Little Bits of History

French Wars of Religion

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2012

St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres (painting by Francois Dubois)

August 23, 1532: The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres begin. The clash began in Coligny and moved outward to Paris. The French Wars of Religion lasted for years – beginning in 1562 and finally coming to an end in 1598. The Protestants (Huguenots, England, and Scotland) were pitched against the Politique (government of France) and the Catholics who were supported by Spain. There were seven waves of hostilities with this being the fourth wave.

Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France. Today, practitioners are simply called French Protestants. They began as followers of John Calvin (1509 – 1564). The three major issues leading up to the St. Bartholomew’s Day event were: First, The Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye which ended the third war of religion on August 8, 1570. This war was a Huguenot setback when their prince de Condé was slain. His replacement was Henry III of Navarre who would later become Henry IV. Second, Henry III of Navarre married Margaret of Valois on August 18, 1572. The marriage between the Huguenot prince and Catholic lady was unacceptable to both sides. Third, the final straw was a failed assassination attempt on Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the Huguenot cosigner of the 1570 peace treaty.

Paris was an anti-Huguenot area and when Henry came to be married, he was accompanied by many well-born Protestants. The Catholic Parlement of Paris went so far as to snub the marriage. The Pope did not give his blessing to the union, either. As the wedding festivities, such as the were, ended, Gaspard was shot while out on the streets of Paris. Maurevert, belonging to the Catholic house of Guise, escaped after shooting the Admiral. Gaspard suffered a shattered left elbow as well as losing a finger on his right hand.

The Protestants demanded Justice, the Catholics stonewalled, partly from fear. Coligny’s brother led 4,000 Huguenot troops to Paris. The King opted to order the killing of two to three dozen Protestant leaders still in Paris for the wedding, including Gaspard. The resulting melee and months of war left thousands dead. Rates range from 2,000 to 10,000 killed in this portion of the seven wars. Discontent between the religions remained and was acted upon both in Europe and in the New World.

We had better dispense with the personification of evil, because it leads, all too easily, to the most dangerous kind of war: religious war. – Konrad Lorenz

The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore. – H. L. Mencken

Christian: One who follows the teachings of Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin. – Ambrose Bierce

Hospitals perform more miracles than churches. – Luree

Also on this day:

The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Holy God – In 1948, the World Council of Churches was founded.
Fannie Farmer – In 1902, Fannie Farmer opened her own cooking school.

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One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on August 23, 2012 at 9:23 am

    There was another factor: many people in what we now call France were still resisting the forced unification of the country. Easy to say that France was France but at that time many still resented the unification. The choices of which french people had which religion followed previous rulers chosing and almost forcing those in his/her kingdom into a particular religion. Revolutions against some of these minor rulers were said to have been because of the religion forced on them which leaves the possible that anything would set off these revolutions/religious wars- wars of religion again no religion not religion against religion. This general concept was explained to me when Frederic Mitterand explained to me how each region of present-day France had developed commercially.


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