where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’”[1]

The explosive mix of the Joachimite component and historic evolution discovered a detonator in the precise date that the Calabrian monk assigned to the advent of the Third Age. Joachim counted 42 generations of 30 years each, thus 1260 years, from Adam to Jesus. As the same period of time had to be reproduced from the birth of the Christ, the new era had to start at the dawn of 1260. Great troubles and the unleashing of the Antichrist obviously were the prelude to the birth of a paradisiacal world in which the saints joyfully expected the return of Christ.

Under the archaism of these cyclical calculations, there slid a subtle political design. Joachim foresaw the growing importance of the beggar orders, [which were] a veritable war machine that the Church opposed to the progress of the Waldensinian heresy and the voluntarily impoverished reformers. It was of the latter’s preeminence that Joachim dreamed when he announced the reign of the saints. And the order closest to apostolic austerity, Franciscanism, succumbed the easiest (through a malicious return) to the seductions of millenarianism.

With the rule of the elect in the Joachimite Third Age, the reign of the Church would be abolished. There would no longer be Father, nor Son, nor rites, nor sacrifices, nor sacraments, just one law, the lex libertatis.[2] The Amalricians, nay, even the simple reformers, such as Peter of Bruys and Henry of Lausanne, had already predisposed the Joachimite spirit to a social and individual practice that was radically hostile to Rome and, in the best of cases, to the very essence of religion, which is the exile of self. Indeed, faced with the imminence of a paradisiacal nature in which God would be dissolved, how could one prevent abstract concepts from retaking bodily form when the ecclesiastic barrier that prohibited access to the conjoined pleasure in the world and in oneself was broken?

Previously sterilized by theological and philosophical speculation, certain words began to recover their fecundity. In the notion of perfection germinated the refusal of all guilt; contemplation became the illumination of the God of desire that each person carried inside; charity was elevated to the art of erotic courtesy; love translated the effusion of lovers; and freedom at least evoked the freedom of nature and at most the surpassing of the unfortunate coupling of divine tyranny and oppressed and violated nature.


Joachimism

The writings of Joachim encountered an immediate success among the literate. Among the Amalricians condemned in 1210, William the Goldsmith and Master Godin of Amiens had already drawn the subversive implications of the imminence of the Third Age. If Waldensianism and Catharism knew nothing about them, the “spiritual” faction born from the dissensions in the Franciscan order perceived in the rule of the saints the emergence of a society inspired by the voluntary poverty that Francis of Assisi had so cleverly snatched from Waldo’s disciples, the Cathars and the apostolic preachers.

The date 1260, foreseen by Joachim as the inauguration of the new era, exploded into multiple social, political and religious fragments. The shock waves that agitated the stratification of the centuries accumulated by the passage of time – though deprived of the Edenic expiration date, [thereafter] always deferred – involved no other consequence than the revision of the prophetic calculus.

Two works of wide distribution drafted in the second half of the Thirteenth Century proved the repercussions of Joachimism on the political rivalry between Rome and the emperors of Germany. The Abbatis Joachim Florensis scriptum super Esaiem prophetam (the manuscript of which was belatedly printed in Venice in 1517) and the Interpraetatio praeclara abbatis Joachim in Hieremian prophetam (printed in Venice in 1525) fixed 1260 as the end of the affliction of the Holy City. The German Emperor, Frederic II, was the whip held in the hands of God and destined to punish the sinful Church. The Imperium ravaged by the Saracens, who in their turn were destroyed by the Mongols and the Tartars, had led the world to the brink of annihilation. Thereafter, as backlash, there would finally be the rule of peace and the era of the just. (Note that, in the Nineteenth Century, at a time when ideological language had supplanted religious language, such was the conception of the anarchist Ernest Coeurderoy in his Hurrah, or the Revolution of the Cossacks.[3])

The elitism of the Spirituals discovered nourishment appropriate to their chiliastic pretensions in the theories of Joachim of Fiore. In 1254, a Spiritual from Pisa, Gerardo di Borgo San Donnino, radicalized and popularized Joachimite ideas in his Introduction to the Eternal Gospel. Insisting on the fateful year 1260, he prophesized the disappearance of the Roman Church and the advent of a spiritual Church, in germination in Franciscanism. The condemnation of the book in 1255 incriminated the abbot from Fiore, who was thenceforth suspected of heresy. Condemned to perpetual imprisonment, Gerardo di Borgo San Donnino died, after eighteen years of severe incarceration, without having denied his conceptions.[4]

Joachimism was revived again, but more vividly, among the Spirituals, who took up the old program of reform and were increasingly opposed to the commercialized [affairiste] politics of Rome. A radical faction, on the boundary between Franciscanism and the free spirit, was born from the Spiritual current; the Church condemned it under the name “Fraticelles.”

