The French monarchy had a special relationship with the Church. French kings had generally avoided the kind of open split with the papacy like the Investiture Controversy that so divided Germany. The Pope gave the kings of France the title of "Most Christian King." Each French King took an oath to "extirpate" heresy in his realm. The French Church despite the close relationship between the monarch an papacy had evolved considerable independence from the papacy. The French monarchy had perhaps more authority over the Church in his country than any other prince in Western Christendom. This was further recognized on the eve of the Reformation by the Concordat of Bologna which confirmed Francis I's authority to make appointments to benefices. As a result, many of the conditions which led to the Reformation in Germany were less apparent than in Germany. The Concordot provided for the rights of both pope anf king, but made the king clearly dominant over the French Church. While religious issues are most commonly discussed in connection with the Feformation, financial matters were a major concern at the time. The monarchy in France had enormous control over the disposition of the wealth and income of the French Church and routinely used the authority to appoint bishops, abbots, and other church officers to reward faithful followers because there was considerable income associated with many of these offices. As a result, the princes of the French Church included many worldly people, often uninterestred in spiritual or doctrinal matters, but often quite nationalistic. The Pope had a veto on such appointments, but out of defference to the monarch, rarely exercized it. Thus there was a considerable fusion of church and state in France very diffeent than the situation in Germany. The University of Paris (the Sorbonne) during the late Medieval era served as a kind of scholastic think-tank for both Church and state.
The French monarchy had a special relationship with the Church. French kings had generally avoided the kind of open split with the papacy like the Investiture Controversy that so divided Germany. The Pope gave the kings of France the title of "Most Christian King." Each French King took an oath to "extirpate" heresy in his realm.
The French Church despite the close relationship between the monarch and the papacy had evolved considerable independence from the papacy. The French monarchy had perhaps more authority over the Church in his country than any other prince in Western Christendom. This was further recognized on the eve of the Reformation by the Concordat of Bologna which confirmed Francis I's authority to make appointments to benefices. As a result, many of the conditions which led to the Reformation in Germany were less apparent than in Germany. The Concordot provided for the rights of both pope anf king, but made the king clearly dominant over the French Church.
While religious issues are most commonly discussed in connection with the Reformation, financial matters were a major concern at the time. The monarchy in France had enormous control over the disposition of the wealth and income of the French Church and routinely used the authority to appoint bishops, abbots, and other church officers to reward faithful followers because there was considerable income associated with many of these offices. As a result, the princes of the French Church included many worldly people, often uninterestred in spiritual or doctrinal matters, but quite nationalistic. The Pope had a veto on such appointments, but out of defference to the monarch, rarely exercized it. Thus there was a considerable fusion of church and state in France very diffeent than the situation in Germany.
The University of Paris (the Sorbonne) during the late Medieval era served as a kind of scholastic think-tank for both Church and state. It remained a center of Catholocism, often reactionaty Catholocism, throughouhht the Reformation and Rekigious wars.
Protestantism was first introduced into France sometime around 1520-23 only a few years after Martin Luthur nailed his 95 thesis on the church door in Germany (1519). As in Germany, Protestant principles were accepted by important members of the nobility and intelectual community as well as the middle class. The Protestants initially received some protection from royal circles, most notably from Queen Maragaret of Navarre who was the sister of Francis I. The percecution of the French Protestants began in the later years of Francis' reign and this was continued after his death by Henry II. While percecuting Protestants in France, both Francis and Henry for political reasons supported the growth of Protestantism in Germany. The Protestant community in France, however, continued to grow.
