Huguenots - who are those who fought with, unlike the Catholics

In the second half of the 16th century, France was overwhelmed by religious wars caused by the urgent need to carry out radical church reforms, which were fiercely opposed by supporters of Catholicism, supported by the Vatican. At the same time, their opponents who demanded religious freedom were called "Huguenots." It was nothing more than a distorted German word Eidgenjssen, which means “conspirator” or “oath ally”. What is known about these people?

Huguenot Cross

Who are the Huguenots in France?

Before we start talking about French reformism, let us clarify the meaning of the terms that are commonly used in relation to its main participants. Often you hear the question: “Who are the Huguenots and Protestants and is there a difference between them? »To eliminate any misunderstandings, we note at once that these terms are identical in their meaning.Their particularity lies in the fact that at the very beginning of the reformist movement, when the Protestants (from the word “protest”) were few, the expression “Huguenot” (“conspirator”) was used in relation to them with some mockery.

The fact is that in the majority of the population it caused associations with the widespread Swiss name Hyug (similar to Russian - Ivan or German - Fritz) and was perceived as something alien and incompatible with the national tradition. Subsequently, when a significant part of the country's population joined Protestants, the difference between these names completely disappeared. All Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries were called Huguenots.

Huguenots and Catholics - what's the difference?

We note only the most significant differences between the representatives of the enmity of Christianity, expressed in their views on the basic sacraments and faith in general. So, referring to the issue of soul salvation with a fair amount of pragmatism, the Catholics believed that it was achieved only by specific deeds. The Huguenots, on the other hand, believed that for the attainment of eternal bliss, man had enough godly thoughts and sincere faith.

The sources of creeds were different for them.From the point of view of the Huguenots, all the necessary information was contained in the Bible, and no additions to it were required, whereas their Catholic opponents insisted on the importance of theological works. However, the main apple of contention was the attitude towards the church itself. The Huguenots taught that it is not an indispensable condition for the salvation of the soul, and a true believer does not need magnificent worship and complex rites. The Catholics considered such an approach to be heresy and claimed that the Lord sends blessings to the people through the Pope, and the gates of paradise can be opened only for his followers.

Insurrection in a Catholic State

In the 16th century, a significant part of the French population became embroiled in a religious and social political movement aimed at returning the Catholic Church to the framework of the original Christian traditions and establishing freedom of religion. The reason for this was the dissatisfaction of the masses with the acquisitiveness and self-interest of the clergy, who concealed imaginary holiness and at the same time carried out a bloody terror against those who denounced his lies and hypocrisy.

City in revolt

The demands of strict adherence to ritualism, which completely supplanted the spiritual essence of Christianity, were subjected to harsh criticism. The leaders of the Huguenots, by definition, who were opponents of the substitution of the spiritual side of Christianity with the pomp of divine services, stood at the head of this popular movement.

The reformist movement originated in France at the end of the 15th century, but was widely developed in the first half of the next century thanks to the patronage of Margaret of Navarre, sister of King Francis I. With her direct assistance, secret Lutheran communities appeared in the country, whose members were followers of the Saxon theologian Martin Luther , which became the founder of one of the earliest areas of Protestantism.

Under the banner of Calvinism

However, very soon most of the French Huguenots began to show sympathy for the teachings of another religious leader of that era - their compatriot Jean Calvin, who became the founder of a major Protestant movement, named after him Calvinism.

In his speeches demanding immediate church reform, the rebellious theologian found an influential ally in the person of a prominent religious figure, Bishop Guillaume Brisonné.It is characteristic that among the Huguenots this direction has become so widespread also because its supporters were primarily representatives of the higher and middle strata of society.

In an atmosphere of bloody terror

Open confrontation between supporters of reform and their opponents in the face of higher clergy began in 1534, after leaflets appeared in many cities in France, which caustically mocked not only the customs of the clergy, but also many elements of their worship. In particular, the daily masses were criticized. In response, the distributors of the leaflets and all those who sympathize with them were declared heretics. Mass arrests and executions began, forcing all dissidents to go underground, but subsequently caused the beginning of an open war of Huguenots against the Catholic Church.

Huguenot army

An ardent opponent of the reformers was the French king Francis I - the brother of their patroness, the Queen of Navarre Margarita, which was already mentioned above. Subsequently, his successor Henry II, who issued an edict, according to which all the enemies of Catholicism prevailing in the country, were to be burned at the stake suffered an equally strong hatred of them.