Finally, there appeared an egalitarian social movement – that is to say, it was “egalitarian” once one removed from it the anti-Semitic resentment of the Pastoureaux and the morbid comportment of the flagellants – in which God constituted less a religious reference than a principle of government that excluded the Church and the princes in the name of a new and classless society.


Gerard Segarelli

In the Italian towns, the political and social struggle most often responded to the confusion of quarrels between the Guelphs, allies of Rome, and the Ghibellines, partisans of the Emperor of Germany. The will to purge the Church of its corruption (which Savonarola still demanded in 1491) and revolutionary millenarianism were involved in virtually all the tumults that broke out monthly, if not weekly.

In the Joachimite year of 1260, in Parma, then ravaged by famine and internecine wars, a shopkeeper named Gerard Segarelli – renewing the gesture of Peter Waldo – sold his goods to the profit of the poor and decided to promote a community of faithful in which the apostolic virtues of Christ and his apostles were revived.

Illuminated and, no doubt, imprinted by the hysteria shared by preachers and tribunes of all types, Segarelli soon played the role of popular and picturesque Messiah, although he failed to denounce as lies and calumnies the majority of the ridiculous traits that the Franciscan Salimbene piled upon him. (Note that in his Chronicle, Salimbene confessed the motives for his nasty incontinence: “The people of Parma give more willingly to these vagabonds than to the brother preachers or the minor brothers.”[5]) Segarelli enjoyed the benevolent protection of Bishop Opizo, who was, perhaps, motivated less by solicitude than by aversion to the official beggars who constituted the Dominicans, universally detested for their base police work, and the Franciscans, often charged with hypocrisy.

Rallying the flagellants to his ecumenism, Segarelli traveled through the town to cries of “Penitenziagite!” the popular form of “Poenitentiam agite!” (do penitence).[6]

With the aid of an old Franciscan, Robert, called Fra Glutto (Glutton), Segarelli organized a brotherhood to which thronged disciples described by Salimbene as “debauchees, cowherds, swineherds, loafers who roamed the streets eyeing the women, and good-for-nothings who neither work nor pray.”[7] In vain did the Council of Lyon of 1274 order them to dissolve or rally to one of the orders recognized by Rome.

Strong from their large numbers and their growing audience, the Segarellists sent out missionaries, wandering apostles often confused with the Beghards, who shared with them a common devotion to voluntary poverty and the impeccability that it guaranteed.

The influence of “the spirit of freedom” was not absent from Segarellism, despite its exhortations to penitence. The prophet himself made assurances that the life of the poor was the true life of the apostles, “the most perfect of lives (...), freedom in adoring God, freedom in sermons, freedom in the relations between man and woman.”[8]

One attributes to Segarelli and his disciples the practice – recommended by the very orthodox Robert of Abrissel – of the “white martyr,” which consisted in a couple going to bed nude and interlaced, but resisting the natural solicitations of love. The current of the free spirit gave to the exercise a more human meaning by changing it into a patient refinement of the desire that was not satisfied until it had become irresistible. It is probable that certain apostles of Segarelli conformed more willingly to the latter version of this martyrdom, denuded of excessive rigor.

Salimbene was surprised that Segarelli refused to assume the role of community leader, although he was the object of a great veneration. Sincerely devoted to the myth of Christ, he deemed it detrimental to his holiness if he governed rather than shone. Nevertheless, he couldn’t avoid all forms of temporal power.

Guidone Putagi, brother of the Podestà of Bologna, took control of the government of the congregation and exercised it for many years, despite an ostentatious way of life, which was not in conformity with evangelic requirements.

A schism was declared and degenerated into armed struggle in which each camp disputed Segarelli, a most unfortunate God in his successive incarnations [and attempts] to once again be present at the birth of a Church.

