Taking the Cross

Written by Charles Gibson
Review by Mary O'Donnell

The Albigensian Crusade proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in 1208 and launched in 1209 against heretic sects in Languedoc forms the backdrop for Charles Gibson’s fascinating and highly dramatic debut novel Taking the Cross, which centers on a crusade fought not in the Holy Land but in the Church’s own territories, against the Albigenses and Valdenses of France.

Gibson’s story centers on two main characters (alternating the narrative focus of chapters between them), a young knight named Andreas, and a young woman of faith named Eva. Gibson smoothly incorporates a large cast of figures from the time period, and although some of his narration is rather stiltedly old-fashioned (“The man called her name, but she saw him not,” and so on), he maintains a solid amount of forward momentum through some abstruse and complicated subject matter.

The turmoil of the Albigensian Crusade pitted Christian against Christian in the heart of Europe, and Gibson does a very good job of imparting a human dimension to the conflict.