39. Medieval Apartheid, Even in Church
The Cagots were confined to their own ghettos, known as Cagoteries, that were sited on the least desirable land. They were stereotyped as criminals, cannibals, and lepers. When Cagots entered a town, they had to announce their presence by shaking rattles, just like lepers who were required to ring a bell. They were routinely blamed and killed for unsolved wrongdoings. Cagots were made to use separate church entrances and sit in their own segregated pews. At least 60 Pyrenean churches still boast “Cagot” entrances.
Communion was given them via long spoons, and they had their own holy water fountain. When in the early eighteenth century a Cagot dared used the non-Cagot holy water, his hand was chopped off and nailed to the church door as punishment. The discrimination did not end at death: when they finally shuffled off the mortal coil, Cagots had to be buried in their own cemeteries.