Guidone’s partisans won the battle, but shortly afterward, he left the brotherhood and rallied to the Order of the Templars. (Note that his adherence left the road open to calculations about the open-mindedness of the future victims of [King] Philippe the Fair and [Pope] Clement V. Merchants and bankers two centuries ahead of their time, they [the Templars] welcomed received ideas and the pleasures that were cynically camouflaged by the exemplary reputations of the soldiers and businessmen who were above all suspicions.)

In 1286, Pope Honorius IV condemned the Segarellist apostolics and prohibited them from being received or given alms that should have gone into the Vatican’s coffers.

A year later, the Council of Wurzburg enjoined the faithful to no longer welcome nor feed the wandering apostolics dressed in extravagant clothing and called leccatores, ghiottoni, or scrocconi, that is to say, “gluttons.”[9]

According to Salimbene, Segarelli was increasingly eccentric. Three of his disciples, accused of debauchery, were hanged in Bologna so that there were doubts about their holy calling, which had been so loudly proclaimed.

Thrown into prison, Segarelli owed his salvation to the Bishop of Parma, who offered him refuge in his house. Nevertheless, a new bull issued in 1290 by Pope Nicolas IV restarted the repression. In 1294, on the authority of the Inquisition, two men and two women who were members of the congregation were put on the pyre. That same year, in order to surprise an institution that was unanimously abhorred, even by civil power and several ecclesiastic authorities, the Episcopal system of justice brought before it the prophet [Segarelli] whose downfall Rome had sworn and whom it had condemned to perpetual imprisonment.

This [action] did not take into account the tenacity of the religious police. The pursuits engaged in by the Inquisition caused the condemnation of Gerard Segarelli to death, forty years after his divine revelation. With him perished many of his partisans, including Etienne, one of his principle evangelists.

Among those who, on 18 July 1300, contemplated the prophet in his tunic of flames, was one of his partisans, [Fra] Dolcino of Novara, who later brought to Joachimism the modern form of a social and peasant-based revolution, and thus inaugurated a tradition that continued to exist until the decline of the colonies in the Twentieth Century.


The Guillelmites

At the same that Segarelli was agitating Parma and attracting the hostility of a Church that was obsessed with the accumulation of capital, a millenarian group founded in Milan claimed for women the privilege of guiding humanity as a whole towards the Third Age and the egalitarian kingdom.

In the prophetic year 1260, a young widow and her son arrived in Milan. Guglielma, said to be from Bohemia, seems to have been the daughter of Constance, wife of the king of Bohemia. Nothing authenticates such parentage other than the declaration of one of her disciples, Andreas Saramita, who had been to see Constance in the hope of recovering a debt. Soon thereafter her exemplary piety attracted followers, whose numbers grew with her reputation as a thaumaturge and the multiplication of miraculous instances of healing. The worship of this saint was soon brought into the whirlwind of fashionable messianic ideas. Her sectarians let it be understood that she had been chosen to convert the Jews and the Saracens, and to instaurate the universality of the Christian faith.

Around 1276, a gilded legend maintained that Guglielma was the incarnation of the Holy Spirit, designated the harbinger of Joachim of Fiore’s Third Age. She was incarnated as the third person in the Trinity as Christ had been the incarnation of the second in the body of a man. Her nature was at once divine and natural, if one believes two of her more zealous partisans, Andreas Saramita, a notable from Milan, and an umiliata[10] in the ancient convent of Biassono, Sister Maifreda da Pirovano, who belonged to the powerful Visconti family. Guglielma had the prudence to openly contest a pretense that was subject to Inquisitorial confirmation, but, with or without her consent, her role as saint implicated her in the double signification of millenarianism and feminine preeminence, which – from the Cistercian Monials to Hadewijch and Porete – did not cease to disturb the Church.

When Guglielma died on 24 August 1281, she left her goods to the Cistercian community of Chiaravalle, near Milan, where she was buried in a great abundance of piety. The cult organized in her honor did profitable business. A month after the transfer of her remains, Andreas Saramita, with great pomp, exhumed the body. He washed it with wine and water, and preserved the precious mix as a cream for the healing of the sick. Maifreda used it for the healing of pilgrims; she also instaurated particular ceremonies for the anniversary of Guglielma’s death and the transfer of the [remains of the] saint. The abbey, whose prestige grew year by year, attracted the favor of generous donors. One of them, Giaccobe da Novati, a nobleman from Milan, bequeathed to it all of his goods and offered his powerful protection to the Guillelmites.

