Sometimes called the Cathari, were a Manichaen sect very similar to the Albigenses (found in Western Europe, Northern Italy, France, Germany, and Flanders). They flourished chiefly in the 11th and 12th centuries in the Languedoc region of southern France. Pope Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against them and destroyed their stronghold of Montsegur. When asked how to distinguish between Cathars and Catholics, the commander was said to have directed his troops to "kill them all, God will know his own". The seige of Montsegur was the beginning of the Inquisition that would last for centuries.
The beliefs of the Cathars diverged from the Roman Church on many points. In addition to keeping a strict vegetarian diet and a pacifist attitude towards outsiders, they also held unorthodox views on sex. A strong belief in the superiority of the spiritual realm to the material inspired them to remain abstinent from sex, believing that the trapping of a soul within flesh was an abomination. Unlike the Roman Church, the Cathars accepted women into the priesthood, members of which were called Perfecti and known by their white robes.
The spiritual legacy of the Cathars includes the trouvere tradition and the codes of courtly love. The unrequited longing of romantic love reveal the roots of Cathar attitudes towards love and divinity.
Some link the appearance of the Tarot with the Cathars and the Albigenses. It is said that they preached their version of the Gospel using the cards of the Major Arcana.