St. Bartholemew’s day Massacre

St. Bartholemew’s Day Massacre

Jeremiah 8:12

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.

The St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy in French) in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations, followed by a wave of Roman Catholic mob violence, both directed against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants), during the French Wars of Religion. Traditionally believed to have been instigated by Catherine de’ Medici, the mother of King Charles IX, the massacre took place six days after the wedding of the king’s sister to the Protestant Henry III of Navarre (the future Henry IV of France). This marriage was an occasion for which many of the most wealthy and prominent Huguenots had gathered in largely Catholic Paris.

The massacre began two days after the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the military and political leader of the Huguenots. Starting on 23 August 1572 (the eve of the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle) with murders on orders of the king of a group of Huguenot leaders including Coligny, the massacres spread throughout Paris. Lasting several weeks, the massacre extended to other urban centres and the countryside. Modern estimates for the number of dead vary widely between 5,000 and 30,000 in total.

The massacre also marked a turning point in the French Wars of Religion. The Huguenot political movement was crippled by the loss of many of its prominent aristocratic leaders, as well as many re-conversions by the rank and file, and those who remained were increasingly radicalized. Though by no means unique, it “was the worst of the century’s religious massacres.” Throughout Europe, it “printed on Protestant minds the indelible conviction that Catholicism was a bloody and treacherous religion”.

If you’re tempted today to go along to get along, take a moment remember the 12,000 or so Dutch Reformed martyrs, who died under Phlip II, and the 30,000-50,000 French Reformed martyrs, who died during the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, who only wanted to confess the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and who wanted only to worship God in the way that he has commanded and for that were put to death confessing Jesus the only High Priest and Head of the Church and the Word of God as the only norm of the church.

9 replies on “St. Bartholemew’s day Massacre”

  1. So maybe we should measure the blood spilled from both sides and put them on a scale and then based on which way the scale tips chose the true faith.

    OR, better yet lets be Mennonites because they are pacifists and have never spilled blood.


    1. Anselm — the true measure of the true faith is Scripture. Of this there is no question.

      So far as “assigning blame” for all of the many killings in the sordid history of Christianity, I would refer you to Oxford’s World Christian Encyclopedia, the same work from which many Catholics derive the figure of “30,000 denominations” (or whatever the current number is), see the chart of “Persecutors and their Victims” over the last 2000 years, and note the following two numbers:

      Persecutors Responsible: Number of Martyrs
      Roman Catholics 4,951,000
      Protestants 220,000

      Now, admittedly, this is a simplified comparison, but it does show to some degree, who does what to whom.

      It is highly appropriate for all Christians to remember and mourn the Christian martyrs of the earliest centuries of the church — and as Tertullian said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith.”

      In the same way, it is highly appropriate for Protestant Christians to remember the blood spilled by their forbears as well.


  2. Does the “Roman Catholic” number include the era before the Reformation? Because, as such, Protestants need to also be responsible for those as well since there were no ‘Protestants.’


  3. You need not post this comment, but you ought to note when you’ve merely just imported something from wikipedia. The other alternative, for the sake of charity, is that you also created the wikipedia content, or someone lifted your post and applied it to wikipedia.



  4. I pulled it from the link that’s given to the Heidelblog, at the very top of the post, which came from the post at PuritanBoard. If you follow the links, you see the source. I didn’t portray it as historical research. Just a reminder.

    You’re seeming to imply that if it comes from Wikipedia, it invalidates the event. Or as if I were trying to hide something.

    If you want something more scholarly, more “foot-noted,” consider this from Mark Greengrass, “The French Reformation,” Historical Association Studies, General Editors: Roger Mettam and James Shields, (c)1987, Basil Blackwell, Ltd., pg 79.

    Among the sectarian events of the civil wars, the massacre of St Bartholomew dwarfs the others in scale and significance. Beginning in Paris on the night of St Bartholomew’s eve, Saturday 23 August 1572, the massacre of Protestants lasted several days in the capital before spreading, like a contagion, to 12 major provincial cities. As Michelet said, it was not a day but a ‘season’, and latest estimates suggest a cautious figure of about 3,000 killed in Paris with another 8,000 elsewhere (Garrison-Estebe, 1973).

    Greengrass goes on to detail ways in which the event dampened the whole Hugenot movement in France.

    But what is the point you are trying to make here?


  5. In no way did I object to the content, it’s just convention, especially since you do engage in serious research, to cite sources. I myself went to wikipedia to read more, as your post piqued my curiosity, and realized this was just verbatim. A formality that’s all. Your hiedleblog link, itself linked to Gil Garcia, is an unclear method of indicating direct quotation.

    That being said, the actual wikipedia article seems fairly decent. It offers a fairly full historical picture, and consults secondary litterature:

    “However Raymond Mentzer points out that Protestants ‘could be as bloodthirsty as Catholics. Earlier Huguenot rage at Nimes (in 1567) led to… the massacre of a hundred or so Catholics, mostly priests and prominent laymen, at the hands of their Protestant neighbours. Few towns escaped the episodic violence and some suffered repeatedly from both sides. Neither faith had a monopoly on cruelty and misguided fervour.'”

    “Some, like Leonie Frieda, emphasise the element within the mob violence of the “haves” being “killed by the ‘have-nots'”. Many Protestants were nobles or bourgeois and Frieda adds that ‘a number of bourgeois Catholic Parisians had suffered the same fate as the Protestants; many financial debts were wiped clean with the death of creditors and moneylenders that night.’ At least one Huguenot was able to buy off his would-be murderers.”

    And from their Huguenot article, on the political conditions preceding the massacre (which is was by all accounts):

    “The Huguenots transformed themselves into a definitive political movement thereafter. Protestant preachers rallied a considerable army and a formidable cavalry, which came under the leadership of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. Henry of Navarre and the House of Bourbon allied themselves to the Huguenots, adding wealth and holdings to the Protestant strength, which at its height grew to sixty fortified cities, and posed a serious threat to the Catholic crown and Paris over the next three decades.”

    Thankfully the witness of John Paul II offers a clear moral evaluation:

    “On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, an event of very obscure causes in the political and religious history of France… Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue, which will in turn ensure a fully Christian reconciliation. … Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.”

    However to bring irony to this whole post, wikipedia does not cite the origin of these words.



  6. I’ll get back to you on this. It’s important to note Calvin’s admonishment, in 1562, prior to the event, “to endure blows, and not to strike them.” He also made the demand of the Protestants “that, where relics and images were removed, they should be carefully inventoried and stored by the town magistrates.”

    One does not see that kind of restraint from the leadership on the Catholic side.


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