The Allaman Heritage, Durward B. Allaman / Richard J. Henry
According to Henri Estienne (apologie d'Herodote, 1566), the French Protestants from about the year 1560 were called Huguenots. The Protestants at Tours, France would meet at night near the gate of the deceased Kin Hugo, whom the people regarded as a spirit. Since the Protestants had to assemble at night when Hugo's spirit was supposed to be about, they soon became known as the Huguenots.
The corruption of Christendom was flagrant. The Roman Church set about to reform it and to a large degree succeeded, but self-reformation came too late. The conflict was aided and abetted by political intrigue and court jealousies. Many members of the Nobility and leaders of the Kins government would champion whichever faction seemed to be in favor or whichever side appeared most advantageous to their own interest. Ultimately the Reform movement led to the denial of papal authority and to the compelling motive of the Huguenots, net their desire for political freedom or separation from the motherland, France. To turn away from ancestral befiels, to defy spiritual and secular authority, to face persecution, loss of their earthly goods, torture and even death undismayed fearless and vigorous souls.
Jacob Faber's translation of the New Testament, from Latin into French, first appeared in 1523. Two years later in 1525, Jacques Pavennes and Louis de Berquin, the first Huguenot martyrs, were burned at the stake. No persecution could stop the Reform movement and the Protestants began to take up the cause.
The most famous of these was John Calvin, who was to become the future head of the Reformed Church. John Calvin, 1509–64, French Protestant theologian of the Reformation; b. Noyon, Picardy. Having studied theology and law, he experienced (1533) a "sudden conversion" and turned his attention to the cause of the Reformation, for which he was persecuted and hunted. His work in Geneva began in 1536, but the system he tried to impose was rejected, and he was banished (1538). After a stay at Basel and Strasbourg, he was welcomed back to Geneva in 1541. Calvin had begun the work of systematizing Protestant thought in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536). His theology diverged from Catholic doctrine in such fundamental ways as rejection of papal authority and acceptance of justification by faith alone, and the doctrine of Predestination. He also maintained that the Bible was the sole source of God's law, and that it was man's duty to interpret it and to preserve the orderly world that God had ordained. It was such a system that he sought to realize at Geneva by founding a government based solely on religious law. From his teachings grew one of the principal Christian religious systems, Calvinism, whose extension to all spheres of human activity was extremely important in a Europe changing from an agrarian to a commercial economy.An edict was published on January 29, 1533 ordering the extermination of the "heretics," which led to a general emigration as the Huguenots attempted to consolidate their strength. In 1538 at Strasbourg, the first French Protestant Church was founded by about 1500 refugees.
The first Protestant community in France was that of Neaux, about the year of 1546. Persecution became more rigorous. A special court was created in Paris to suppress the Huguenots, which became famous as the Chambre Ardents - "Chamber of Fire." In spite of the renewed persecution the Reformers increased in numbers. By 1560 it was estimated that twenty per cent of the population was Protestant. For nearly fifty years the history of France was that of a struggle between Huguenots, the Roman Catholics and the Royal Families. After many armed conflicts, riots, and edicts for and against the Huguenots, the Peace of Germain was agreed to on August 8, 1570.
For the first time in over thirty years France seemed to be at peace. However, Catherine de' Medici, the Queen Regent, disquieted by the growing influence of Protestant nobles under the leadership of Prince of Conde and the Duke deColigny, at the instigation of papal emissaries, renewed her intrigues against the Huguenots. Both sides marshaled forces, and on November 10, 1567, an induced indecisive battle was fought near Paris. The success of the Huguenots induced Catherine de' Medici to sue for peace, on conditions that the edict of pacification should be permanently established, resulting in the Peace of Longjumeau of March 23, 1568. Catherine de' Medici (mèd´îchê), 1519–89, queen consort of Henry II of France, daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino. Married in 1533, she was neglected in the reigns of Henry and her eldest son, Francis II, but was regent (1560–63) and adviser (1563–74) for her son Charles IX. At first conciliatory toward the French Protestants, she later helped plan the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre. Henry III was her son.
The Huguenots had scarcely laid down their arms, when the priests, undoubtedly spurred on by higher authorities, inflamed their people against the defenseless Huguenots and the most frightful atrocities were committed. In three months upward of 10,000 were put to death, many in the most horrible manner.
The Huguenots reestablished their forces, but were defeated at Jarnac on March 15, 1569. Their leader, Prince of Conde, being wounded, surrendered himself after which he was cruelly assassinated and his body dragged through the streets. The Huguenots under Admiral Coligny, reorganized their forces, but again were overwhelmingly defeated at Montour on October 3, 1569.
In a short time Admiral Coligny gathered another army, and after gaining important advantages, marched in triumph toward Paris. The Queen Regent, Catherine de' Medici, was brought to terms and a treaty of peace, more favorable than any other treaty was signed August 8, 1570, at St. Germain-en-Laye, granting liberty of conscience and worship to all Huguenots.