Nothing more was necessary for the group to claim that it constituted the kernel of a new Church, marking the advent of the reign of the saints. Andreas, the spiritual son of Guglielma, devoted himself to defining a new dogma. The Archangel Raphael announced to the blessed Constance that the Holy Spirit had been incarnated in her; he had chosen feminine form because, in masculine form, he would have perished like Christ did, and the entire world would have perished with him. The grave at Chiaravalle was elevated to the glory of the Holy Sepulcher, rites were prescribed and communion was held there.

From time to time, Guglielma appeared to the faithful in the form of a dove. The gospels were replaced by Andreas’ writings, which imitated Paul’s epistles. Maifreda, the author of litanies and prayers, prophesized the second coming of Guglielma and the end of the traditional papacy. She herself would become the pope. She worked to form a cardinal college exclusively composed of women. She gave her benediction, celebrated Mass, consecrated the Host, and gave communion to the faithful, sumptuously dressed.

The support of a number of rich Milanese, including the Visconti family, in all probability explains the slowness and hesitations of the Inquisition. It was disquieted by the Guillelmites in 1284, but contented itself with a simple admonition. The inquests of 1295 and 1296 were not followed up upon. However, when Maifreda revived the millenarian danger by announcing the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost 1300, the Church decided to intervene against a hotbed of agitation that had consolidated a front of apostolics, Fraticelles, Dolcinians and heterodox Beghards.

Among the Guillelmites who were arrested, four or five were condemned as recidivists. On 23 August 1300, Sister Giaccoba dei Bassani mounted the pyre. In September, it was the turn of Andreas Saramita and Maifreda. Lighter penalties were given to the others. Guglielma’s remains were exhumed and burned. Thus ended a schism that opposed the patriarchal Church with a feminine one and that gave a gynecratic character to millenarian hopes. It wasn’t until the writings of Guillaume Postel in the Sixteenth Century that the idea of salvation through women reappeared.


Dolcino of Novara

In Dolcino was incarnated the millenarian aspirations of the urban areas and the old collectivist dream of the peasant commune, which was a convergence that, as late as the Twentieth Century, governed the archaic and modern meanings of economic, political and social revolution. Remarkable for his intelligence, courage and sincerity, Dolcino offered seven centuries of history one of the first and noblest revolutionary figures to have contemplated the instauration of a new society.

Originally from the region of Novara, Dolcino was the son of a certain Giulio, a priest in Trento in the Ossola valley or a hermit from Prato near Novara. Another priest, Agosto, attached to the church of St Agnes in Vercelli, took charge of Dolcino’s education and entrusted him to a pedagogue named Sione. His brilliant mind attracted animosity. A calumnious imputation accused him of stealing from his protector, driving him from Vercelli. Perhaps he then joined a wandering group of Apostolics, Fraticelles or Beghards, adepts of Segarelli. His prestige and eloquence rallied to him a large number of partisans. Carried to the head of the Segarellist movement a month after the execution of the prophet, he drafted a new version of Joachimite doctrine.

[In this version] the past was divided into three periods. The first covered the centuries of the Old Testament; the second extended from the coming of Christ to Pope Sylvester and situated itself under the sign of penitence; the third ran from Sylvester to Segarelli, marked by the decadence of the Church that no reform had succeeded in saving: not that of Benoit, nor the attempts of Dominic or Francis of Assisi. The fourth period, inaugurated in 1260, led towards the annihilation of the corrupt Church, the end of the monks and the priests, and the triumph of the poor and humble, the only carriers of the Holy Spirit and the [future] creators of a new fraternal and egalitarian society.

Like all the prophets, Dolcino made the error of fixing a precise date – [in his case, it was] in three years, that is, in 1303 – for the universal upheaval from which would burst forth the light of the terrestrial kingdom. Politically, Dolcino bet upon Frederic II, an enemy of the papacy, on whom it fell to accomplish the designs of divine justice.

In accordance with the Apocalypse attributed to John and Bogomilist tradition, Dolcino identified the angels of the seven Churches: Sylvester for Pergamum, Benoit for Ephesus, Dominic for Laodicea, Francis for Sardis, Segarelli for Thyatira and Dolcino himself for Philadelphia. (Note that at the same time, Guion of Cressonaert, a friend of Marguerite Porete, also called himself the angel of Philadelphia.)[11]

The course of events contradicted Dolcino’s short-term prophecies. Boniface VIII died in 1303, the victim of the brutalities to which he had subjected Nogaret and Colonna, mandated by Philippe the Fair, King of France. Frederic did not manifest himself and the new pope, Benoit XI, was chased from Rome by Colonna’s faction, took refuge in Perugia and did not temper the zeal of the Inquisitors against the Dolcinians.

