The WIkipedia article about Cathars is fine — not terribly detailed,
but I take it that’s the idea. If anyone actually wants to go for
broke and play a Cathar sympathizer, auditor, or perfectus/a, I can
make some additional suggestions, starting with the advice that you go
ahead and get Malcolm Lambert’s The Cathars from your friendly local
university library. And the good news is that there’s a whole heck of
a lot of room for improvisation.

In fact — let me just go ahead and point everyone to a handful of my
favorite sites.

LIBRO, the Library of Iberian Resources Online, has some extremely
high-quality out-of-print university-press monographs available as
free etexts. For an overview of Jewish life in Iberia, you could do
worse than to skim chapter one of R.I. Burns’ Jews in the Notarial
; for an overview of Iberian politics at the beginning of the
thirteenth century, the first chapter (and some of the other essays)
in Burns’ edited volume The Worlds of Alfonso the Learned and James
the Conqueror
. Just poke around. It’s fun.

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook has a lot of nice little etext
snippets, usually from older translations with all the
offensive-to-Victorians bits left out, but still good to get the
flavor of the period. I’d start at the Select Sources page and look at “Iberia,” but
also — depending on your character and interests — the sections on
crusades, heresy, church, spirituality, etc. There are semi-separate
“Jewish” and “Islamic” History Sourcebooks as part of the same site
which you may also want to consult if you’re going in that direction.

If, like me, you are confused by all the different “Spanish” kingdoms
and would like to see a map of them in 1220 — well, you’re out of
luck online AFAIK, although there are nice ones from 1200ish (just
before the massive push south of the Christian kingdoms which starts
in 1212 and lasts through about 1250) and 1300ish at
This URL.
(There’s a good B&W map c. 1250 in O’Callaghan’s History of Medieval
, which I’ve got on my bookshelf; if you’d like me to scan it in
for the website, Dorothea, let me know. Or you might have something
better and in color.)

You’ll find a lot of information about Navarre in particular slotted
under “French” rather than “Spanish” history, thanks to the later
division of the region; you’ll also find that some holdover European
nationalism has caused it to be largely ignored until pretty recently
(“Spanish” historians centered their work on Castile, while “French”
historians centered theirs around the Paris region). My own knowledge
of specifically Navarrese history is very limited (insofar as I’ve
dealt with medieval Iberia, it’s been Leon or Aragon), but I do want
to know where Monrroyo is going to be located. Specifically, is it
closest to Pamplona, Estella, or Tudela?

(I could play a Catholic, Cathar, or Jewish character — in fact, I am
semi-seriously contemplating trying to do two of the three — but I
want to know what Jewish and Christian communities and institutions
are going to be nearby enough to work them into backstories. For, lo,
I am going about this as geekily as possible. :)

— W