French Protestants became known as Huguenots. German Protesrants are primarily Lutheran. The French Protestants in contrast were mostly Calvinists. French reformer John Calvin (Jean Cauvin) played an important role in the Protestant Reformation, second only to Martin Luther. John was born in Noyon, Picardy (France) (1509) and grew up there. He wrote the influential Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536). It was Calvin who created the “presbyterian” model of church government. Historians describe him as the “organizer of Protestantism" as a result of his pastoral efforts in Strassburg and Geneva. Woking in Geneva he was protected from the Counter Reformation and was able to influence religioys thought in not only Wsitzerland and other countries, but also his native France. Geneva is in the French-speaking area of Switzerland and on the French border. Thus Calvin could easily promote the growth of Protestantism in France. Calvinism had significant appeal in France. The majority of the French population remained Catholic, but a substantial minority converted. This included notable indivifuals among leading French nobel families. Thus the Hugenots acquired an importance out of proportion to their actual numbers. The French Reformed Church was formally established by John Calvin (1550). At the first national synod (council), 15 churches participated (1559). At the second synod over 2,000 churches participated (1561). The term Huguenot is a term of unknown origins was used to describe French Protestants. The first known use of the term appears in court cases in which "heretics" were procecuted by Catholic and Royal officia;s (1550). There are several theories as to the origins of the term. It was at first a derisive term, but over time has come to be the name for a brave people resisting religious persecution. <! There is a theory that it is derived from the personal name of Besançon Hugues, the leader of the "Confederate Party" in Geneva, in combination with a Frankish corruption of the German word for conspirator or confederate: eidgenosse. Thus, Hugues plus eidgenot becomes Huguenot, with the intention of associating the Protestant cause with some very unpopular politics. O.I.A. Roche, in his book The Days of the Upright, a History of the Huguenots, writes that "Huguenot" is "a combination of a Flemish and a German word. In the Flemish corner of France, Bible students who gathered in each other's houses to study secretly were called Huisgenooten, or "house fellows," while on the Swiss and German borders they were termed Eidgenossen, or "oath fellows," that is, persons bound to each other by an oath. Gallicized into "Huguenot," often used deprecatingly, the word became, during two and a half centuries of terror and triumph, a badge of enduring honor and courage." As nickname and even abusive name it's use was banned in the regulations of the Edict of Nantes which Henry IV (Henry of Navarre, who himself earlier was a Huguenot) issued in 1598. The French Protestants themselves preferred to refer to themselves as "réformees" (reformers) rather than "Huguenots". It was much later that the name "Huguenot" became an honorary one of which their descendants are proud. >
The growth of Protestantism in France was a shock to the French Catholic Church. It generated both fear and hatred among Catholics. A general edict encouraged the extermination of the Huguenots (1536). There were not only religious questions, but as in Germany political questions as well. This expressed itself in the rivalry between the house of Valois, which possessed the throne and the house of Guise. Catherine de Médicis governened France in a regency for her son Charles IX. At times she sided with the Huguenots, but usually joined the Catholics against them. After Charles reached his majority he initiated severe perceution which led to the French Religious Wars.
The percecution and religious intolerance on the part of many Cathloics resulted in reprisals from the the Protestants. The result was a civil war in France. Catholics slew some 1,200 Huguenots at Vassy (1562). This ignited the the Wars of Religion which would last three decades and devestate the country.
There were eight outbreaks of fighting separated by formal peace treaties. There was open war, attrocities. brutal acys, assainations, trachery and other acts during the civil war (1562-98). The Huguenot forces were led by Louis I de Boubon Prince de Condé and Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and later Henry de Navarre (Henry IV). The Catholic forces were led by Duc de Guise (Henry I de Lorraine) and Catherine de Médicis and later by Henry III. As in Germany, foreign troops were involved in the fighting. Soldiers from England, Germany, and Switzerland. The Catholics were supported by primarily by Spain. The treaties that end the various outbreaks granted the huguenots various levels of toleration. Afterwards the French royal Government attempted to repudiate or ignore these pledges resulting in renewerd hostilities. The essential problem was both the intolerance of the time and the conviction on the part of Catholic monarchs that Protestants would not be loyal, fully trusted subjects. The Wars were not finally ended until Henry of Navarre converted and finall was ceowned as Henry IV and subsequently issued the Edict of Nantes.