A second epistle from Dolcino pushed back the date of the end of the Church of Rome by two or three years. In 1304, Benoit XI perished unexpectedly, no doubt with the aid of a poison; Frederic had no part in it. Clement V, enemy of the Beghards of free spirit, proclaimed his resolution to finish off the Dolcinian movement.

At the head of some four thousand men, Dolcino – accompanied by his friend, the rich and beautiful Margarita of Trento – commanded a staff of experienced men, such as Alberto of Cimega, Longino Cattaneo of Bergamo, Federigo of Novara, and Valderigo of Brescia. Dolcino then began a guerrilla campaign that baffled his enemies with its great mobility, winning Bologna, Modena and Northern Italy, especially the regions around Bergamo, Brescia, Milan and Como. Arrested three times by the Inquisition, he escaped [each time]. He ended up establishing himself in the region neighboring Novara and Vercelli, where the peasant populations regrouped under his leadership into a veritable peasant revolt.

Milano Sola, a rich property owner from Borgo di Sesia, offered to shelter Dolcino, but the pressure brought by the armies levied by the Holy See incited him to search in the mountains of Valsesia for a better refuge. Mount Balmara and then, in 1305, the Parete Calvo,[12] snowy and difficult-to-reach summits in the Alps, were erected as fortified camps for a population of fourteen hundred people, organized as a commune.

Around the couple formed by Dolcino and Margarita, the partisans were called to lay down the basis for a new world in which the goods necessary for survival were collectivized, property was abolished and marriage – which reduced women to objects of appropriation – was suppressed in the name of the “union according to the heart.” Dolcino recommended the practice of nudity among couples, refining the gestures of love until irresistible desire accomplished the will of nature in an innocence that revoked all guilt.

Clement V identified the struggle against the Dolcinians with a crusade that was enriched by indulgences. Through threats and promises, the people of Valsesia were forced to adhere to a line that was intended to prevent all aid to the besieged. Pushed by deprivation, Dolcino’s partisans conducted raids and pillages that alienated the sympathies of the villagers who had been initially won over to their cause, but the presence of enemy troops contributed to the increasingly insupportable misery and the cowardice ordinarily found in such situations.

Nevertheless, the audacity of Dolcino turned to his favor a situation judged to be disastrous. The Podestà of Varallo, who fell into the hands of the Dolcinians after trying to seize the Parete Calvo, was exchanged along with his troops for an important shipment of supplies.

On 10 March 1306, after a yearlong stay in the cold and amidst scarcity, the Dolcinians abandoned a retreat that would have doomed them to a slow annihilation and succeeded in taking up a new position on Mount Rubello, near the village of Treverio in the Vercelli region. Badly armed and weakened, their numbers did not exceed a thousand, but they nevertheless managed to break two offensives launched by the Bishop of Vercelli. Pushed by famine, Dolcino provoked the enemy into battle by throwing himself into a hazardous confrontation from which he emerged the victor. The prisoners he captured were exchanged for supplies.

By multiplying his Bulls of Crusade and promising tax reductions and advantages for all the [religious] orders, Clement V obtained military reinforcements from Lombardy, Piedmont and the Count of Savoy. To the blockade [of Dolcino’s position], Clement V added catapults and armies of experienced mercenaries.

In the process of writing The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri didn’t hide his sympathies for Dolcino’s guerrilla war. It put him on his guard concerning the tactic of falling back into an inhospitable climate and depriving one’s forces of the advantages that had assured the mobility of seasoned and well-fed troops. (Note that the three books of The Divine Comedy corresponded to the three Joachimite ages. The three stages of the Scala perfectionis[13] pertained to both the alchemical process and the quest for “refined love.”)

At the start of winter, a battle that turned to carnage saw the Dolcinians victorious again. The blockade and the severity of the cold were, finally, motivations for their heroism. On 23 March 1307, the assault exhausted the last resistance.

Clement V showed his relief by giving prebends and fiscal compensation to the Crusaders. His resentment caused him to inflict the most odious punishments upon Dolcino, Margarita and their friends. Dragged through the streets of Vercelli, they were – like many arrestees on the way to the pyre – dismembered alive with the aid of red-hot pincers. Witnesses recounted that Dolcino did not let out a cry.