For two years all seemed well for the Huguenots. Coligny secured four fortified places, including the Atlantic port of LaRochelle, and was taken in confidence and favor of the young king, Charles IX, 1550-1574 King of France (1560-1574). His mother, Catherine de Médici, controlled most of his decisions and persuaded him to order the massacre of French Protestants on Saint Bartholomew's Day in 1572. Also, Henry of Bourbon, King of Navarre and new head of the Huguenots, was to marry Margaret of Valois, the King’s sister. The Bourbon dynasty that will rule France until 1792 is founded by Henri of Navarre. The Catholic party has revolted at news that Henri of Guise and his brother have been murdered by Henri III, the king has fled to the Huguenot camp of Henri of Navarre at St. Cloud, outside Paris, and the Dominican monk Jacques Clement murders him there July 31. Henri of Navarre forces recognition of his claims to the throne and will reign until 1610 as Henri IV. The Edict of Nantes, issued April 15, 1598 by France’s Henri IV, gives Protestant Huguenots equal political rights with Catholics, allows them to obtain some fortified towns, and opens political offices to them. The edict does not establish complete freedom of worship, but it does permit Huguenots to practice their Protestant religion in a number of French cities and towns But Catherine, jealous by the growing influence of the Huguenots, decided to strike the fatal blow against the Huguenots. The most infamous day in the history of France took place on August 24, 1572. On St. Bartholomew's Eve, the Huguenot leaders and thousands of their followers flocked to Paris for the wedding of Henry of Bourbon and Margret of Valois. The fateful hour came on Sunday morning, August 24, the signal was given by the tolling of the cathedral bells, and the slaughter began. Massacres took place in many parts of the country. It was not until October 3, after an estimated 50,000 Huguenots had been brutally murdered, that the outbreak was restrained. Coligny's dead body was found out the window. Henry escaped death by renouncing Protestantism.
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew August 23 and 24 kills an estimated 50,000 Huguenots at Paris and in the provinces. Urged on by the queen mother Catherine de’ Medici, Catholics disembowel the young king’s adviser Gaspard, Admiral de Coligny, and throw him from his window still alive. Pope Gregory XIII and all the Catholic powers congratulate Catherine, and the pope commands that bonfires be lighted to celebrate the massacre, which he calls better than 50 Battles of Lepanto.
The news of the massacre was received at Rome with great joy. Catherine de Médici received great congratulations of the Catholic leaders, and Pope Gregory XIII ordered bonfires to be lighted and a medal struck in honor of the great service she and the others had rendered the Church in eliminating Huguenot leaders as well as the thousands of members of the Reformed Church.
Gregory XIII, 1502–85, pope (1572–85), an Italian named Ugo Buoncompagni, best known for the reformed, or Gregorian, Calendar. He was prominent at the Council of Trent (1545, 1559–63). As pope he proposed the deposition of Queen Elizabeth I of England and took an interest in the education of the clergy and the conversion of Protestants. He issued a new edition of the canon law and patronized the Jesuits.
The survivors resolved upon a desperate resistance. A Huguenot political party was formed in 1573. Finally after years of strife, the Huguenots, on April 17, 1598, during the reign of Henry IV, obtained by their fortitude, the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes, the charter of religious and political freedom. Included in the newly gained freedom was the right to trade freely, inherit property, enter schools and universities, and to hold public offices. Twelve years later King Louis resided in the hands of counselors who favored the Roman Catholic Church. Under the guidance of political Cardinal Richeleau, the Huguenots as a power were gradually crushed.
The Edict of Nantes, remained the law of the land, but the freedoms and privileges granted the Huguenots were by decree extricated. All Reformed Churches properties were taken by force. Pillage and robbery by the soldiers became rampant and a veritable reign of terror prevailed. LaRochelle, the stronghold of the Huguenots, capitulated on October 28, 1628, after a siege of more than a year, in which two-thirds of its inhabitants had perished.
The National Synod of the Reformed Church was not permitted to meet after 1660. In 1666 a new set of regulations of fifty-nine articles was issued, the provisions so invaded all rights of the Huguenots, that in a short time thousands of the better class sought refuge in foreign lands.
Dragonades, that is soldiers, were quartered in the homes of Huguenots, who were compelled to support them. The Dragonades were considered the most dreadful infliction that could be imposed. The privacy of the home was broken up, all valuables were taken, defenseless women ravished and all manner of horror perpetrated by the brutal soldiery. Any remonstration against authorities was met by the most horrible punishment, even death. All Huguenots were disbarred from holding any public office, they were virtually stripped of all civil rights. Their children were transferred to Catholic charges and guardians, while their parents were compelled to support them. Funds for schools and churches were seized. Protestant marriages were declared null and void.