Louis XIII after the murder of Henry IV rose to the throne. He sought to create an absolutist monarchy and organized groups like the Hugeunots stood in his way. As a result, new persecutions were conducted and renewed fighting occurred. The campign to supress the Hugenots was conducted under the guidance of Cardinal Richelieu. He focused on the campaign against the Huguenots. Cardinal Richelieu broke the military power of the Huguenots when after a protracted seige, their major stronghod La Rochelle was finally taken (1628). He then attempted to conciliate the Protestants.
Louis XIV was even more committed to building an absolute monarchy. He is most famous for his statement, "I am the state." To this end, Louis ordered a mercilles percecution of the Huguenots, revoking the Edict of Nantes (1685). As a result of these percecutions, life for many Protestants became intolerable in France. It was not just the lackm of religious freedoms, but many other matters. The state refused to recognize Protestant marriages leaving the children illegitimate. This affected property rights and inheritannces. Large numbers of Huguenots fled France, leaving for Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, and the English colonies in America (especially New York, Massachusetts, and South Carolina). As a result, many Americans of French ancestry are Protestants. (Except for the Huguenots few French people emmigrated to America. France is one of the few Europrean countries that dud not send large numbers of emmigrants to America.) No one knows precisely how many French Protestants emigrayed. Estimates range from 0.4-1.0 million. About 1.0 million Protestants remained in France. Many settled in the isolated Cévennes Mountains becoming known as the Camisards. Louis XIV ordered them removed, resulting in tghe Camisard War (1702-05).
The political and religious environment in France changed in the 18th century with the Enlightenment. Louis XV was not as addament on the issue as his grandfather Louis XIV, but he did issue and edict declaring marriages and baptoisms by Protestant ckerymen null and void.
Louis XVI reversed that edict and Protestantbmarriages were recognized as fully legal. Other rights were garnted to Protestants.
The Catholic Church had been a strong supporter of the monarchy and, as a result, there was a strong anti-clerical trend in the Revolution. Most of this was, however, directed at the Catholic Church.
Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed a concordat recognizing Protestantism (Calvanism and Lutheranism), Catholocism, and Judaism as established religions deserving state support and subject to state control.
Later laws passed in the 19th century granted complete religious freedom in France. The French debated the proper role of church and state throughout the 19th century, but this debate primarily focused on the role of the Catholic Church. A law separting church and state was passed after the turn of the 20th century (1905). French Protestants are few in number, but have played an important role in French life, especially in law, education, and finance. Protestants have tended to have a liberal outlook on social issues.
The only major outbreak of religious intlolerance was the percecution of the Jews by the NAZIS and Vichy Government during the German World War II occupation of France. Today in France there is growing discussions about French muslims, mostly the descendents of immigrants from France's former North Africa colonies. This has emerged as a debate over the right of Muslem girls to wear head sacrves in state schools. Muslim families are now considering sending their girls to Catholic schools so that they can continue wearing head scarves.
