Credentes or Believers, were the ordinary followers of what became known as the Cathar or Albigensian movement, a heretical sect which flourished in western Europe during the 11th, 12th and 13th Centuries. Credentes constituted the main part of the Cathar community in the region. Although Catharism sprang up in Spain, the Rhineland, Flanders and Italy its main focus was in the southern region of France, particularly the area known as the Languedoc. Although pacifist in nature, Catharism drew the condemnation of the Catholic Church which, when persuasion failed, launched successive Crusades and instigated the Inquisition to destroy it.


Catharism was a self-described Christian movement which incorporated Gnostic and dualistic ideas into its interpretation of Scripture. The terms Cathar, Catharism and even Perfecti and Credentes were ones used by their persecuters, the religious and temporal authorities of the time. The Cathars themselves never referred to themselves as such, calling themselves only "Bons Hommes", "Bonnes Femmes" or "Bons Chr├ętiens" (i.e. "Good Men", "Good Women" and "Good Christians"). They believed that all human beings contained within them an element of the Divine Light trapped in bodies of Matter by "the Prince of this world", Satan (cf Gospel of John) who had created the material universe as a consequence of his rebellion against God. Christ was an emissary of God, sent into this world to help us return to the Father.

Catharism held to a doctrine of reincarnation, the individual soul being born into this world of suffering again and again until it had reached the state of inner purification which meant it could return. It was in this way that the Cathars interpreted the idea of Eternal Life in Jesus Christ. They argued for a return to the essence of Christ's teaching, an embracing of the Apostolic ideal of human behaviour and rejected the established Church as "the Synagogue of Satan" for having turned its back on Christ's message with its vast material power, wealth and corruption.