Colloquially known as Cathars, the Good Men are a Christian sect that arose in the middle ages around the town of Albi (modern northern Aragon). Their theology which was dualistic (the physical realm being created by a despotic King of the World versus a gentler spiritual God) and anti-establishment was seen as a threat by the catholic church leading to it declaring a crusade against them. The operation proved a failure and the county of Toulouse were it took place was made part of Aragon which proved open to the Cathars' proselytism.
The church was originally divided into two groups: the perfects, who delivered comfort, preached and conducted sacraments, and the believers who formed the rank and file. Only the perfects were expected to follow the strict ascetic lifestyle of their creed.
Some Catholic bishops had converted and were allowed by Aragon's crown to use their holdings to finance certain projects with them such as having the Cathars' literature reproduced in greater number. As the amount of believers increased, local nobles named new bishops who were responsible for looking after the works of the perfects and who could form councils to discuss theological matters.
Time went past and the divided grew deeper between the perfects and the bishops who increasingly tried to assert their authority over the wandering preachers. A crisis point was reached when a kingdom wide council of bishops convened to adopt two measures:
- 1: That only bishops could give the consolamentum (a baptism/ordination sacrament) to non-dying persons as giving it to a living one created a new perfect.
- 2: A patriarch would be elected from amongst themselves who would have the last word on matters regarding the faith.
Both measures offended many perfects who saw them as "Catholicising" A pamphlet began circulating soon after written by an anonymous perfect which attacked not only the resolutions but also certain grievances log held by a number of church members. The text stated that in spiritual affairs there should be no higher authority then the perfect himself but also that temporal leaders should be spiritual guided. A number of authors penned replies thereafter, each attacking points made by the others.
The various factions eventually melded into two groups. The "Guides" promoted the idea that the perfects role was to guide the faithful in every aspect of their lives but to do so they had to be free to follow their consciences which a strict hierarchy would stifle. The "Estatists" on the other hand believed in a strong hierarchy both to be able to deal on par with the catholics but also to have a central authority to make final decisions that would discourage deviationism within the faith. They also believed in a strict separation between the spiritual and temporal powers so as not to "sully" themselves. Many of their opponents claimed that the second point had more to do with not alienating their supporters among the nobility.
Civil War & Aftermath
The conflict between the both sides came to a head after a perfect of the guides group was arrested for allegedly inciting the local population to ignore edicts made by the local lord. The move was seen by his followers as having been motivated by the close relationship between the Lord and the estatist bishop of the region who also happened to be his brother-in-law.
The perfect was found guilty of treason to the crown and was executed, his body left in an iron cage at a crossroad as a warning to others. An apocryphal story relate that some of his followers stole the corpse and used his blue cassock as a standard during the uprising that followed. Whether the story is true or not, the colour blue became associated with the guides movement.
During the civil war, perfects on both sides accused the others of serving the interests of the King of the World by their actions. None got involved directly as they were forbidden from killing but, by their words, many were responsible for massacres.
The guides eventually won out and established a new order across Aragon. Ad hoc councils of perfects were set up in every regions to approve candidates for posts in the local governments and each councils in turn elected a representative for a national one to do the same at the utmost level. The councils only official task was the approval process and day to day affairs was left to the temporal authorities. Nonetheless, temporary councils would often be called to discuss various matters and the edicts they released, such as an order to enforce strict veganism, were always followed.