Both monarchs were strongly influenced by the ancient aristocratic family of Guise, whose representatives have always been supporters of extremely rigid Catholicism and the original enemies of the Protestants. In 1559, they were the initiators of the creation within the framework of the parliament of the infamous "Fiery Chamber", in charge of the massacre of heretics.

First major battle

However, the general hatred that the grandees, who were excited to themselves to the utterly overblown, were excited to, in practice only contributed to the replenishment of the Protestant ranks and the creation of a powerful opposition in the country. As a result, a conspiracy was drawn up among the noble Calvinists, the purpose of which was to overthrow Francis I from the throne, move away from the court of Gizov and establish a number of religious freedoms in the country.

Contrary to the measures taken, the plans of the conspirators became known to the king, and, fleeing to the city of Amboise, he managed to hide in a fortress, which was defended by regular military units. The main part of the rebels died in battle, and the rest were executed. Despite the fact that their defeat was a major defeat for the Huguenots, the shed blood was not in vain - the “Fire Chamber” was abolished, and the position of the dissenters was partially improved.However, participation in Protestant meetings and the services they held could still lead to the scaffold. Only in 1561, King Charles IX issued an edict prohibiting the use of the death penalty in relation to heretics.

Nevertheless, disagreements between supporters of the preservation of Catholicism in its previous form and their opponents, who called for immediate reforms, led to a split in society and the beginning of a succession of religious wars. At the initial stage, the Huguenots were not inclined to use force, and their actions were only a response to the perfidy of the pro-Catholic government group headed at that time by Marshal Saint-Andre, the Constable of Montmorency and the Duke of Guise.

King of France Francois I

France drenched in blood

Historians count 8 religious wars associated with the reformist movement in France. The first, with varying success, began in 1562, after Francois de Guise’s detachment interrupted a large group of Protestants who had gathered for worship in the city of Avignon. A year later, hostilities ended with the signing of a peace treaty in Amboise, according to which the Huguenots were granted freedom of religion.

However, the queen of France, Maria Medici, fearing their increased influence, soon canceled the document she published, returning everything to the previous level. In response to this, the Huguenot leader Duke Conde, descended from the Bourbon family, along with the Marquis of Caligny, attempted to remove the king and take his place on the throne. The venture failed, and after a multi-day siege of Paris, representatives of the opposing sides again sat down at the negotiating table. They concluded another peace treaty, the violation of which led six months later to the beginning of the civil war.

City of La Rochelle, which became the center of Protestantism

Despite the fact that the ideas of reformism found a vivid response from a significant part of the population, the adherents of Catholicism did not stop committing acts of violence against them. This was the reason that the leaders of the Huguenots were forced to leave Paris and take refuge behind the walls of the seaside city of La Rochelle, making it their main headquarters.

There from all over France their followers flocked. In La Rochelle, however, reinforcements arrived, sent by Queen Elizabeth of England and the Protestant princes of Germany.But in March 1569, government forces inflicted a crushing defeat on the combined forces of the rebels. The Duke of Conde was captured and only by chance managed to regain his freedom.

However, this did not stop the Huguenots, and led by the son of Jeanne of Navarre - Heinrich (the future King of France, Henri IV the Great) - they again rushed into battle. This time, luck was on their side. As a result of the peace signed in 1570, the Peace of Saint-Germain was declared a general amnesty and the freedom of religion was declared. In order to have guarantees of compliance with the treaty, the Huguenots retained control of such strategically important objects as the fortresses of La Rochelle, Montauban, Cognac and Lacharite. But soon fate dealt them a heavy blow.

Fortress La Rochelle

Nightmare of St. Bartholomew

This blow was a massacre of Protestants, committed by Catholics on the night of August 24, 1572, on the eve of the day of St. Bartholomew. According to available information, in Paris alone, at least 2 thousand people were victims of religious fanatics, while the total number of people killed in the country exceeded 30 thousand.

Historians have reason to believethat the real culprit of the tragedy was the mother of the French king Charles I - Maria Medici, who hated Protestantism and concealed the murder of the Huguenots in secret, but for political reasons created an appearance of loyalty to them. In order to lure as many as possible rich and noble supporters of the Reformation to Paris, she arranged the wedding of her daughter Margaret (who became known as Queen Margot) with a prominent Huguenot - Henry of Navarre. This was the man who, in the future, was destined to ascend to the French throne under the name of Henri IV the Great.