<! Catherine de Medici It was Catherine de Medici who persuaded her weakling son Charles IX to order the mass murder, which lasted three days and spread to the countryside. On Sunday morning August 24th, 1572 she personally walked through the streets of Paris to inspect the carnage. Henry of Navarre's life was spared when he pretended to support the Roman Catholic faith. In 1593 he made his "perilous leap"and abjured his faith in July 1593, and 5 years later he was the undisputed monarch as King Henry IV (le bon Henri, the good Henry) of France. When the first rumours of the massacre reached the Vatican in Rome on 2 September 1572, pope Gregory XIII was jubilant and wanted bonfires to be lit in Rome. He was persuaded to wait for the official communication. The very morning of the day that he received the confirmed news, the pope held a consistory and announced that "God had been pleased to be merciful". Then with all the cardinals he repaired to the Church of St. Mark for the Te Deum, and prayed and ordered prayers that the Most Christian King might rid and purge his entire kingdom (of France) of the Huguenot plague. Pope Gregory XIII On 8 September 1572 a procession of thanksgiving took place in Rome, and the pope, in a prayer after mass, thanked God for having "granted the Catholic people a glorious triumph over a perfidious race" (gloriosam de perfidis gentibus populo catholico loetitiam tribuisti). Pope Gregory 13 medal for the Huguenot massacreGregory XIII engaged Vasari to paint scenes in one of the Vatican apartments of the triumph of the Most Christian King over the Huguenots. He had a medal struck representing an exterminating angel smiting the Huguenots with his sword, the inscription reading: Hugonottorium strages (Huguenot conspirators). In France itself, the French magistracy ordered the admiral to be burned in effigy and prayers and processions of thanksgiving on each recurring 24th August, out of gratitude to God for the victory over the Huguenots. Richelieu, who relentlessly persecuted the Huguenots. Henry IV's weakling sun, Louis the Thirteenth, refused them the privileges which had been granted to them by the Edict of Nantes; and, when reminded of the claims they had, if the promises of Henry the Third and Henry the Fourth were to be regarded, he answered that "the first-named monarch feared them, and the latter loved them; but I neither fear nor love them." The Huguenot free cities were lost one after the other after they were conquered by the forces of Cardinal Richelieu, and the last and most important stronghold, La Rochelle, fell in 1629 after a siege lasting a month. Louis XIV Louis XIV (the Sun King, 1643-1715) began to apply his motto l'état c'est moi ("I am the state") and introduced the infamous Dragonnades - the billeting of dragoons in Huguenot households. He began with a policy of une foi, un loi, un roi (one faith, one law, one king) and revoked the Edict of Nantes on 22 October 1685. The large scale persecution of the Huguenots resumed. Protestant churches and the houses of "obstinates" were burned and destroyed, and their bibles and hymn books burned. Emigration was declared illegal. Many Huguenots were burned at the stake. Many Huguenots who did not find their death in local prisons or execution on the wheel of torture, were shipped to sea to serve their sentences as galley slaves, either on French galley ships, or sold to Turkey as galley slaves. A vivid account of the life of galley-slaves in France is given in Jean Marteilhes's Memoirs of a Protestant, translated by Oliver Goldsmith, which describes the experiences of one of the Huguenots who suffered after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Every Huguenot place of worship was to be destroyed; every minister who refused to conform was to be sent to the Hôpitaux de Forçats at Marseilles and at Valance. If he had been noted for his zeal he was to be considered "obstinate," and sent to slavery for life in such of the West-Indian islands as belonged to the French. The children of Huguenot parents were to be taken from them by force, and educated by the Roman Catholic monks or nuns. Stake Scenes like these were common during the persecution of the Huguenots in France during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Click on picture above for enlargement. At least 250 000 French Huguenots fled to countries such as Switzerland, Germany, England, America, the Netherlands, Poland and South Africa, where they could enjoy religious freedom. As many were killed in France itself. Between 1618 and 1725 between 5 000 and 7 000 Huguenots reached the shores of America. Those who came from the French speaking south of Belgium, an area known as Wallonia, are generally known as Walloons (as opposed to Huguenots) in the United States. The organised large scale emigration of Hugenots to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa occurred during 1688 - 1689. However, even before this large ssscale emigration individual Huguenots such as François Villion (1671) and the brothers François and Guillaume du Toit (1686) fled to the Cape of Good Hope. In 1692 a total of 201 French Huguenots had settled at the Cape of Good Hope. Most of them settled in an area now known as Franschhoek ("French Corner"), some 70 km outside Cape Town, where many farms still bear their original French names. A century later the promulgation of the Edict of Toleration on 28 November 1787 partially restored the civil and religious rights of the Huguenots in France. >
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