The situation was now horrible, thousands sought relief by flight, which the authorities sought to prevent, but in vain.
Protestant Europe was aroused in behalf of the sufferers, by official proclamation England, Holland, Switzerland and Denmark offered asylum to the refugees.
The last cruel blow was struck on October 18, 1685 when Louis XIV signed the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. By the terms of the Revocation it became unlawful to worship or believe in the Protestant religion. Parents were forbidden to instruct their children in the Reformed faith and were compelled to have them baptized and instructed by the priests. They were forbidden to leave the country.
The Revocation was undoubtedly the most flagrant political and religious blunder in the history of France. Not withstanding the efforts to prevent it, there was a stampede of Huguenots crossing the borders into the neighboring countries. By this one act France lost forever a large part of her strength, prestige and heritage.
The French historian Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, (tèn), 1828–93, his deterministic theories, viewing the individual as the product of heredity and environment, became the theoretical basis of naturalism. His sociohistorical method of analysis influenced philosophy, aesthetics, literary criticism, and the social sciences. Works include On Intelligence (1870) and The Origins of Contemporary France (1876–93).
Taine (1828-1893) describes the Huguenots as a "Superior class of men, the moral aristocracy, France's best blood, the most enlightened and well ordered of the King's subjects. Saint Simon, the memorist of the reign of Louis XIV and a loyal son of the Roman Catholic Church, pays tribute to the worth of the Huguenots and condemns the Huguenots and condemns the Revocation as an act of supreme folly. He wrote it depopulated a quarter of the Realm, ruined its commerce, weakened it in every direction, authorized torments and punishments by which so many innocent people of both sexes were killed by the thousands, ruined numerous classes, banished manufacturing to foreign lands, made those lands flourish and overflow at the expense of France, sent to the gallows nobles, rich old men, people much esteemed for their piety, learning and virtue, solely on account of religion."
Pope Innocent XI disapproved of the atrocities practiced by Louis XIV and the Catholic clergy of France in their attempt to force the Huguenots into the Catholic Church. He declared, "It was not of such methods that Christ availed himself for the conversion of the world, men must be led to the temple, not dragged into it. Lord Action (1834-1902) the noted Catholic historian, characterized the Revocation as the greatest wrong ever inflicted on the Protestant subjects of a Catholic state.
The noted Catholic historian of the present day, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis is quoted as stating, "We have not admitted to our mistakes of the past. We stall on questions of religious freedom and tolerance. If the ecumenical movement is to succeed, if the dialogue is to have any meaning, we must reassure Protestants and candidly admit that unhappy pages in history do exist." Newsweek, Feb. 10, 1964, page 55
History points out many such iniquities when leaders have surrounded themselves with men of selfish interests and bigoted ideas. The history of France would surely have been altered if the rulers and religious leaders of France had selected their counselors from the ranks of men such as Pope Innocent XI, Saint Simon, Taine, Lord Action.
Persecution had succeeded in silencing the Reform movement, but it could not convert the people. On March 8, 1715, Louis XIV announced that he had put and end to all exercise of the Protestant Church. In August of the same year a conference was called under the leadership of Antoine Court to reestablish the Reformed Church. As the eighteenth century drew to a close public opinion began to revolt against the persecution of the Huguenots. In November of 1787, the civil rights of the Huguenots was renewed by recognizing the validity of their marriages. In 1789 The Declaration of the Rights of Man affirmed the liberty of religion and the legal standing of the Reformed Church was recognized. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, historic French document. It was drafted (1789) by Emmanuel Sieyes and embodied as the preamble in the French constitution of 1791. Influenced by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the enlightenment, it asserted the equality of all men, the sovereignty of the people, and the inalienable rights of the individual to liberty, property, and security
The Huguenots, when liberty of conscience was restored, could measure the extent of the suffering and persecution they had endured for two hundred years. In the seventeenth century over a tenth of the population was Huguenot and Protestant. By 1800 there only remained a few hundred thousand. In 1627 there were 751 churches with 809 pastors, while in 1802 there were only 171 churches and 121 pastors. The Reformed Church had no schools of faculty of theology. Everything had to be created anew, and this rebuilding the Huguenots pursued with energy and faith during the 1800's.
There are about 900,000 Protestants in France today, or no more than two per cent of the population. Of these, 450,000 are Huguenots. However they make up in energy what their group lacks in size, and their importance to their country is enormous. The liberal professions and the civil service are packed with Protestants. They make up more than one fifth of the faculties of the Universities of France. The foreign minister, Maurice Couve de Murville and the auto making Peugeots are Protestants.
High finance, to no small extent, is a Protestant domain. The letters HSP (haute societe protestante, Protestant high society) are used by awe struck commoners for what is possibly the most exclusive segment of the French upper crust. Most of the country’s leading private banks are owned by a handful of Protestant clans, such as Vernes, Neuflizes, Mallets, Bungeners, and Hottingers.
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