Bernard Gui, one of the most ignoble men ever produced by inquisitorial fanaticism, devoted his life to the pursuit of the remaining Dolcinians. They were burned in Toulouse in 1322, along with Pierre de Lugo, who was originally from Galicia; in Trento in 1332 and 1333; in Compostela, where the disciples of the Italian Dolcinian Richard were condemned on the instigation of Bernard Gui; in Prague around 1315; in Rieti in 1335, despite the municipal authorities, who refused to deliver the Dolcinians to the Inquisition; in England; in Padua around 1350; in Avignon, under John XXII; in Naples in 1372; and in Germany at the beginning of the Fifteenth Century.

Although it was led by the parish priest Guillaume Cale, the great French peasant revolt [of 1358] was not encumbered by religious considerations. It involved more rioting and tumult than a politically organized plan and a program of precise demands. The peasant movement in England led by John Ball in the second half of the Thirteenth Century enjoyed the sympathy of the Lollards but – except for Ball’s preaching and his celebrated question “When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?”[14] – the religious connotations remained absent. The same was true with the revolt led by Watt Tyler[15] and the many working-class insurrections that split the great cities. Millenarianism, still impregnated with the sacred spirit, did not reappear until the Anabaptists of Munster. It fascinated thinkers such as [Tomasso] Campanella and [Wilhelm] Weitling, a contemporary of [Karl] Marx. The great revolutionary movements gave to millenarianism a more ideological than religious form – nevertheless, it would be a mistake to underestimate the role of irrational and Joachimite faith in Nazi millenarianism,[16] that is to say, in the antithesis of the projects for a classless society or an ecological paradise, both brought to consciousness by the successive waves of the economy.[17]


[1] Joachim of Fiore, Concordia, 7, 28 c. [Translator: cf. Raoul Vaneigem, The Movement of the Free Spirit, translated by Randall Cherry and Ian Paterson (Zone Books, New York), p. 66. Note the shift at the end of this passage from a chronological ordering to an ordering in which everything is “cyclical and static,” that is to say, confined to the present tense.]

[2] Translator: Latin for “the law of freedom.”

[3] Translator: Vaneigem wrote a preface titled “‘Terrorism or Revolution’: An introduction to Ernest Coeurderoy” for a collection of Coeurderoy’s writings published by Editions Champ Libre in 1972.

[4] Joachim of Fiore, Concordia, 7, 28 c.

[5] E. Aegerter, Joachim of Fiore: L’Evangile éternel, Paris, 1928; J. C. Huck, Joachim of Fiore und die joachimistiche Literatur, Freiburg-en-Brisgau, 1938.

[6] Translator: cf. Matthew 4:17.

[7] Chronica fratris Salimbene, in Monumenta Germaniae scriptores, XXXVII, I, pp. 255 sq.

[8] Ibid. [Translator: cf. Raoul Vaneigem, The Movement of the Free Spirit, p. 81.]

[9] R. Vaneigem, Le Mouvement du libre-espirit, Paris, 1986, p. 73. [Translator: cf. Raoul Vaneigem, The Movement of the Free Spirit, pp. 80-81. Leccatores is Latin for “flatterers” or “lechers”; ghiottoni means “gluttons”; and scrocconi means “scroungers.”]

[10] Translator: Italian for “humbled person.”

[11] Translator: cf. Chapter 31 of the present work.

[12] Translator: Italian for “the Bare Wall.”

[13] Translator: Latin for “The Ladder of Perfection,” the title of a work by Walter Hilton. Cf. Chapter 32 of the present work.

[14] Translator: rather than translating Ball back into English, I have quoted from the original. “Delved” means dug, as in digging the fields, and “span” means “spun,” as in the spinning of fabric.

[15] Translator: a leader of the revolt of the peasants in England in the Fourteenth Century.

[16] Translator: here Vaneigem is supporting the central thesis of Norman Cohn, In Pursuit of the Millennium (New York: 1957).

[17] E. Agnanine, Fra Dolcino, Florence, 1964.


(Published by Fayard in 1993. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! May 2013. All footnotes by the author, except where noted. Please note that in the original, footnote 6 – though it appeared at the end of the book – was not embedded in the text. It is now, as footnote 9.)



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