Étienne de Lamothe-Langon (1786-1864)

Gallica erinnert an den Meisterfälscher Lamothe-Langon (Wikidata):


„Il écrit en 1829 une Histoire de l’Inquisition en France, fondée sur des documents inédits retrouvés dans le diocèse de Toulouse. Ce travail apparaît extrêmement sérieux et documenté : on y trouve décrits les crimes imputables aux tribunaux inquisitoriaux, alignant noms de victimes, dates et lieux. Nombre d’historiens vont se servir de ce texte pour leurs propres recherches … jusqu’aux années 1970 où l’on se rend compte que ces archives ecclésiastiques n’ont jamais existé : Lamothe-Langon avait tout inventé ! Son récit est maintenant considéré par les spécialistes « comme une des plus grandes falsifications de l’histoire.»“

Verwiesen wird auf einen Beitrag im Figaro 2012

„«L’Inquisition, constate en écho l’historien Didier Le Fur, reste dans l’imaginaire collectif un temps de violence et d’abus, le temps d’une justice arbitraire conduite par des religieux. Un temps d’obscurantisme et d’intolérance, un temps de nuit, d’ignorance, où régnait, victorieuse, la superstition» *. Mais le chercheur d’ajouter aussitôt: «La légende fut bien construite.»Spécialiste du Moyen Age tardif et de la Renaissance, Le Fur publie un livre particulièrement précieux pour ceux qui voudront comprendre quelque chose à l’Inquisition en évitant les divagations d’un feuilleton télévisé. L’origine, les buts, les méthodes et les effets de cette institution médiévale, si contraire à la mentalité contemporaine, y sont exposés en s’appuyant sur les travaux universitaires qui, depuis une trentaine d’années, ont abouti à la déconstruction d’un véritable mythe. En 1829, sous la Restauration, Etienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon publiait ainsi une Histoire de l’Inquisition en France dans laquelle, affirmant avoir travaillé à partir de documents inédits tirés des archives ecclésiastiques de Toulouse, il décrivait avec force détails les crimes imputables aux tribunaux inquisitoriaux, alignant noms de victimes, dates et lieux. Dans les années 1970, deux historiens britanniques, Norman Cohn et Richard Kieckhefer, voulurent examiner la thèse de Lamothe-Langon à partir de ses sources originales: quelle ne fut pas leur surprise de constater que les archives en question n’avaient jamais existé! «Le texte de Lamothe-Langon, raconte Didier Le Fur, est aujourd’hui considéré comme une des plus grandes falsifications de l’histoire.»“

Bis zu den Arbeiten von Kieckhefer und Cohn hat Lamothe-Langon die Hexenforschung in die Irre geführt. Seit ihren Erkenntnissen musste die seit Hansen etablierte Chronologie des Verfolgungsgeschehens revidiert werden. Eine gute englische Zusammenfassung dazu bietet eine Seite der Wicca-Religion:

„400 In One Day: An Influential Forgery
Another, smaller breakthrough also profoundly altered our view of the early history of the Great Hunt. In 1972, two scholars independently discovered that a famous series of medieval witch trials never happened.

The forgery was Etienne Leon de Lamothe-Langon’s Histoire de l’Inquisition en France, written in 1829. Lamothe-Langon described enormous witch trials which supposedly took place in southern France in the early 14th century. Run by the Inquisition of Toulouse and Carcasonne, these trials killed hundreds upon hundreds of people. The most famous was a craze where 400 women died in one day. No other French historian had noticed these trials.

In the early 20th century, the prominent historian Jacob Hansen included large sections of Lamothe-Langon’s work in his compendium on medieval witchcraft. Later historians cited Hansen’s cites, apparently without closely examining Lamothe-Langon’s credentials. Non-academic writers cited the writers who cited Hansen, and thus Lamothe-Langon’s dramatic French trials became a standard part of the popular view of the Great Hunt.

However, as more research was done, Lamothe-Langon’s trials began to look odd to historians. No sources mentioned them, and they were completely different from all other 14th century trials. There were no other mass trials of this nature until 1428, no panics like this until the 16th century. Furthermore, the demonology in the trials was quite elaborate, with sabbats and pacts and enormous black masses. It was far more complex than the demonology of the Malleus Maleficarum (1486). Why would the Inquisition think up this elaborate demonology, and then apparently forget it for two hundred years?

Questions like these led Norman Cohn (Europe’s Inner Demons and „Three Forgeries: Myths and Hoaxes of European Demonology II“ in Encounter 44 (1975)) and Richard Kieckhefer (European Witch Trials) to investigate Lamothe-Langon’s background. What they found was reasonably conclusive evidence that the great trials of the Histoire had never occurred.

First, Lamothe-Langon was a hack writer and known forger, not a historian. Early in his career he specialized in historical fiction, but he soon turned to more profitable horror novels, like The Head of Death, The Monastery of the Black Friars, and The Vampire (or, The Virgin of Hungary). Then, in 1829, he published the Histoire, supposedly a work of non-fiction. After its success Lamothe-Langon went on to write a series of „autobiographies“ of various French notables, such as Cardinal Richeleau, Louis XVIII, and the Comtesse du Barry.

Second, none of Lamothe-Langon’s sources could be found, and there was strong reason to suspect they never existed. Lamothe-Langon claimed he was using unpublished Inquisitorial records given to him by Bishop Hyacinthe Sermet — Cohn found a letter from Sermet stating that there were no unpublished records. Lamothe-Langon had no training in paleography, the skill needed to translate the script and copious abbreviations used in medieval documents, and he was not posted in Toulouse long enough to do any serious research in its archives.

Third, under close examination a number of flaws appeared in his stories. He cited records written by seneschal Pierre de Voisins in 1275, but Voisins ceased being seneschal in 1254 and died not long after. The inquisitor who ran many of these trials was Pierre Guidonis (nephew of Bernard Gui from The Name of the Rose). But Guidonis wasn’t an inquisitor at the time when the trials were held. Cohn and Kieckhefer published their findings in 1972. Since, then academics have avoided this forged material. Unfortunately by this point, Lamothe-Langon’s lurid trials had entered into the mythology of witchcraft. While nobody cites Lamothe-Langon directly anymore, his fictions show up everywhere, including both Z Budapest’s The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries and Raven Grimassi’s The Wiccan Mysteries.

There’s no simple way to weed out all of Lamothe-Langon’s disinformation, but a few guidelines will help: a) Use scholarly texts written after 1975. b) Beware of any trial set in Toulouse or Carcasonne. While these cities did have real cases, only the forged ones get cited regularly. c) Ignore any trial involving Anne-Marie de Georgel or Catherine Delort; they’re forgeries. d) Ignore any trial that killed „400 women in one day.“ This never happened. e) Avoid Jules Michelet’s Satanism and Witchcraft. Although he wrote a poetic and dramatic book, Michelet never found much historical evidence to support his theory that witchcraft was an anti-Catholic protest religion. What little bit there was came from the Lamothe-Langon forgeries. So when they were debunked, the last props for his book collapsed. f) The appendix of Richard Kieckhefer’s European Witch Trials contains a list of all known trials that occurred between 1300 and 1500.“

Fälschungen in Archivalia:


Ein Gedanke zu „Étienne de Lamothe-Langon (1786-1864)

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