Today I’m delighted to be taking part in Charles Gibson’s virtual book tour for his fabulous work of historical fiction, Taking the Cross. The Medieval period is sometimes the poor relation when it comes to literature and too many people dismiss it, thinking it was a time of general misery, intolerance and endless conflict. To an extent they’re right, but it’s easy to forget that behind all those actions that seem pointless and misguided to us today lay real conviction. And real people. What I especially liked about Charles Gibson’s novel was that we got into the skins of the characters and, even if we might not share their beliefs, we could see why they believed them.
We have two main characters to absorb us in Taking the Cross – Eva, a young woman in a religious order, and Andreas. a knight. They are both embroiled in the battles against non-adherents to Catholic orthodoxy, but also internal struggles as they strive to do what they believe is right.
I have a fascinating guest post from the author for you here which will you give you a real insight into the period and place in which this book is set. It gives you an excellent taste of both Charles Gibson’s passion for this period, and his clear, engaging style of writing which you will find in his novel.
When most Americans think of places in France, they of think Paris, Normandy, Provence. Few seem to know of the Languedoc. Yet, if they have journeyed there, it is a place not easily forgotten. It not only has the largest intact Medieval walled city in Europe, but is the realm of the troubadours, of courtship and romance, and of the first crusade that was targeted against lands in Europe. Taking the Cross is set in the Languedoc and Provence during the first summer of this Crusade, which came to be known as the Albigensian Crusade against heresy.
The Languedoc is named for the language which used to be predominantly spoken there, a tongue called Occitan. It was the language of the troubadours and of those who lived in Southern France and Northern Spain during most of the Middle Ages. Occitan as a language is much closer to Spanish than to French. Before the Albigensian Crusade, the nobles of the Languedoc aligned themselves with King Pedro of Aragon, whose throne was in Barcelona. The name Languedoc comes from Langue d’oc, or the “language of yes”.
In the early thirteenth century, at a time when so much of Europe was issuing an emphatic “no”, the Languedoc said “yes”. Yes to greater freedom of religion, yes to increased economic freedom, yes to more freedom for Jews and not persecution. In June, 1209, the Languedoc was likely the most free and the most wealthy realm in Europe. The size of its great cities such as Beziers, Carcassonne, and Toulouse, rivaled or surpassed London, Paris, and Rome itself. Albigensians and Waldensians, groups that thrived in the Languedoc under protection, groups that either did not believe or did not practice their faith in the way of the Catholic Church, were deemed to be heretics.
Pope Innocent III declared heretics to be more evil than Saracens and launched the Albigensian Crusade. It ravaged a free and prosperous land. It led to the oppression and brutality of the Inquisition. C.S. Lewis declared that if not for the Albigensian Crusade, the Renaissance would have begun in the Languedoc in the thirteenth century two-hundred years before it began in Italy.
The largest intact Medieval walled city in Europe is Carcassonne. It is the Chateau Comtal, the castle of the city of Carcassonne, that is pictured on the cover of Taking the Cross. When I traveled to the Languedoc, I was able to go inside the Chateau Comtal, the castle of Viscount Raimon Roger Trencavel I, who is a main character in Taking the Cross. From the Chateau Comtal, I went to the nearby Tower of Heretics. It is so named because heretics were hanged there after the Albigensian Crusade from the crossbeams of the roof of the tower.
It was in the Tower of the Heretics that the history of the Languedoc came alive for me. As I stared up at the broad crossbeams, it was as if I could hear the screams and feel the suffering of those who were hanged, feel the heat and smell the smoke from those burnt at the stake. Even though it took me many years to figure it out, it was then I knew I had a story to tell.
The first instalment of that story is Taking the Cross.
Taking the Cross is a historical novel by Charles Gibson about the little-known crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church against fellow Christians in France, a time of great religious turmoil and conflict.
In the Middle Ages not all crusades were fought in the Holy Land. A two-pronged threat to the Catholic Church was growing within Christendom itself and Pope Innocent III called for the crusade against heresy to eliminate both the Albigenses and Valdenses, two movements that did not adhere to Church orthodoxy.
Andreas, a knight who longs to go on crusade to the Holy Land, finds himself fighting against one in his French homeland. While Andreas wages war for the lives and religious freedom of his people, a battle rages within his soul.
Eva, a young woman of a new religious order, the Beguines, discovers a secret message within a letter about the death of her father in the Holy Land. As she learns more of her father, she is forced to confront the profound and perilous spiritual inheritance he has bequeathed to her. A legacy for which she must fight.
Hearing of the feats of Andreas, Eva senses her inheritance may lead her to him.
Filled with battles of the flesh and the spirit, Taking the Cross reveals a passionate aspect of Medieval times where some fought ardently for the freedom of others. [provided by the author]
Charles Gibson first started reading about history and geography when he was seven. He wrote his first short story at the age of nine. He continues to read and write whenever he can.
Charles has spent many years researching the Middle Ages and the Crusades, and has traveled to the Languedoc region in France. He has combined the passions of history and geography and prose to finish his first novel, Taking the Cross.
It takes place during the summer of 1209 in France.
Charles Gibson has previously written for the inspirational book series God Allows U-Turns as well as for a Minnesota newspaper.
He also works as a project manager for a medical device company. He also loves travel writing, and would like to start his own magazine some day about travel as a journey through life. The dominant theme of his writing is freedom. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
He lives in Minnesota with his lovely wife and energetic sons. He can be reached at [email protected]
Send him your questions and comments.
Follow the rest of the book’s virtual tour here.
Take part in the giveaway for this book here.