Such a clear manifestation of sympathy for the Protestant movement eased the vigilance of his followers, and they, not suspecting anything, gathered in the French capital. The festivities that accompanied the wedding of the future queen lasted six days, and upon their completion on the night before the Catholic holiday - the day of St. Bartholomew - a terrible massacre began. She marked the beginning of another escalation of hostilities. During the St. Bartholomew's Night, the Huguenots lost not only a huge number of their supporters, but also many prominent commanders,which inevitably affected during the ensuing armed clashes.

Subsequent military clashes

However, despite the sudden and crushing blow inflicted by the Catholics, the Protestants managed to survive in a difficult situation and, using the strongholds of La Rochelle, Montauban and Nimes as strongholds, defended themselves with courage that had admired contemporaries. About how the Huguenots acted in such a critical situation for them, there are a lot of historical evidence. For example, in the archives of the Louvre there is evidence of how their detachment, consisting of one and a half hundred people, managed in September 1572 to repel an enemy attack in the Montauban region, which was almost twice as large in number.

Throughout the following year, hostilities provoked by the massacre on the St. Bartholomew night, the Huguenots and their opponents conducted with particular ferocity. They lasted for a year and ended with the signing of another peace treaty, which neither side took seriously. Confirmation of this was clearly demonstrated in June 1574, when Henry III, the last representative of the Valois dynasty, ascended the French throne.

Queen Maria Medici

Under the scepter of the hypocritical king

Wanting to eradicate religious dissent in the country, he resumed the persecution of the Huguenots and threw all the army at his disposal against them. However, the newly minted monarch did not take into account the fact that at the time of his coming to power, the balance of power between Catholics and Huguenots was completely different. What is the difference? First of all, Heinrich of Navarre, whose wedding became the initial stage of the tragedy of St. Bartholomew's night, went to the side of the Protestants, and the Duke of Condé led the many thousands of German corps to the border of France. The Catholics, who provoked another war in the country and the economic decline caused by it, were rapidly losing their supporters.

As a result, after the first series of defeats, Henry III was forced to make full concessions to the rebels throughout France, with the exception of Paris, to legalize the services performed by Protestants, and in addition to the old strongholds to give them eight more fortresses. There was a temporary lull, soon interrupted by new outbreaks of violence.However, it should be noted that at the heart of conflicts that externally had the form of religious wars, often lay political ambitions and selfish interests of the leaders of both groups.

So, becoming the head of the "Catholic League", created in 1576 to counter the Huguenots, Henry III was soon frightened by the growing influence of its founder, the Duke de Guise, and without embarrassment, turned to the side of the Protestants. In response, supporters of French Catholicism turned to the Spanish king for military support and received it, to the detriment of national interests, proclaiming the aged cardinal of Bourbon, who was unable to pursue an independent policy, but very pleasing to Madrid, to succeed him.

Eighth (and last) religious war

How did the Huguenots act under the conditions of the Spanish intervention? They called for help from the Protestant part of Germany, and France plunged into the next, already the eighth, religious war. As before, armed clashes were combined in it with numerous political intrigues, often determining the outcome of events.

For example,Heinrich of Navarre defeated the forces of the Catholics in the battle of Coutra, but at the same time the Duke de Guise skillfully provoked unrest in Paris and secured the adoption of a law under which the Protestant could not inherit the throne. As a result, after the death of Henry III, Henry of Navarre to commit the crown again committed a betrayal of his supporters and, as if nothing had happened, returned to Catholicism.

The expulsion of supporters of reformism


The struggle between the representatives of the two religious areas continued in the following centuries, with the superiority of forces often being on the side of the Catholics. Although open bloodshed was gradually a thing of the past, they repeatedly imposed various legal sanctions against their opponents. Thus, in 1617, on the basis of a royal edict, a considerable part of the property was confiscated from the Protestants, which gave an impetus to their mass emigration to Switzerland, Germany, England and the Netherlands. A century later, all marriages entered into by reformist priests were outlawed. The Huguenots considered this a humiliation and, not being able to fight, again rushed to a foreign land.

Only in 1787 an edict was issued,returning the civil rights to the Huguenots, and two years later, on the wave of the Great French Revolution that broke out in the country, they were equalized with other citizens and politically. Currently in France there are several dozen Protestant-style religious organizations, some of which consider themselves direct heirs of the Huguenots.

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